Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What You Pay For A Bite

If you didn't know that Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant was completely attacked in a NY Times review two weeks ago - then you must have been away from the TV and internet the past few weeks. So when meeting a friend for dinner before a show last night, we decided to give the place a try. 

We walked in to a fairly empty place and thought "oh no...people are seriously listening to a critic", but then decided 6:00 pm in New York was an early time for dinner. (By the time we left, the place was packed.) We were greeted by a very nice hostess and even nicer waitress. Perhaps they are all trying really hard due to the publicity they have received or just maybe they are doing their job.

I 'checked in' on Facebook where friends started to share what they had heard about the place. Again showing that we all listen to critics. But my friend and I were all about being daring and checking it out for ourselves.

I like food. Obviously. Look at the title of my blog. I eat at all kinds of places. I spend every Wednesday night at Fridays (which I'm sure Pete Wells of the NY Times would detest). Guess what? Their food was not bad. Actually, my burger was pretty darn good. My friend had pork sliders that had a great kick to them. To us, it was what it was supposed to be: bar food. Perhaps Mr. Wells thought he was dining elsewhere, but if he goes to any place in the Times Square area, surely he knows most of those are geared towards tourists.

The tourist. That industry keeps so much of Manhattan going. And honestly, I think it is unfair the prices for food in that area. Is Fieri's food overpriced for what he is serving? Yes. It is. But so is every huge place in Times Square. A bowl of soup should not be $8. An appetizer shouldn't be over $12. But anywhere you go in the radius of those blocks in Manhattan and that is what you are going to spend. (Tip to tourist: head over to 9th Ave to eat and spend less!) I took my nieces to Applebee's in Times Square last week for lunch (don't throw stones for us eating at a chain) and spent $100. Completely outrageous. 

So if people want to complain about something in the food industry in Midtown Manhattan, talk about price gouging to hit tourist over the heads. They leave NY saying "it's the most expensive place to eat" when in reality, you can find really great food in the city and spend way less.

We just decided to try a bite of Guy's food to make a point. But next time, we'll spend our dollars in a more frugal way and still have a great pre-theater dinner. (And cocktails. Gregory likes to get his drink on prior to a show.)


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Don't Cry for Evita

The first revival ever of Evita on Broadway opened this past spring. As someone who tries to see as much as he can, I'll admit it was never on my radar to see. I watched some clips, I saw it on the Tony Awards and nothing called for me to see it.

I'm in my 40s. I didn't move to New York until 1987. I missed the original production (though I do have a shout out to it in one of my books). I saw it a few years ago at the Helen Hayes Theater in Nyack and enjoyed finally seeing it live. But I always thought something was missing in the production that took so long to return to New York.

I was wrong.

There is much to love in this production. The moment it started I was taken in by the film footage used of the actual Eva Peron. The set is absolutely stunning with lighting that gives beautiful depth as actors can be seen far upstage in shadows. The dancing...all those tangos - so wonderful to watch. The cast members that I have seen playing leads in other musicals that took ensemble roles in this show goes to show how much New York actors wanted to do this show. And one of my nieces seeing it with me (who is studying sound design at Penn State) gave me a full lesson on the intricate sound design used.  

Max von Essen with my nieces after the show.
We attended a matinee the day before Thanksgiving and was told that Ricky Martin would not be on at the TKTS window. I knew I wanted to see Max von Essen go on as Che and lucky for the audience there that day - we saw an amazing performance. I have seen him in Les Miz, Dance of the Vampires and so many other shows. The man continues to work on his craft surpassing what he has done previously. A voice that soars and never tires as he belts out all of that music that Che must perform. Yes, we saw people leave when they knew that Mr. Martin would not be going on - but boy did they make a mistake.

I've also seen Michael Cerveris in numerous shows and always enjoy him in all that he does. Rachel Potter had a beautiful voice as the Mistress and I would have loved to hear her sing more and more.

And now to the title character. I have to just say that going on a matinee, I had hoped to be seeing Christina DeCicco in the role. I had seen what the critics had done to Elena Roger and read so much about her on the internet about her small voice. But there is more that critics did not mention. Once you get past the fact she is not the usual powerhouse one sees in the role - something happens. This tiny framed woman begins to grab you. She has such power in that small body and still knows how to command a moment. You witness the journey of Eva from a young woman to a ruthless leader. She has subtle glances that shows how she is capable of getting what she wants. No, her voice is not a huge booming sound. Yes, she sings all those high notes that are in the score. It's just simply a different type of voice than what we are accustomed to hearing. I also think because she is not a New York 'star' in the role - we do not find ourselves always watching her. Perhaps when Ricky is on, audiences are always watching him. (I myself couldn't take my eyes from Max when he was on stage.) Maybe it is a bad thing when the title character doesn't demand your constant attention or maybe it is the mark of a giving performer. 

I say take the chance and see for yourself the next time you are in New York. 

Lastly...I got center orchestra seats from TKTS. The entire back of the orchestra section was empty. I'm not sure I've ever seen that in a Broadway house before - especially around a holiday with so many tourists in town. I found it sad, yet I know that is a huge theater to fill. I'm also pleased that producers have kept it running even when critics were not the kindest to the production.

And yes...I'd still love to get back and see Ms. DeCicco in the role at some point. Just to see how a different woman would convey Evita in this really beautiful production.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Christmas Story: Live on Stage!

Joe West & Johnny Rabe
We have traditions in our lives for reasons. They make us think of a great time in our lives or they are simply enjoyable. For my family, it was always watching A Christmas Story each year, many times reciting the lines along with the movie. That tradition was also passed to my nieces from my sister and while they were visiting me for Thanksgiving, we took in the new musical based on the movie of this name. 

What a great time we had!

Peter Billingsley
With a book by Joe Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, the three have taken the original story of Jean Shepherd's life of growing up in Indiana and brought it to life as a wonderful musical. The expected moments from the 1983 movie are there, but with a magical 'punch' of seeing them live and on stage. From the tongue stuck to the flag pole, to the famous line of 'you'll shoot your eye out' - it is all there. John Rando's direction brings such heart to the piece by giving audiences that love the movie what they want to see and yet enhancing it through song and dance. I found the entire cast to be completely charming. We saw Joe West go on as Ralphie and thought he was wonderful as the boy wanting to get his BB gun for Christmas.  (The part is shared with Johnny Rabe who plays most performances.) Zac Ballard as his little brother stole our hearts (and his scenes) and John Bolton and Erin Dilly were the perfect pair of parents to these small boys. I also grew up watching The Wonder Years on TV, so seeing Dan Lauria as the older Ralphie/narrator was a huge bonus. 

Sometimes movie musicals leave us longing for the original, but I never felt that once. The music was a mix of old time fun and sounds of present day Broadway. The singing, the dancing - all was the perfect thing to get us in the holiday mood. I'm so thankful to the producers (one of which I personally know) for working so hard to get this show to Broadway. One of those is the original Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) from the movie. I believe it could become a staple for the New York scene for many years to come.

On a personal note, the ending truly touched me. It was ten years ago I lost my dad the week before Christmas. This show is about family and memories and I found myself wiping away a tear as I missed my own dad by the end. 

Go see this show. You'll be so glad that you did! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Has The Internet Ruined Everything?

Everyone is a critic.

Yes. People always had opinions, but now these opinions become 'law' to many once they are in print. Blogs (like this), social media, forums - all give people platforms to pontificate as much as they would like.

There are websites where people with like minds can come together and see who is more clever than the next in how they rip something apart. A new movie that numerous creative minds have spent years bringing to the public. A book where readers can announce every spoiler that an author painstakingly thought out to make their story different. Or live theater which so many believe is a dying art.

I'm actually shocked at times when I read theater forums that one would believe is a place for those that love theater to come together and share stories. Instead - they become a place where snarky people can't wait to tear down the latest Broadway show. Original shows (especially musicals) are hard to get produced. Jukebox musicals get put up much more quickly as a way to string together the hits of a particular artist or era. But for writers and producers to take the time to mount a new show takes years. I'm always dumbfounded how those that profess to love the art form can't wait to rip apart something new. 

New York has been busy lately with new shows emerging to lackluster reviews and some closing quickly while others have producers behind it attempting to keep them going. Yes, reviews from actual reviewers will always carry a certain amount of weight, but for those that merely troll theater forums in order to show everyone how witty they are in their thoughts on a show...I say they need to put that wit to paper and write their own show.

And oh yes - be prepared for the next 'theater queen' to knock it down as soon as it is mounted.

(BTW - no: I have no new show being mounted now. Just returned from a trip visiting family and went out online to catch up on NY shows from the past week and saw some pretty nasty forum threads.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Overture is About to Start

Remember when you would attend a musical and the lights would go down as the overture started to play? There was a certain excitement about hearing the music, humming along, and knowing the show was beginning.

Recently I read several posts on a popular theater forum blasting the latest revival of the musical Annie (opening tonight) for not having the overture played during the previews. (And some even took credit for the fact the producers put it back in.) 

As much as I love an overture on an old-time musical, I have mixed feelings about them in the more modern musicals. If they are done correctly and set the tone for the performance we are about to witness - I'm all for it. But I think the musical Once does a great job without one because they have a 'bar party' happening prior to the show starting. And I recall Next to Normal setting the tone with the rock music playing prior to the show (without giving us snippets of several songs to come.)

Lilla Crawford in ANNIE revival.
I think that some people tend to forget Broadway musicals used to have songs playing on the radio from hit shows. So when an overture started, you would recognize the song. That is no longer the case and somewhere along the way, overtures have all but disappeared. If they did play a medley of songs, we wouldn't even know that it was songs from the show.

I suppose - like everything - even the musical art form has changed. But when it's a revival of a classic, there is nothing like hearing that overture played as the lights go down. The child in me gets pretty darn excited again. Break legs, to the cast of Annie on their opening night!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Patchwork Through Fall

So we fell 'back' this week and I wanted to share an award-winning book for fall. I've talked about PATCHWORK OF ME before on my blog. I spent the summer on tour with it, but a few people have mentioned what a great autumn/winter read it is (because of the setting) and I the light went off in my head. They are right!

Sara and her friends take a cross country trip from Arizona to Maine seeing the country in that time when leaves change and snow falls. We've recently learned that weather is not always our friend, but sometimes we can still enjoy the beauty it can bring. 

I've been so proud of this book since it came out this past spring. I'm pleased with the comments it has received. The awards it has won. And that people say they get so lost in Sara's voice - they forget a man has written the book. (A huge compliment!) 

So grab your favorite warm drink and settle in with this book. And once you complete it...let me know what you think!

Wishing all warm thoughts as people patch their lives back together.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mom's Cancer Journey

It has been a while since I last blogged about my mother and the chemo treatments she has been going through. She just finished another this past Friday and has been dealing with different things after each one. I'm very grateful that she shares with me about what she is going through and that she allows me to share it on my blog. And I'm most excited that I get to see her next weekend for the first time since June! 

Here she is in her own words:

Well I've just gone through my 5th chemo treatment. Only one more to go. Thought it was time to talk about the head to toe symptoms I've experienced.

Lost hair on head and most of my eyebrows and eyelashes. Butterfly effect on face. Flushing hot. Dries out face. Stomach and bowel issues: constipation and diarrhea.
Lots of fatigue, especially 2 days after treatment. Losing some fingernails. Blood pressure goes up and way down. Blood sugers go crazy on those 3 days I have to take steroids. Have to take insulin on those days. Back pain, leg pain, shoulder and hip pain from Neulasta shot I get after chemo treatment - can last from 3 to 7 days. Emotions go up and down. Lets just say you don't feel very pretty at times. Dries out your body inside and out. Lots of lotion needed. Feet and leg problems from neuropathy, which is caused by meds. Bottom of feet sometimes burn and swell making it hard to walk.

Now for the positive side --Hair, eyebrows and eyelashes will grow back. And I've got some really good wigs. Some people even think the wigs make me look younger. I have not had any mouth sores or any infections (which many people do). Eyes and face will clear up someday. Nails will grow back. I've not had to take any nausea meds. I'll get  these emotions under control. Skin will soften back. My legs and feet will get better after treatments. And I have some really wonderful caring doctors taking care of me.

Most of all, I have a great family and lots of good friends who are supporting me every step of my journey. Also getting to do what I love, working with kindergarteners is helping me get through this phase of my life. Trying to stay as positive as I can and dealing with each issue as it comes up. 

ONLY ONE MORE TREATMENT. And then it's time for my NO MORE CHEMO PARTY. Yeah baby. I got this.

Past blogs on my mom.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Social Media: Friend or Foe

I've learned some interesting things through the course of  this disaster called Sandy. Many have taken to social media to stay engaged with others and to learn how people are doing. But like a huge conference room where multiple conversations may be taking place, not everyone is discussing the same thing.

I've known people to share so many stories via Facebook and Twitter. Death of parents. Loss of home due to the economy. A breakup or divorce. People are quick to jump in with an encouraging word, kind thoughts, prayers. And I truly believe the empathy that folks have on social media.

However, it seems that people want everyone to feel and react the same way to every situation. But that doesn't happen. I've had no power or heat since Monday, so I've chosen to get by with humor on social media. Of course I stop and look at the photos coming through of the devastation Sandy has brought and I greatly feel for those so affected. But no one can understand completely what someone is going through. The fact someone posts a photo of their child trick-or-treating after commenting on your lack of power, or their family vacation once you've mentioned the death of your parent doesn't mean their sincerity for you isn't real. It simply means people continue living their own lives and social media is one's way of being social.

So yes - I've learned lessons and I hope others do too. We shouldn't be upset with people online because their lives/their pains/their joys are different from ours. What they are feeling is just as important. People do mean it when they invite you to come to their place to take a shower. Or the restaurant I went to last night (to eat in the light) and they offered to charge our phones while we ate. 

Lastly, if Sandy brings out the humor side in me - I think my social media friends appreciate that more than hearing how depressed it is looking at a dark wall each evening. Instead, I'll talk about the shadow puppets I'm making on the wall.