Broadway Aug10

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Broadway

Each time I go to New York, I try as hard as I can to see a Broadway show.  Going by yourself is easy and plenty of fun and the best part is you can usually walk up last minute and buy a ticket and get a great seat.  Sometimes at a discount, other times at regular price but always a great seat.  Broadway shows are usually in smaller theaters (unless it’s at Lincoln Center) so most of the seats are quite good.  And good seats are important.  In my view, if you’re going at all, it’s worth having a good seat.

Going as a couple takes a little more planning or a little more luck.  I have seen shows alone and then dragged Rhonda there later because I thought they were must see and I wanted to see them again.  And we’ve gone to shows for a first time together.  I’ve loved just about every one I’ve seen, but there’s a show you loved and there’s a show you’d go back and see again.  Our first night out, we didn’t have tickets and so I mapped out the venues of the shows we were considering and we headed uptown.  Our first stop was 43rd St where Anything Goes was playing.  Seeing a queue in the cancellation line was not a good sign.  We asked and there was nothing, but we were able to get first row of the balcony for the next night’s show.  So we bought the tickets and headed to our next stop.

Our next stop was 44th St where Rock of Ages playing.  That show has been around for a couple of years and so I knew that there might be tickets there.  Fact is, we scored the best seats in the house at regular price 5 minutes before the show.  There’s a new thing I’ve seen on the Broadway ticket sites and it’s for premium seats.  They reserve a row or two of premium seats, the best seats in the house about 8 rows back center, and sell those for the highest of all prices.  I suspect, within 20 minutes of the show, especially at an older show like Rock of Ages, those tickets go on sale and regular price.  Do they go for less at showtime?  I’m not sure.  Maybe if you ask, but I was so delighted to get these seats that I had no qualms about buying two at regular price.  I’d seen the show a year or more earlier and absolutely loved it.  Starring original cast member Constanine Maroulis of Star Search, wait, So You Want To Be A Star, wait, American Idol – that’s it! (no, I do not and will never watch American Idol), the show features the music of Journey, Foreigner, Poison, the Hair bands of the 80s served up L.A. style and set in a club called the Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip – very much like a club or two we played on the very same strip in that same decade (but other than me, less the hair).  Yes, unless you know the music, perhaps you wouldn’t like it, but since it’s almost impossible to not know the music (yes, I actually hated this music in the 80s since I was all punk rock – but love it now) what’s not to love?

I was surprised at how many original cast members there were from the show I had seen in 2009.  Everyone save the 3 lead roles were virtually the same, which I thought was a testament to how fun the show was to perform.  I ended up running into one of the performers after the show and asked him if he was the same and he confirmed he was, he said it was such a fun show.  Anyway, you’ll love it.  The new performers were arguably better than the original, sans the credentials.  You have to see it.  I hear it’s in production (or already wrapped) as a movie for release next summer starring in the supporting and somewhat cameo role of Staci Jaxx, lead singer of the band Arsenal, the venerable Tom Cruise.

Before the show we stopped in next door for a quick cocktail at Sardi’s, known for its caricatures of celebrities including Constantine Maroulis from his run as Drew, the lead character in the show.  It was pleasant upstairs in the bar, the self serve cheese and crackers saved me until we could eat dinner after the show, and the drinks were strong – in fact, perhaps too strong.  From a guy who rarely orders a mixed drink from a bar that’s not a custom cocktail where I have confidence the bartender knows what they’re doing (see review of Brandy Library), my biggest complaint is usually too weak, but this one had no finesse.  But I heard their reputation was strong drinks and to my surprise the price for the stiff one was reasonable ($7).  So, it got my mind in the right place.  Speaking of drinks, they don’t do it with quite the verve they did it originally (with 80s hotties in shorty shorts), but they still serve drinks in your seats before the show, because after all the setting is a L.A. rock club, there are waitresses, OK?  Bringing drinks.

So the second night of shows, we chose to eat first and then go to the show (see review of The Dutch – in Food).  While Rhonda did kind of want to go to Restaurant Row, we opted instead to eat downtown in the less touristy SoHo/Sullivan Street area.  It’s a quick trip on the 1,2, or 3 train to Times Square.  The place to be in NY is downtown (generally speaking), so coming to town and staying the Times Square area and eating there and going to shows there and never leaving there is a big mistake – an expensive mistake too.

So after dinner at The Dutch (co-owned by Robert Di Niro), we hopped the train to 42nd Street and Anything Goes.  This is a hot new show that won some Tony’s for best performance in a musical by Sutton Foster who by the way was born in Statesboro, Georgia in 1975 (I lived there myself until 1970 when my parents moved away).  It uses a rather large bucket of Cole Porter songs to drive a super dancing and singing ensemble – full orchestra, tap dancing, the whole bit.  Interestingly, Foster has attracted a rather large fan base of young aspiring Broadway girls evidenced by the squeals from entire groups of young girls seated in the back of the theater.  The plot of this comedy is rather secondary and is just a vehicle for the next song and dance number which completely deliver.  Among the other performances, two are particularly notable – that of Moonface Martin played by Joel Grey, and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh by Adam Godley.  Both terrific.

Really no differently than with Rock of Ages, if you like the Cole Porter music, this show is a winner.  Costumes are terrific, performances terrific, music timeless, and it has the buzz of a current show with a splendid Broadway star – Sutton Foster.  All that said, I loved the show and I’d definitely bring my folks back to it just to take them to New York to a Broadway show, but unlike with Rock of Ages, I can’t say I’d seek to see it again.  I saw South Pacific last year too and it was absolutely great, but I wouldn’t go again.  If I did, I’m sure I’d enjoy, but this is about where would you spend your $135?  Young Frankenstein I saw twice.  Jersey Boys only once.

Let me just finish by saying that, among the touristy things to do in New York, Broadway is certainly one of them, but it’s a national treasure to have the NYC stage – the performances, the shows, the music – and it happens as Bruce Springsteen says… “night after night after night after night.”  If you haven’t been to the city in a while, there’s no better thing to do.  Book a hotel downtown and take the 1,2,3 or A,C,E up a few stops and take in a show.  It will blow you away.