Living it up at Madame Tussauds

by Louise, Director of Operations

Last night we were lucky to be invited to check out the expanded exhibits at Madame Tussauds in Times Square. This branch of the famous wax museum (which originated in London over 175 years ago) has been open since 2000, and is one of the most popular additions to the area. It is well worth a visit on your next trip to New York!

Leo and Ash wore the same outfit. Awkward.

Leo and Ash wore the same outfit. Awkward.

The exhibition encompasses 6 floors – you’ll be brought to the top by elevator and make your way down. On the way you’ll find dozens of stunning replicas of movie stars, historical figures, famous athletes, fictional characters, and more, all ready for wonderful photo ops in a variety of poses. Some of the more distinctive displays (ET, the Obamas, etc) are manned by professionals to snap a high quality photograph of you, but most are available for casual smart phone photos (or real cameras, if you are still doing that).

Melba tries her hand at being Don Draper's secretary

Melba tries her hand at being Don Draper’s secretary

We’d had a glass of wine or two before embarking on the exhibit, and while it’s fun and silly no matter what I don’t NOT recommend being a little loosened up. It definitely makes for some fun pictures! You can also get wine, beer and snacks at a few different snack bars on your way through.

I might identify a little too closely with Dorothy Parker

I might identify a little too closely with Dorothy Parker

The work, of course, is stunningly accurate. You may find yourself staring into the eyes of Anderson Cooper, certain that at any moment he will suddenly spring to life. Or maybe that was just me. I can guarantee, however, that the lifelike nature of these figures is nothing short of remarkable.

Kelly loves the Jonas Brothers and she doesn't care who knows about it

Kelly loves the Jonas Brothers and she doesn’t care who knows about it

Madame Tussauds is great fun for all ages, and the location makes it a fantastic way to bridge the gap between say, your day of sightseeing and your pre-theater dinner. It is included in a number of our sightseeing packages, including the Freestyle Tour and the New York Pass, or as a standalone ticket. We can also include it in your customized New York City Vacation Package – e-mail us at info@newyorkguest.com to start planning, and you, too, can find yourself soon contemplating life with Dorothy Parker, or performing with the Jonas Brothers.

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Our 2014 Tony Award Predictions!

This Sunday, June 8th marks a major event in the Broadway community – the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards. Kelly, our Manager of Group and Partner Services, Ash, our Concierge Manager, and concierges Cari, Tara and Robin put their theatre-loving heads together to make predictions for this year’s awards.

Best Musical

Shows nominated: After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful – the Carole King Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

tony-bestmusical

Kelly says:
Who will win – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Who should win: Gentleman’s Guide. What an excellent show! It’s such a joy to see a completely original work being celebrated this year – and rightly so! It was funny, it was clever, it was WONDERFUL.
Ash says:
Who will win – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Who should win – Gent’s Guide is ORIGINAL (huzzah!), with smart writing, clever direction, smart design, and solid performances.
Cari says:
Who will win – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Who should win – Gentleman’s Guide is a clear winner!  It’s quirky fun with great singing based on an original idea! Original ideas should always win out – plus who can say no to an amazing musical farce?
Tara says:
Who will win – Beautiful – the Carole King Musical. Who should win – Gentleman’s Guide. Sometimes the Brit shows do well here, sometimes they don’t, as was the case of Kinky Boots vs. Matilda last year. Both of these shows seemed to start slowly then become a hit out of nowhere.
Robin says:
Who will win – toss-up between Gentleman’s Guide and Beautiful. Who should win – I think Gentleman’s Guide deserves the win.  I loved the show and it was so well reviewed.

Best Play

Shows nominated: Act One, All the Way, Casa Valentina, Mothers and Sons, Outside Mullingar

tony-bestplay

Kelly says:
Who will win – Act One. Who should win: Act One! Wonderful acting by leads Tony Shalhoub and Santino Fontana, this was both a love letter to the theatre in general, and a fascinating look back at a celebrated playwright’s early days.
Ash says:
Who will win – All the Way. Who should win – Act One. The Moss Hart bio-drama is a labor of love written by a theatre legend ABOUT a theatre legend. With gorgeous design and top notch performances, it’s a solid choice.
Cari says:
Who will win – All the Way. Who should win – All the Way. We have another clear winner at least to me.  It is an amazing play this season touching on such an important moment in history
Tara says:
Who will win – Casa Valentina. Who should win – Casa Valentina. Broadway and most of the country have been making a big push for LGBT issues, and much like the Oscars, there is usually some political relevance as to who wins these awards. Harvey Fierstein may also continue to ride the victory train started by last year’s winner Kinky Boots.
Robin says:
Who will win – Casa Valentina or All the Way. Who should win – Act One. I read this play and fell in love. It is such a beautiful tale of ‘making it’ in show business, very inspiring and funny as well!

Best Revival of a Musical

Shows nominated: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Les Miserables, Violet

tony-musicalrevival
Kelly says:
Who will win – Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Who should win – Hedwig. I’ll confess – I haven’t even SEEN Hedwig, I’m just going off the reports I’ve heard from numerous friends whose theatre opinions I value. Violet was well-done, but not as high-profile. And Les Miserables brought nothing new to the table with this tired revival that I thought was extremely miscast. It’s a slam dunk for Hedwig.
Ash says:
Who will win – Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Who should win – Hedwig. Because it’s awesome.
Cari says:
Who will win – Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Who should win – Violet!  Starring Sutton Foster, it delivers such an amazing message and heartfelt story.  We don’t always get understated and unique shows such as this focusing on the inner beauty of people.
Tara says:
Who will win – Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Les Miserables. Who should win – Hedwig. Hedwig began more than a decade ago and has an awesome cult following; back then she may have been ahead of her time, but hopefully the world is ready for her now. I also love Les Miserables,  but I think it’s time to pass the torch.
Robin says:
Who will win – Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Who should win – Hedwig!

Best Revival of a Play

Shows nominated: The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Glass Menagerie, A Raisin in the Sun, Twelfth Night

tony-playrevival

Kelly says:
Who will win – The Glass Menagerie. Who should win – The Glass Menagerie. The cast of this gem is the perfect example of capturing lightning in a bottle. I’m rooting for Celia Keenan-Bolger for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play SO HARD. She is magic, as was this performance.
Ash says:
Who will win – The Glass Menagerie. Who should win – Although I also adored Twelfth Night, I’m going with Menagerie, because I’ve simply never seen it so well-acted before. The scene between Laura and the Gentleman Caller gave me such hope (and I know the play well), that at its conclusion my heart was totally broken. I hope Celia Keenan-Bolger takes Supporting Actress in a Play!
Cari says:
Who will win – The Cripple of Inishmaan. Who should win – I have to go with The Glass Menagerie.  Cherry Jones and Celia Kennan Bolger were the perfect team but add in Zachary Quinto and you have an undeniable trio of star power!
Tara says:
Who will win – The Glass Menagerie or Twelfth Night. Who should win – Glass Menagerie/Twelfth Night another battle of the shows, as with the best musical contenders. Glass Menagerie had the lasting power and the star power for sure; but both Twelfth Night and Richard III did extremely well, the board may hopefully appreciate the authentic touches these shows provided. (I would be happy if either of these win.)
Robin says:
Who will win – The Glass Menagerie. Who should win – The Glass Menagerie – I wish I saw this!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Actors nominated: Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Ramin Karimloo (Les Miserables), Andy Karl (Rocky), Jefferson Mays (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder), Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder)



Kelly says:
Who will win – Neil Patrick Harris. Who should win – STEVEN PASQUALE. The fact that he wasn’t nominated for The Bridges of Madison County is the greatest slight I could possibly have imagined, and I’m still reeling from it. Now, given those actually nominated, this is a toss-up between Jefferson Mays and NPH. I think both have a fighting chance, but I’m leaning towards NPH.
Ash says:
Who will win – Neil Patrick Harris. Who should win – NPH. He has poured himself into that role. The entire show is fresh and reinvented, and Neil Patrick Harris is at the center of it all. Plus, he is LIVING in those heels. Bravo! (Brava?)
Cari says:
Who will win – Neil Patrick Harris. Who should win – I love NPH. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE him but I think Andy Karl should bring home the statue for his performance in Rocky.  He is stellar, a true underdog in every sense of the word and I love that about him.
Tara says:
Who will win – Neil Patrick Harris. Who should win – Andy Karl. (Actually I hope it’s a tie.) NPH has been riding an incredible high the past few years, and I’ve been told his work in Hedwig is just amazing, but it should go to the underdog here in (Rocky fashion) Andy Karl; he carries the entire show, did Lord knows how much work to pull off the choreography in the finale match, and is charming enough to make you suspend disbelief that a boxer can sing.
Robin says:
Who will win – Jefferson Mays please! (I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryce Pinkham won though). Who should win – Jefferson Mays! His transformation in Gentleman’s Guide is flawless. I saw their first preview and his performance was so incredibly solid. He deserves this win. I was also quite impressed with Andy Karl’s Rocky – that’s my second choice.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Actresses nominated: Mary Bridget Davies (A Night with Janis Joplin), Sutton Foster (Violet), Idina Menzel (If/Then), Jessie Mueller (Beautiful – the Carole King Musical), Kelli O’Hara (The Bridges of Madison County)

tony-actress

Kelly says:
Who will win – Jessie Mueller. Who should win – honestly, this is the most difficult category for me. Kelli O’Hara’s performance in The Bridges of Madison County was emotional, specific, and sung so beautifully that I still cry every time I listen to the cast album (which I do frequently.) But Jessie Mueller’s Carole King is arguably one of the greatest stage portrayals of a real-life musical icon, and her performance elevates what could be shrugged off as a simple jukebox musical into so much more. I’d be happy if either actress took the prize.
Ash says:
Who will win – Jessie Mueller. Who should win – Oh Jessie, Jessie, Jessie!!! I am firmly Team Jessie. In the past few years, she has taken on so many HUGELY different roles, all of which she has NAILED. Her performance as Carole King lifts an otherwise pretty “paint-by-numbers” bio-musical to a significant contender for Best Musical. Her rendition of “So Far Away” is haunting.
Cari says:
Who will win – Jessie Mueller. Who should win – Whilst Kelli O’Hara has certainly paid her dues with this being her fifth nomination, I think this competitive category should go to the newbie who shows us all that we’ve got a friend. Jessie Mueller is the embodiment of Carole King without impersonating her; she brings life to every moment of this beautiful biopic.
Tara says:
Who will win – Jessie Mueller. Who should win – Idina Menzel, because I love her and want to be her when I grow up. Kelli O’Hara is another actress who did an amazing job in a show that did not do very well, despite poor reviews the two things that were enjoyed were Jason Robert Brown’s music and Kelli O Hara’s performance.
Robin says:
Who will win – Sutton Foster. Who should win – Kelli O’Hara. Because she’s a star and she deserves every Tony. I love her acting style and her voice is a dream. She seems like a wonderful person as well.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Actors Nominated: Samuel Barnett (Twelfth Night), Bryan Cranston (All the Way), Chris O’Dowd (Of Mice and Men), Mark Rylance (Richard III), Tony Shalhoub (Act One)

Tony-actorplay

Kelly says:
Who will win – Bryan Cranston. Who should win – Samuel Barnett. Everyone has been talking about Mark Rylance’s turn as Olivia in this production, but I was astounded by Barnett’s Viola.
Ash says:
Who will win – Bryan Cranston. Who should win – Bryan Cranston will be halfway to his EGOT.
Cari says:
Who will win – Mark Rylance or Bryan Cranston. Who should win – Bryan Cranston shows us an amazing rendition of LBJ, breaking far, far away from the bad, bad Heisenberg!  I hope he gets recognized for his performance and makes his way back to Broadway again soon.
Tara says:
Who will win – Bryan Cranston. Who should win – Bryan Cranston. I know the Tonys have been snubbing TV/Movie actors on Broadway as of late, but Bryan Cranston is an amazing actor and puts himself into everything he does (have you SEEN Breaking Bad?) I really hope they do the right thing and give him the Tony.
Robin says:
Who will win – Bryan Cranston. Who should win – Chris O’Dowd because his speech would be hilarious and down to earth so basically I want him to win for my entertainment.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

tony-actressplay

Actresses nominated: Tyne Daly (Mothers and Sons), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (A Raisin in the Sun), Cherry Jones (The Glass Menagerie), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Estelle Parsons (The Velocity of Autumn)

Kelly says:
Who will win – Audra McDonald. Who should win – AUDRA FOR ALL THE AWARDS EVER. Cherry Jones had a career-defining (in an already remarkable career!) performance in The Glass Menagerie, but Audra is just…magic. She doesn’t just perform a character, she INHABITS them. She is just phenomenal.
Ash says:
Who will win – Audra McDonald. Who should win – Audra McDonald should win all awards. Kidding, I only kinda-sorta feel that way. Still, as much as I fawned over Cherry Jones’ master class in acting as Amanda Wingfield in Menagerie, Audra’s turn as Billie Holliday was so immersive – so complete – that I forgot I was even watching Audra. Transformative. I’ll never forget that performance.
Cari says:
Who will win – Audra McDonald. Who should win – Gosh this one is hard. I think Audra is so worthy and I love her but how could I not want Cherry Jones to win in a role she was born to play? Both ladies are so amazing and I am in awe of their talents.  Whether Audra wins for portraying the iconic Billie Holiday or Cherry brings it home for her matriarchal turn, we are lucky to have these strong ladies on Broadway stages.
Tara says:
Who will win – Audra McDonald. Who should win – Audra Mc Donald. She’s amazing as Billie Holiday and one of those actresses who can get a Tony nod just for being on stage, it’s possible they may give the Tony to someone else to change things up, but she deserves it.
Robin says:
Who will win – All of these ladies are very amazing, this is such a powerful group! But, Audra McDonald or Estelle Parsons. Who should win – Any of these ladies, honestly.

 

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Manhattanhenge: The Beauty of the Grid and Sun

Manhattanehnge3New York City was one of the first modern cities to embrace the grid plan. The streets are divided into parallel axes from north to south and then east to west – making it easy to trek across the city using cardinal directions. The lower portion of Manhattan does not follow this grid system (which is why it’s the most common area in which to get lost – even if you live here!)

While the Manhattan grid makes getting around the city considerably easier, the grid also allows for a natural phenomenon twice a year – Manhattanhenge (so dubbed in 2002). Twice a year the full sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan grid at sunset creating a beautiful sight that attracts more and more viewers and photographers each year. The phenomenon can be viewed by facing west from any street in midtown Manhattan. 42nd street tends to be the most popular, with some folks viewing from as far east as possible to get the full spectrum, and some choosing to go further to the west for a close-up view.

Manhattanhenge1This year Manhattanhenge will happen on May 28th, 29th and 30th around 8:18 PM and July 11th, 12th and 13th at 8:24 PM. The middle dates will always have the most impressive display, with the full sun positioned exactly between two buildings. The surrounding dates will afford you a view of half the sun – still spectacular, but not quite as majestic.

Happy viewing!

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Broadway’s Hottest Ticket (in more ways than one)

by Louise, Director of Operations

hedwig1I bought my tickets for Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in January to be safe, knowing the combination of the 2001 film’s cult following and Neil Patrick Harris’s rabid and widespread fanbase would make it the toughest ticket of the spring, and the anticipation proceeded to kill me until I finally got to attend last night. I’ll confess I’ve never seen the Hedwig film (something I will fix soon) so everything was new to me. It was rather delightful to not really know what was coming. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, in essence, a concert that tells a story. The band is The Angry Inch, and its leading lady Hedwig is a transsexual from East Germany who has landed a “one-night-only” gig at the Belasco Theater hedwig3after the untimely closing of Hurt Locker: The Musical (this and many other timely jokes have been added to the Broadway production). Through the 100 minute performance, she tells the story of her early childhood interest in music, how she escaped East Berlin, her botched sex change operation, her life in America, and her history with acclaimed rock star Tommy Gnosis, who happens to be performing a “redemption concert” immediately outside the theater.

hedwig4While very funny (mostly full of jokes I wouldn’t dare to reiterate here), Hedwig is also incredibly poignant and moving. She initially appears as sort of a caricature, but the more you learn about her the more you see her for her fragility and humanity. The character’s costumes reflect this exposure – she makes her entrance in a costume and wig combination that covers everything but her face, and by the end of the show she is nearly naked. I laughed more than I have laughed at a show in recent memory, but I was also deeply moved and a lihedwig5ttle teary at times. The emotional breadth is what pushes the show from great fun to amazing theater – it would be easy just to watch a talented actor perform in drag and make crass jokes for an hour and a half, but of course it would not be easy to be young transgender woman with a botched sex change from East Germany trying to make it in America. To really get to know Hedwig as a person is the honor of watching this show.

Ohedwig2f course, it’s also very very funny, and Neil Patrick Harris is predictably incredible. He walks in heels about 100 times better than I do, and moves like a man half his age. He looks and sounds amazing and every move, glance and gesture is spot on. This is the performance of a lifetime for him. Watching him do this, I couldn’t help but think that it was only about eight years ago that Neil Patrick Harris revealed his homosexuality, and how remarkable it is that in under a decade he could go from being closeted to being a gay icon and playing a trans icon on Broadway. And it was merely two years before that that he filmed an episode of Law & Order: CI in the chocolate factory where I was working at the time, and I got to hang out with him a little bit and I had absolutely no inkling of how cool that was. He was still Doogie Howser to me back then. It’s been quite a decade to be Neil Patrick Harris, and such an honor to watch his star so rightly rise.

Hanging with NPH back in '04

Hanging with NPH back in ’04

That tangent aside (though I’ve included a picture from when I hung out with him, because of course I did) GO SEE THIS SHOW. You’ll want to buy your tickets before June 8th. After the Tonys they will be impossible to get. I mean it. Seriously. Feel free to e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com with questions or for custom packages including tickets to Hedwig and the Angry Inch!

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An Immersive and Intoxicating Evening at Queen of the Night

by Louise, Director of Operations

I remember when going to the theater meant getting dressed up and feeling fancy all evening. Lately it seems like everyone just shows up to the theater in whatever they were wearing that day. If, like me, you long for the days when it was more of an “event” to go to the theater, than I have the show for you, and it is Queen of the Night, the new immersive theater experience from the creators of Sleep No More.

The queen-of-the-nightNYG staff went to Queen of the Night as a group, and it was a fantastic staff outing but would also be wonderful for a group of friends or a date night (the show is not for children though, so leave the kids at home). The fun started well before we even left our office as we changed out of our dreary business clothes and into evening finery. There’s nothing like an excuse to get dressed up on a Wednesday night!

qotn1Once we got to the Paramount Hotel, host of Queen of the Night, we enjoyed delicious cocktails and appetizers in the lobby bar before heading down to the venue space, named the Diamond Horseshoe. The actors and hosts for the evening will draw you into the fun whether or not you’ve already had a cocktail, but if you’ve chosen to abstain thus far, never fear – you are offered a welcome cocktail or glass of champagne upon your arrival. I chose the delectable signature cocktail named The Queen’s Bush – vodka, lemon juice, anqotn5d toasted rosemary. It was the perfect aperitif to sip while entering the crowded ballroom where the main event takes place. We joined the throng of people watching the fascinating dancing, including a mysterious figure on the central platform who we took to be the Queen herself, until all of a sudden the performers began tossing each other the chairs that were stacked in an unruly-looking pile at the front of the room. In almost no time, the ballroom transformed into a banquet hall before our eyes, and we all took off to choose our seats.

qotn8Throughout the evening we witnessed incredible acrobatics, juggling, dancing, magic, and romance – often times action occurs just a foot or two in front of you. I’m told you may be selected by a cast member to enter a secret room, though alas I was not chosen – all the more incentive to return for a second round. The story of the evening is loosely based on Mozart’s Magic Flute, but I urge you not to worry too much about following a plot and rather just relax and let the evening wash over you.

qotn6It’s not just about watching the performance, of course. Throughout the evening we were served generous decanters of wine, bowls of salad, and baguettes and each table in the hall was brought either a rack of short ribs, a basket of lobsters, or an entire suckling pig. Attendees are urged to barter with other tables to get a little of everything. There is also a full bar available should you require more cocktails.

Uponqotn3 the conclusion of the evening, the entire audience was invited to get up and join in a final dance, which nearly everyone in the room did. Those who remained seated were drawn up by members of the cast until the whole room was filled with twirling revelry. In our increasingly isolated world, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

qotn3If you are interested in Queen of the Night packages including a stay at the Paramount Hotel, please feel free to e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com. We can’t wait to send you on your own adventure!

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2013-2014 Broadway/Off Broadway Year in Review

Awards season is upon us, with nominations for Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League awards announced, and less than 24 hours until the 2014 Tony nominees are revealed, we’re taking a look back at the shows we loved the most from this Broadway and Off Broadway season. Share your own in the comments!

Ash – Concierge Manager

What is your must see show and why?

bway14ac1The must-see show of the season is the first Broadway staging of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. With it’s crazy premise, insane cult following (following it’s Off-Broadway incarnation and subsequent film), awesome score, and the exciting casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig, this is THE show to see.

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

In any given season, I could pick something like a fabulous tap number from After Midnight, a Susan Stroman-choreographed gem from Bullets Over Broadway, the Genie’s show-stopping “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, or any number of beautifully performed quieter songs from other shows that gave me chills (Jesse Mueller’s touching opening number, “So Far Away,” from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical comes to mind).

What I’m picking, though, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any other Broadway show. For sheer awe-inducing theatricality, I have to go with “The Fight” in Rocky. It is such a feat of theater that trying to explain it in writing just doesn’t cut it. I’ll just say that I was on the edge of my seat and my jaw hit the floor! The final 20 minutes of that show blew my mind.bway14AC

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Audra McDonald already has 5 Tony Awards for a reason. She is simply flawless in whatever she does. From her first few seconds as Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, I was riveted by her performance. She so lost herself in the role that I sat there transfixed until the final blackout. And then, as if by magic, the lights came back on her her curtain call. Boom – just like that Billie had disappeared and Audra was back. She is just stunning.

Eileen – Travel Consultant

What is your must see show from the 2013-2014 season and why?

bway14EFI absolutely adored Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 which played Off-Broadway. They built their own theatre! I loved everything from the décor to the blocking to the music. This is the one show that has really stuck with me this year and I find myself going back to the cast recording every now and then.

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

Kelli O’Hara singing “Almost Real” in Bridges brought me to tears. Kelli O’Hara can infuse any song with heart but this song just tore me up – the heartbreak, the determination, the regret!

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Even though he’s left the production – I thought Michel Urie worked his ass off in Buyer and Cellar. One man shows are hard but Urie tackled FIVE roles with incredible ease. He was the perfect amount of charm, heartache, and Barbra Streisand.

Jared – Concierge

What is your must see show from the 2013-2014 season and why?

Of the show’s I’ve already seen, I *loved* A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It’s clever, cheeky, and a lot of fun, with an amazing cast and some beautiful music. Of the ones I’ve yet to see, I’m most looking forward to Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill because Audra McDonald can do no wrong!

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

aladdin“Friend Like Me” from Aladdin is one of the best showstoppers I’ve seen in several years. (There are fireworks! Onstage!!!) It got a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Kelli O’Hara blew my mind in The Bridges of Madison County. A deeply felt, beautifully sung performance that was heart wrenching and utterly convincing. This is what Broadway level acting and singing sounds like. If she doesn’t win the Tony there’s no justice in the world.

Kelly – Manager of Group Services

What is your must-see show and why?

bway14KSOn Broadway, I absolutely LOVED A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The music is fantastic – in a season that’s heavy on contemporary musical scores, this show has more of a classic Broadway feel, which I always enjoy. And the show is ridiculously funny – I had such a good time and laughed A LOT! Off Broadway, Heathers: the Musical really surprised me. Every once in awhile, a movie-to-musical remake is done right – and this one was so much fun. Deliciously campy, inappropriately funny, and full of memorable songs and performances by an amazing young cast – I loved it!

What musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

Hands down the best score of the season is Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County. There are two songs in the second act that completely wrecked me – the beautiful duet “One Second and a Million Miles” sung by the incomparable Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, and Pasquale’s final song “It All Fades Away.” I do not impress easily, and I was so moved and affected by these two songs that I could not sit still for the final 20 minutes of the show. I was blown away.

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Beyond Steven Pasquale reducing me to tears in Bridges, my favorite performance of the season is Jessie Mueller in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. The show itself is great – it’s everything I wanted Motown to be, yet just quite wasn’t – and Jessie Mueller is fantastic in the role of Carole King. Special mention of her costars as well – I adored Anika Larsen and Jarrod Specter as songwriting team and King’s close friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

Louise – Director of Operations

What is your must see show and why?

bway14LGIn the fall I was lucky enough to get tickets to Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play at Playwrights Horizons, one of my favorite Off Broadway venues. I hope this show comes back sometime soon because it was the darkest, most intense, brilliant and thought-provoking piece of theater I have ever seen, and a terrifyingly plausible look at the way society and pop culture might evolve in the wake of a large-scale disaster. Many more people should have a chance to see it!

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

“‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” from Bullets over Broadway. Tap dancing gangsters! What more do you need to know?

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Jefferson Mays in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The sheer non-stop energy and mind-boggling diversity of his performance is a sight to behold.

 

 

 

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The Best Wedding Ever

by Leslie, Concierge

tonyntina2Everyone loves a wedding and I am no exception! Tony and Tina’s wedding is the best one I have ever attended, real or fake, and I have been a bridesmaid seven times. This one of a kind theater experience breaks all the rules of traditional shows, allowing every guest to participate in the wedding, reception, and all the other antics created by the hilarious cast.

Tony and Tina are the dream couple in love and their wedding has all the pomp and circumstance required for a memorable event! From the brides overly fluffed dress to the grooms bright white tux every detail for a real wedding is present and in excess!    However, Tony and Tina’s wedding is not all champagne and Taffeta, when their Italian-American family and friends get involved and create mischief throughout the three hour event.

As soon as you arrive at the wedding ceremony the show has begun. Actors are in the lobby and in character welcoming guests and taking care of last minute details. Each guest exchanges their ticket for an invitation and is then shown to their seats by ushers or the wedding party.   Cast members are great with the audience, every actor is dressed to impress and comes with their own storyline for the evening. The family drama that ensues might remind you of your own domestic squabbles but Tony and tonyntinaTina’s family arguments are so outlandish you will be giddy with laughter.

Throughout the night you will have plenty of time to mix and mingle with all of the cast members and even gossip and play a part in the crazy capers. I personally became friends with a Nun named Teri. She is a hilarious comic, talented actress and downright adorable. Throughout the night Teri the Nun and I checked in with each other to see how the night was going, danced to Lady Gaga and sang Britney Spears. Teri the Nun isn’t the only gem in the cast, all of the actors are personable including The Best Man who asked my husband’s name once and remembered him all night. He even posted a picture of them together on Instagram during the show. In fact, Social Media is encouraged throughout the show and makes the night even more fun. Pictures taken and posted on social media are projected onto the wall by the main dance floor (yes, there is a dance floor and yes, you will be in a conga line at some point.) Tony and Tina have even purchased Wi-Fi for the night making internet access quick and easy.

tonyntina3The reception takes place in a large private room at Guy’s American Kitchen where the wedding guests enjoy delicious pasta and salad for dinner and of course a slice of wedding cake. Drinks can also be purchased for a reasonable price if you would like a few spirits to help you during the conga. A DJ hosts the reception and also preforms throughout the evening. Even the waiters and waitresses are actors and they take part in the reception drama all through the night. Tony and Tina’s wedding is the only thing you need to do this spring. Get your tickets today and join in the festive celebration of true love, family and all the hilarious drama that accompanies it!

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Bullets Over Broadway is my Number One (with a bullet, of course)

bullets1by Louise, Director of Operations

I’m the first to admit that I’m a sucker for an old-fashioned, silly, over-the-top Broadway production. Cole Porter has always been one of my favorites. As lovely as the smaller-scale shows can be, and as innovative as the updated, modern takes on Broadway can be, there is still something about that traditional Broadway feel that always makes me smile. And I definitely left the St. James smiling on Monday after seeing Bullets Over Broadway.

bullets2For those not familiar with the film (as I was not): the story centers around a young playwright named David Shayne, whose first two produced plays were flops. He finally gets the chance to bring his new work to Broadway, but unfortunately for him, the “money” behind the production is gangster Nick Valenti, who wants his aspiring actress girlfriend Olive Neal to have a part.

To say that Olive does not have the acting chops to conquer her role in David’s play would be an understatement, but that’s only the first of the many problems that arise. Infidelity, food addiction, gang hits and plagiarism plague the production from the first rehearsal until opening night, and it is sinfully entertaining.

Bullets Over Broadway uses songs from the time period (the 1920’s) with some new lyrics penned by Glen Kelly. It is one of the best uses of existing music in a new musical that I have ever seen. The new lyrics help the songs move the story along (a frequent issue with jukeboxbullets5 musicals) and there are some unforgettable numbers. My favorites were The Hot Dog Song, where Olive gives David a demonstration of her previous acting experience with a none-too-subtle double entendre, and ‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness, for which I have just three words: tap dancing gangsters. Okay, three more words: Yay Susan Stroman! The finale, which is billed simply as “Finale” in the program and which I will not spoil as it is well worth being surprised (and possibly perplexed) by the song choice, is an oddly perfect ending and will have you chuckling all the way through the curtain call.

Stand-outs for me in the cast were Helene Yorke as Olive Neal – her grating accent and terrible “acting” were consistently hilarious – and Nick Cordero as gangster Cheech, Olive’s reluctant bodyguard who becomes increasingly invested in David’s play. Cordero nails his gangster persona, but still manages to astound with his singing and dancing when the time comes. I’m also a major fan of Betsy Wolfe in any role, and while her part as David’s neglected girlfriend Ellen is not one of the largest, she nails her two big numbers and is, as always, a delight to watbullets4ch. Zach Braff is solid (and adorable) in his Broadway debut, and if he’s the reason you choose this show in particular you will not be disappointed. There is also an AMAZING dog in this show, and if Best Performance by an Animal were a Tony Award category, Trixie as Mr. Woofles would be a shoe-in.

If you want a traditional Broadway experience with a real old-fashioned musical comedy feel, Bullets Over Broadway is a perfect choice! If you have questions about the show, or want to book a package including Bullets Over Broadway tickets, feel free to e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com.

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Eye of the Tiger: Rocky arrives on Broadway

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

rockyLast night I had the opportunity to see Rocky the Musical, no, not THAT Rocky (though if you’ve never been, the entire midnight movie experience is incredible!), but Rocky the boxer. The famous Sly Stallone, “Yo Adrian!” running up the stairs of the Philadelphia museum, Eye of the Tiger, gold standard of the movie montage…that Rocky, and it was glorious. As every one of those things I mentioned from the film was transposed for the stage and more.

rocky6I have actually never seen the Rocky film, (though after last night every boxing parody I have ever seen makes complete sense now) so I had the advantage of being completely open to the show having little to compare it to and not knowing ahead of time if Rocky wins or loses (which just in case, I won’t give away here!) The show opens with very high energy and engages the audience right away while showing off the jewel of their multimillion dollar set: the boxing ring which moves around the stage and rotates. The boxing actors also engage in full contact choreography, which looks just as real as anything I have seen in pro wrestling. After the opening, the show settles in into the story of Rocky and how at heart he is lonely, shy, and though he makes ends meet with his job as a “collector”, still considers himself to be a good person. One would think that with Rocky, these characters, especially the Italian Stallion, would seem weird suddenly bursting into songs but it’s done seamlessly; easing into the song with recitative and then going into the full voice. There are points where certain scenes seem somewhat silly, but part of theatre is suspending your disbelief. Thankfully this cast, particularly Rocky (currently played by Andy Karl), who is the heart and soul of the show, makes it an easy task.

rocky2Most of the story is played out in the first act. Rocky pursues Adrian and gets the girl after one ten minute ice skating date ,complete with sweet but surprisingly not theatrical love song. Of all the things in this show that are grandiose and flashy, the love story of Rocky and Adrian is kept modest and genuine, though quickly paced. Also playing out in act 1 is the spectacle all on his own (and entourage) that is Apollo Creed and his desire to fight an underdog with a catchy name to inspire patriotism (and sales) in the city of brotherly love. The first act ends with the rising up of Rocky as a local celebrity and the curtain falls with the 39 day countdown to the big fight. (During intermission the curtain itself actually counts down to 34 days, so if you step away for a drink you might miss it!)

rocky3The top of act 2 begins with one of the coolest things I have ever seen done on a live stage- a classic movie montage. With the use of a screen we get to see shots of Rocky training along with Rocky himself (and other Rockys as well) jumping rope and running up, down, and across the stage. However, his training doesn’t begin to come together until he teams up with manager Mickey (another great, emotional-without-being-over-the-top sequence). Then, after almost two hours of waiting… “BAM!—BAM! BAM! BAM!” the opening chords of “Eye of the Tiger” (the audience erupts into cheers!) and a second live action movie montage, which ends with the Rocky theme and his triumphant run to the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum.

rocky5Christmas Day comes with another just right Rocky and Adrian duet, plus a very powerful ballad by Adrian, when she confronts her drunken brother, shows that she really has blossomed and doesn’t let her family or her past hold her back anymore, which after an act and a half of testosterone, was the well-deserved “You go girl!” moment of the evening.

For the show’s finale, the Winter Garden Theatre transforms into a boxing arena, complete with commentators and a jumbo screen broadcasting the fight via closed circuit cameras. Those that were sitting in the center orchestra were brought up on stage and the ring came out and extended over the now empty seats. Those in the side seats got to stand, and those of us in the mezzanine had perfect seats for the fight.

rocky4There are very few shows that have made me forget that I was in a Broadway theater. American Idiot and Motown transported myself and the audience into a concert that brought down the house. Rocky, from the amazing entrances (Apollo’s pro wrestling worthy entrance included a great song and dance with girls in red, white, and blue sequined lady liberty costumes that stripped him from his own red, white, and blue suit and top hat to his trunks), to the announcers, and the jumbotron that lowered from the ceiling and showed the fight in a faux ESPN telecast, I felt as if I were watching a match in Madison Square Garden. The audience cheered and booed throughout the fight, even though most of them already knew the ending. As in the beginning of the show full contact choreography is used, and it looks very convincing and exhausting. These two actors/fighters really give it their all and do a fantastic job. I don’t want to give away the ending to those that don’t know, so if you’re as curious as I was about the outcome, or the show itself, you’ll just have to see it for yourself, but needless to say by the end I was totally blown away!

I know this has not been a typical Broadway review, but Rocky is not your typical Broadway show. If you’re into spectacles and new types of Broadway experiences, GO. If you’re a fan of the movie, definitely GO.  Make sure to bring a friend, as you will want someone there to verify that you just saw what you think you saw, and if you can get the golden circle seating do so because those lucky people get escorted to the stage to watch the climactic fight!

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Experience the Beauty of The Bridges of Madison County

by Kelly, Manager of Group & Partner Services

bridgesI’ll admit to being incredibly leery when I heard the news that The Bridges of Madison County was coming to Broadway (now playing at the Schoenfeld Theatre.)  Its source material once again bears the trend of Broadway’s liberal borrowing from the movies (the 1995 movie starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood,) which can be disastrous to say the least.  Then I heard that attached to this project was the greatest name I could have hoped to hear: Jason Robert Brown.

In the current Broadway landscape, you can’t throw a stick around Times Square without hitting a starry-eyed theatre lover who will tell you that Jason Robert Brown is one of the greatest composers on the scene.  A Tony winner for the score of his 1998 musical Parade, Brown may not known for his commercial success (case in point – Parade closed after only 39 previews and 85 performances.)  However, any singer worth their salt will beg to sing from his catalogue – Songs for a New World and The Last 5 Years have become wildly popular after their initial Off-Broadway runs (The Last 5 Years has especially blown up as of late – a revival of the work directed by Brown himself ran Off-Broadway in 2013 and a widely buzzed-about movie version starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan is currently in production.)  On Bridges, Brown partnered with book writer Marsha Norman (Pulitzer prize-winning playwright of ‘night, Mother, which will be revived in the 2015-16 Broadway season with Audra McDonald and Oprah,) hoping to bring some substance and beauty to the stage after a season littered with more light-hearted fare.

Bridges 4Bridges is based on the novel by Robert James Waller, which is one of the bestselling novels of the 20th century.  Francesca, an Italian war bride who moved to Iowa with an American GI, leads an unremarkable life, raising two children in a sleepy farm community.  While her family is away at the state fair, a free-spirited photographer named Robert Kinkaid (who is passing through shooting photos of the area’s covered bridges for National Geographic) stops for directions.  Over the next four days, Robert and Francesca share an intense and passionate affair, leaving Francesca questioning whether to embrace her newly awakened spirit and leave her family to run off with Robert, or stay as she was.

Bridges 3The vital and seemingly impossible-to-cast lead role of Francesca?  Cue another name that filled my heart with joy – Kelli O’Hara.  Known for her stunningly beautiful soprano and deep well of emotional theatre work, Tony nominee O’Hara is widely respected in the Broadway community.  Moving onto the scene in 2000 as a replacement lead in the original run of Jekyll & Hyde, O’Hara really garnered attention as she broke hearts as Clara in the Broadway run of A Light in the Piazza in 2005 (side note – seeing Piazza still remains to this day one of the most remarkable theatrical experiences of my life.)  Leading roles followed in The Pajama Game (with costar Harry Connick, Jr.), South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get it.  O’Hara led the cast of Playwright Horizon’s Far From Heaven recently, then took some time off (missing Bridges’ out-of-town tryout) due to her pregnancy, re-joining the cast for their Broadway run.

O’Hara’s costar in Bridges is no stranger to chemistry with the leading lady.  Steven Pasquale shared the stage with O’Hara in Far From Heaven, as well created the role of Fabrizio in early stages of The Light in the Piazza.  The handsome leading man is often more recognizable from his TV work than his stage work – Pasquale could not move to Broadway with Piazza due to his role in FX’s hit series “Rescue Me,” and starred in the ill-fated NBC drama “Do No Harm.”  Bridges marks Pasquale’s Broadway musical debut.

Bridges 1With the immense pool of talent on and off stage, Bridges has a lot to live up to.  And live up it does.  O’Hara and Pasquale are greatly matched vocally – both technically as well as in sheer emotion.  Their second act duet “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles” is the defining moment of the show, an emotionally rousing and soaring piece that stopped the performance right in its tracks.  The chemistry between the two leads combined with their vocal ability raise the genius of Brown’s score to another level entirely.  And what a score it is.  Brown blends the traditional and lightly operatic with folksy tunes and charging contemporary melodies to create a night of breathtaking power mixed with vulnerability – an astonishing mix to behold.  Another song of note is “Another Life,” sung by Robert’s ex-wife Marian, an echo of the trials their marriage endured, counterbalanced by the audience glimpsing the spark of a new relationship beginning between Robert and Francesca.  Beyond the aforementioned duet, I was truly moved by Robert’s final song “It All Fades Away.”  A song of true longing, I was actually unable to sit still in my seat as Pasquale sang Robert’s final offering of devotion and love.

Bridges 2Obviously, the true gem of this production is the score and its cast.  If any small criticism is offered, it would be that the production could have been done in a simpler manner – the meat of the story is between our two lovers, and this production chose to flesh out the world around them with time spent on Francesca’s family – husband Bud (a perfectly cast Hunter Foster in his first role after the gone-too-soon Hands on a Hardbody) and children Michael (Derek Klena – a favorite of mine since his turn as Eddie Birdlace in the brilliant Dogfight at Second Stage) and Carolyn (Caitlin Kinnunen), as well as their comic relief neighbors Marge (Cass Morgan), and Charlie (Michael X. Martin.)  Though wanting to spend time with the secondary characters to expand the world of Winterset, Iowa makes perfect sense, some may argue that it wasn’t necessary.  I, personally, did not mind the short forays into the world outside Francesca’s farmhouse, viewing the scenes and songs as a bit of a palate cleanser to prepare us for the next course our couple had to offer.

The bottom line is that in reality, no one should be rooting for this couple to succeed – after all, Francesca is a married woman with a stable, kind husband and two growing children…and she’s known Robert for the blink of an eye.  But the sizzle of chemistry between Pasquale and O’Hara combined with the beauty and humanity of Brown’s score leaves you sympathizing with the pair – after all, who hasn’t been lonely or felt out of sorts until they connected with someone else on an instant and deeper level?  At the end of the evening, I found myself mentally packing Francesca’s bags – after all, how could you resist the pull of love and the feeling of completeness when you’ve found someone who truly awakens your spirit?  But I am not Francesca, and I cannot reveal which road she chooses to follow – you will have to find that out for yourself when you see this magnificent show.  Bring tissues – you’re going to need them.

Interested in experiencing the passion and beauty of The Bridges of Madison County for yourself?  Email me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com or contact the New York Guest office at 212-302-4019212-302-4019 for tickets.

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