Monday, January 2, 2023

What is it about you?

Part 2 of my New York blog...

Skyscrapers, taken in Central Park

"When we left off last night, the hideous dragon had carried the maid to his cave by moonlight, he gnashed his teeth and breathed his fire. The heath quaked and we trembled in fear!"

Oh wait, wrong musical. This is where we left off. I did not see The Secret Garden (which the above quote is from) in New York, though I did see it in Seattle a few years ago on tour!

Anyway, moving along... 😀

Broadway Flea Market

The morning of September 25 found us back on Broadway attending the annual Broadway Flea Market, where they sell all kinds of things related to shows and all proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It was quite an experience. Near the beginning I caught a glimpse of Jeremy Jordan. Many shows had booths. There were old programs, merch, used props, and more. The Kite Runner booth had cloth items made by women in Afghanistan, where the play is set. (I sadly missed that show, which I was hoping to see.) The Some Like it Hot booth (another show I didn't get to see) was giving away bottles of water. At the Aladdin booth, in addition to buying a signed Statue of Liberty prop used by the Genie (see my previous post), I got to meet Jasmine (Sonya Balsara) and get my picture with her! I mentioned that I had seen her in the show the previous night, and that she was amazing. She appreciated that.

At the Come from Away booth, I got to meet Sharon Wheatley (who played Diane) and Astrid Van Wieren (Beulah). I feel honored to have now met all three women they portrayed (the character of Beulah Davis is inspired by Beulah Cooper and Diane Davis) and the super talented women who originated their roles on Broadway. Sharon Wheatley signed her book Drive: Stories from Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere for me. Astrid Van Wieren signed a Come from Away button.

With Sharon Wheatley

With Astrid Van Wieren

At the Stars in the House booth, the four of us admins from Broadway Remembered got our picture with Seth Rudetsky and John Wesley. I also bought a couple small paintings by their very talented daughter Juli.

Me, Jeremy Sunderland, Seth Rudetsky,
Melly Garcia, Michael Kape, John Wesley

Shortly after leaving their booth, I very nearly literally bumped into my old high school friend Barzin Akhavan, who I haven't seen since high school, and has been in the cast of The Kite Runner. He is also in an upcoming movie (he told me the title, but I forget), and has been in a lot of productions on the stage and screen. He has been involved in The Kite Runner since its inception. I performed with him in our high school production of Oklahoma!, and he later reprised his role of Ali Hakim in an Oregon Shakespeare Festival production. As we were passing each other at the Flea Market, I said, "Barzin!" His scream of delight and big hug took me by surprise, and was truly amazing. Here he was, a Broadway star, greeting me like I was the star and he was the fan. It meant a lot to me. After we had hugged and talked a bit, I introduced him to the others (who we had to find in the crowd). We then arranged to meet and talk some more the following day.

With Barzin Akhavan
Photo by Michael Kape

I left four rocks during the Flea Market: "Climb every mountain" from The Sound of Music, "Hygge" from Frozen, a second "Paciencia y fe" rock from In the Heights, and "Welcome to the Rock" from Come from Away.

Speaking of Come from Away...

Come from Away

Following the Broadway Flea Market, the four of us attended Come from Away, shortly before it sadly had to close. Most of the cast (though not everyone) was the original Broadway cast, and we were near the front. I was struck how some of the trees had grown root systems during the run. You can see it in the bottom corner of this picture:

It was amazing seeing it on Broadway with (mostly) the original cast. This was the fourth time I saw it onstage (the first three times were in Seattle). It gets me every time. It is such a powerful show, and it's such a shame it had to close a week later. I was hoping this would be able to go for years more.

Manhattan and Central Park

The following day I returned to the Harry Potter Store, and left a rock nearby ("To life, to life, l'chaim!" from Fiddler on the Roof). I walked up the street, as my appointment with Barzin was coming up. On the way to Central Park, I passed the Empire State Building (I hope to go in next time I go):

As I arrived at Central Park, I found it is a lot bigger than I realized. I went in the southeastern corner and walked through the zoo. I did some exploring in the park and left two rocks: "My corner of the sky" from Pippin (I loved that someone was gonna find "my corner of the sky") and "You will be found" from Dear Evan Hansen. I really must do more exploring next time I go. 

I was struck by the buildings all around. Barzin and I exchanged texts to arrange where to meet, and so I walked from the southeast to the southwest corner of the park. We sat on a bench and caught up, and then we proceeded to the Lincoln Center, where we sat in the courtyard and talked. I left my favorite rock there, with a quote from Les MisĂ©rables ("Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise"): 

After meeting, we both had plans on Broadway. I was to see Six, and he had to get to The Kite Runner. We both took the subway to Times Square, where we parted. I had a bit of time to kill before my show, so I explored the Disney Store.


"Remember us from PBS?"

Six is the "histo-remix" of the story of Henry VIII's six wives. It is told concert style with the six of them onstage with their "ladies in waiting" (the band) on risers behind them. Each tells their story, initially as a competition to see who had it the worst. It recently crossed the Pond from London, and it is unlike any other show I have seen. It masterfully and creatively injects interest, humor and music into a very serious story. It tells how each wife was respectively "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." While it starts out as a competition, part of the lesson of the show is that these tough times are not a competition. Four were rejected for various reasons, one died in childbirth, and the last was with him to the end of his life. Each performer did a fantastic job of recounting her story. I also love how they acknowledged and introduced each member of the band.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The following day, my friend Melly treated me to a tour of the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art). I will need to go back next time, as we hardly scratched the surface of what is there, but she gave me a tour of many of the paintings. I was particularly fascinated by this one by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun of her daughter Julie, creatively presenting two perspectives of her in one painting:

Melly and I had lunch in the museum's cafeteria, and then she had to leave, but I proceeded to explore the gift shop and the Greek and Egyptian wings. Mythology and ancient art fascinates me.

Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty

My next goal was to take the Staten Island Ferry and see the Statue of Liberty from closer up than I had seen it from Battery Park a couple days previous. I proceeded to the ferry terminal, which is near Battery Park, and boarded the ferry. It reminded me of the ferries on the Puget Sound, except it's smaller and doesn't have a place for cars.

It was a beautiful day to be on the water. Looking behind, I had spectacular views of Manhattan and surrounding. To the side, I got a great view of the Statue of Liberty. I hope to go to Liberty Island next time.

Upon arrival at Staten Island, I did a little exploring and left my last rock ("Hakuna matata" from The Lion King) and then returned to Manhattan. It was a bit of a rush to get back to Times Square for the show, but I just made it!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

While I have issues with the plot of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it is worth going for the effects alone. It almost looks like they are actually performing the spells onstage, and at times I wondered how they did it. The set and effects are mindblowing. In my opinion, the plot is best described by a quote from Doctor Who: "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...stuff." It is the story of Harry's son Albus and Draco's son Scorpius forming an unlikely friendship and creating a big mess with the noblest of intentions. It was originally in two parts, but due to the pandemic was shortened into one show for Broadway. 


The following day, after I visited Hershey's Chocolate World in Times Square, Melly and I went to see Hadestown. It is the Greek tragedy of Orpheus going to the underworld to rescue his love Eurydice, told with New Orleans style music. It was mostly the original Broadway cast. Of the main characters, only Hermes (Lillias White) and Persephone (Jewelle Blackman) were different, and they were fantastic. Reeve Carney was an excellent Orpheus, Eva Noblezada was amazing as Eurydice, and Patrick Page killed it as Hades. I don't see many shows with a strong bass, but Hades is one such part. The set was simple yet complex. My only issue was that, though we had amazing seats, they were right in front of the stage, which would normally be a great thing, and it was great being able to see them so close...but a large portion of the show uses dry ice, which pours off the stage and into the first few rows. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but smelled like dry ice afterwards. I would recommend sitting a bit further back if dry ice is an issue for you.

Into the Woods

After a visit to M&Ms World and a fantastic Cuban dinner, the four of us met to see the revival of Sondheim's Into the Woods, a mashup of several classic fairy tales that combine into a powerful and rather heavy second act. It was a who's who of Broadway actors, including Stephanie J. Block (Baker's Wife), Sebastian Arcelus (Baker), Gavin Creel (Cinderella's Prince/Wolf), Joshua Henry (Rapunzel's Prince), Krysta Rodriguez (Cinderella) and more. While it was fully acted, it reminded me of a concert style, as the orchestra was in the center of the stage and the set was very simple. Milky White was a brilliantly-designed puppet and more expressive than I've ever seen her. She pretty much stole the show. Her puppeteer (Kennedy Kanagawa) was just as expressive. I also loved how the giant was portrayed by two massive shoes (one of which was also operated by Kennedy Kanagawa) tromping around the stage with the help of two puppeteers. The voice of the giant (who also played Cinderella's mother) walked to the center of the stage behind the orchestra and you could see her talking from a distance. In other productions I've seen, she is completely offstage, except when you see her feet at the end.

I was sad to have to leave, but New York was an amazing experience. It was truly "one short week in the [Bi-i-ig Apple]!" I hope to return sometime. (Back to the Future opens on Broadway this coming June, after all!) It was also a personal record for the most live shows I've seen in one week. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who helped make this trip possible! It was amazing, and a highlight of my year!

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