Monthly Archives: March 2013

Naturally Cool: The American Museum of Natural History-

by Kelly, Manager of Partner and Group Services

AMNH3When I moved to New York City, I made a “New York City Bucket List.”  On it were all of the amazing things I wanted to do and see as a brand-new New Yorker – climb the Statue of Liberty, look up my ancestors at Ellis Island, see classic NYC staple shows like The Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, go to the very top of the Empire State Building, take the Staten Island Ferry, tour NBC…and visit the Museum of Natural History.  I have lived in New York City for almost a decade now, and after this past weekend, I am proud to say that I have finally completed my bucket list with a trip to the Museum of Natural History.

Located on Central Park West between the blocks of 77th – 81st Streets, the Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and sees approximately 5 million visitors annually.  It is comprised of 25 interconnected buildings that house 46 permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories, and its renowned library.

Some of the “must-see” staples of the museum:

AMNH41.)    The 94-foot long, 21,000 pound fibreglass replica of a female blue whale that hangs suspended in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.  Underneath the whale is a large open space amongst the other ocean life displays where museum dwellers can rest, take pictures, and get their bearings before moving on to the next exhibit.

2.)    The Hall of Dinosaurs – my favorite dinosaur display was (of course) the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is combined of actual fossils found from two specimens discovered in the 1800s in Montana.

AMNH23.)    Henry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals – with hundreds of unusual geological specimens and many rare, valuable gemstones – I loved getting the chance to view both the raw minerals (the quartz and giant amethyst were my favorites) and the cut gems both on their own and set in jewelry pieces in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.

4.)    Rose Center for Earth & Space – the Hayden Planetarium’s “Journey to the Stars” space show is an amazing sight to behold, spanning the expanse of the domed ceiling of the Planetarium.

Along with spending time at these wonderful staples of the museum’s installations, I was also lucky enough to visit three of the special exhibits on display as well:

1.)    Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture – this exhibition explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork.  My favorite part of the exhibit was an interactive video installation where I learned how certain food items like apples, bananas, lamb and tuna reach my area from their origins in Washington, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Japan.

AMNH12.)    The Butterfly Conservatory – the butterfly vivarium is a custom-fabricated, temporary shell structure of approximately 1,315 square feet that sits within one of the museum’s existing galleries.  Filled with butterflies, the vivarium is a flurry of color and beauty.  One of the curators walking around making sure the butterflies were hydrated by misting them with water had a hitchhiking butterfly attached to her the entire time I was there – in fact, many patient visitors found a winged friend attached to some part of them while in the exhibit!  Along a side wall of the vivarium is a guarded display of live chrysalises where at any moment a live butterfly may hatch.  The day that I was at the museum, the curator had seen 4 butterflies hatch (just moments before I arrived, unfortunately), and told me that they would be released into the main vivarium to thrive with the other butterflies throughout the day.

3.)    Whales: Giants of the Deep – on tour from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (which houses one of the largest whale collections in the world,) this exhibit features more than 20 skulls and skeletons from various whale species and showcases many rare specimens, including the real skeleton of a male sperm whale measuring 58 feet long.  The skeleton is AMAZING, and I wish I could have taken a picture for posterity – unfortunately, the museum has a no-picture policy for that exhibit (guess you’ll just have to go see it in person!)  Another notable feature that the kids seemed to love is a replica of a whale heart that youngsters could climb through and explore – a whale’s heart is the size of a small child!

My recommendation to anyone looking to visit this amazing New York City institution would be to carve out a day to explore.  I was at the museum for just over 5 hours, and there are still things I missed (I have to go back and see the Willamette Meteorite in the Hall of the Universe – it’s 15.5 tons and is the largest meteorite ever found in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world!).  I would also advise purchasing the All-Inclusive Super Saver Pass, which gets you entrance to the museum, all special exhibits, and the “Journey to the Stars” space show, because you don’t want to miss any of the amazing exhibits featured at the museum.  The Butterfly Conservatory will be available through May 27th, and if you can’t catch that – a new exhibit called “Frogs: a Chorus of Colors” is coming in on May 18th.  The “Global Kitchen” exhibit is on hand until August 11th, and “Whales: Giants of the Deep” will be available through January 2014.  If you’d like any assistance with adding the museum to YOUR New York City Bucket List, please give us a call at 212-302-4019, or email me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com.

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You Can Change the World If You Change Your Mind

by Elliot, Concierge

kinkyboots1A traditional shoemaker and a vibrant Drag Queen cross paths and form a successful business. Sounds crazy right? Not if you see the amazing Kinky Boots on Broadway. With a team headlined by Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein, and Jerry Mitchell, this show was bound for brilliance!

Kinky Boots is based on the 2005 British comedy film written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth about a Northampton shoemaker who turns to producing “fetishism” footwear in order to save the failing family business and the jobs of his kinkyboots2workers. The musical focuses on the relationship that forms between Charlie Price, the heir to the shoe business, and Lola, a fabulous Drag Queen, who becomes his inspiration and transforms the lives of the people surrounding the business in a positive and accepting way.

From beginning to end, the show was high energy and truly captivating. Cyndi Lauper’s music is some of the best new Broadway music I have heard in a while. Jerry Mitchell’s choreography is perfection, showcasing both the drag queens and the workers in the shoe shop. The costumes, especially the boots are incredible. The drag queens get to wear some of the best costume work displayed on Broadway!

kinkyboots3If for some crazy reason, this doesn’t already appeal to you, two words: Billy Porter. This actor plays the drag queen Lola and from the moment he steps on stage, you are captivated. From his incredible comedic timing to his dramatic core, you can’t take your eyes off of Billy Porter. Watch for him at the Tony Awards – he deserves to win all the top honors!

Kinky Boots is a show for EVERYONE. The underlying theme is acceptance, with lots of glitz and glamour thrown in. Young and old, people can relate to this story, which makes it that much more wonderful. Visit the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and prepare to have an amazing and moving night!

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You Mustn’t Let a Little Thing like ‘Little’ Stop You…

by Louise, Director of Operations

matilda1In a world where every parent seems to think their perfectly average child is gifted, talented, and above reproach, what happens when an unquestionably brilliant daughter is born to ignorant, dismissive parents who refuse to recognize or appreciate her special abilities? This is just the situation in which the world’s greatest five-year-old protagonist, Matilda, finds herself, and as a result she starts kindergarten not only a highly developed brain but also a highly developed sense of injustice. Unfortunately, once at kindergarten the situation only worsens when Matilda is faced with true evil – a horrible bullying headmistress called The Trunchbull.

Such is the story of one of the great Roald Dahl’s best-loved works and Broadway’s newest sweetheart. Matilda was one of my absolute favorite books as a child and remains a favorite to this day. I thought the 1996 film was a travesty that caught none of the beauty and humor of the original story, so I was apprehensive to see the musical. While I still think the book is the best way to experience the story of Matilda (please read it if you never have), I’m happy to say the show, with a book by Dennis Kelly and music & lyrics by Tim Minchin, is excellent.

matilda3First of all, the set is one of the most gorgeous sets I’ve ever seen. The proscenium and backdrop are covered with what look like Scrabble (or for you young folks, “Words with Friends”) tiles of various sizes. Many of the letters are random, but if you take a look you can see some words relevant to the story spelled out, like “child” and “phenomenon.” In the library set, the tiles spell out “quiet,” “shush,” and “silence.” The overall effect is truly stunning. Every set piece that comes out on stage is perfectly in harmony with this background – it’s a bit cartoonish, a touch Tim Burton-ish, with perhaps a dash of theme park.

matilda4 The performances are strong all around. Four young actresses split the role of Matilda – at the performance I attended it was 9-year-old Sophia Gennusa and she was nothing short of astonishing. 10 minute monologues, several solo numbers, huge emotional moments, and she nailed it all. Much of the ensemble is also made up of young children and they all deliver fantastic performances. Bertie Carvel as The Trunchbull is hilarious and disturbing and we may well be looking at a Best Actor Tony for a man playing a female role.

matildaThere are some terrific musical numbers in the show with gorgeous choreography. Matilda’s first number “Naughty” is a stand out and the perfect introduction to this wonderful character. “School Song,” in which the new kindergarteners are introduced to Crunchem Hall, is visually stunning and totally captivating. “When I Grow Up,” sung by the children of Crunchem Hall and Miss Honey, is a beautiful melodious number that takes place on a swing set, where the kids execute an impressive amount of tricky choreography that made me a tad nervous.

matilda5 For me, the most special moments in the show were when I could see real nods to the book. The costume for Mr. Wormwood (Matilda’s father) is almost an exact replica of Quentin Blake’s original illustration. There are snatches of dialogue here and there that I recognized as being directly from the book. And there is a moment where Matilda uses an umbrella to get her dad’s hat off a hat rack that is a perfect tribute to one of the book’s illustrations. If you’re as much of a Roald Dahl fan as I am, these little touches will make your heart soar.

Finally, I just can’t resist saying that there are two very youthful heroines on Broadway right now and you may not be sure which one you want setting an example for your kids when you come to NYC this spring. Both are faced with injustices they must overcome. While Matilda makes some mischief in her methods, she does take it upon herself to improve her situation. No billionaire comes to rescue her and she relies on her own wits to improve her circumstance. There is nothing wrong with unwaivering optimism, I suppose, but I prefer Matilda’s attitude in her opening song, when she says:

“Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
You might as well be saying you think that it’s OK.
And that’s not right.
And if it’s not right, you have to put it right.
But nobody else is gonna put it right for me.
Nobody but me is gonna change my story.
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.”

Now there’s a life lesson you can take to the bank!

E-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com for travel packages including tickets to Matilda this spring!

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Sibling Rivalry at its Finest – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Every now and then our staff is so jazzed about a show that we just have to share two different perspectives with you! Check out Brandon and Tara’s recaps of our newest obsession!

By Brandon, Concierge

vanya1As if Chekhov had devised it himself, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a ridiculously funny and brilliantly witty modern play by comedic genius, Christopher Durang, with punches from left field sure to leave you laughing out loud from curtain up until the curtain call. In VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, Durang borrows the names of three characters from Checkhov’s UNCLE VANYA and THREE SISTERS, and unites them as middle-aged siblings in their family’s beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania estate home. Vanya (David Hyde Pierce) and his stepsister Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) have lived in the home for their entire lives, remaining there during adulthood to care for their ailing and elderly parents, while Masha (Sigourney Weaver) has been travelling the world, living a luxurious life as a world-wide actress and movie star. Feeling as though they’ve let life pass them by, unemployed Vanya and Sonia spend their mornings on the porch near the pond reminiscing about their parents and childhood, wondering if they could have done anything differently. Their cleaning lady, Cassandra (Shalita Grant), born with the same Apollo’s curse as her Greek mythological counterpart, warns our siblings with foreboding prophecy of the near future, but just like the Greek Cassandra, no one believes her. That is, until their sister Masha and her eager, twenty-something boy-toy, Spike (Billy Magnussen), make a surprise visit from New York City.

vanya4This show was a delightful treat, and I expect it to do very well at the Tony Awards this year. Shalita Grant provided expert comedy acting throughout the show as Cassandra, always entering at just the right moment with the best expressions. Kristine Nielsen and David Hyde Pierce were a terrific acting team, with sparkling chemistry that lit the stage. Billy Magnussen gave a terrifically ballsy interpretation of Spike’s character, and was not at all shy about taking his clothes off – another ridiculously funny aspect of this show. With a wonderfully vibrant cast, a gorgeous set, clever jokes, a soothsayer, a young hottie, and a brilliant trio of sibblings, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a must see on Broadway this season!

By Tara

My first attraction to the show Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was not only the star power (Sigourney Weaver for my boyfriend and David Hyde Pierce for me) but also its popularity, as this show has been off Broadway for quite some time and due to its extensions and popularity had landed on Broadway. I had read a brief description of the show, that a brother and sister share a home owned by their other sister, who is a famous Hollywood actress. One day the sister comes by to visit with her much younger boyfriend, they all attend a costume party and hilarity ensues.

vanya2The thing that surprised me most was just how much hilarity. With the exception of a few emotional moments throughout the show, the audience and I spent most of the time laughing. Even within the first few minutes come snarky conversation, broken coffee cups, a grave premonition, and a nod to northeast convenience store chain Wawa… and it’s all wonderfully funny. This all comes before the arrival of Masha, the movie star, played very well by Sigourney Weaver, and I’m sure was a little tongue in cheek. Her boyfriend Spike, played by Billy Magnussen, was a lot of fun to watch on stage (and not just because he was in his underwear!) He plays the perfect impetuous twenty something pretty boy, and delivers a terrific monologue from his Entourage 2 audition.

vanya3What surprised me most about the show was the talent of the cast as a whole. With two big names heading the show, one would think that other roles would be more or less supplemental, but the other actors brought just as much as Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce. The actress that plays Sonia, Kristine Nielsen, is a delightful comedic actress and truly holds her own during the show (she also does a dead- on celebrity impression that will leave you stunned!) The housekeeper Cassandra, played by Shalita Grant, brought a different humor to the stage, interacted well with the other characters, and at the performance I went to, received the most laughs.

vanyaMy favorite part of the show was getting to see David Hyde Pierce, a veteran of stage and screen. I have loved him since his work on Frasier, and he was wonderful in this show as the only male (mature male) in a sea of emotional women and sibling rivalry. The only crack in his calm demeanor comes in the second act with a monologue, or rant might be a better word, that was so wonderful it has to be seen to be believed!

I was fortunate enough to get to meet him and the other actors at the stage door. (This theatre also shares a stage door entrance to the Majestic Theatre so it was a double bonus to see the Phantom of the Opera actors coming out as well!) Everyone was very friendly, and they all, with the exception of the two stars, seemed pleasantly surprised to be asked to sign playbills and take pictures.) David Hyde Pierce was especially nice, staying around long enough to sign autographs, take pictures, and talk to the fans!

Though this show is only officially in previews, I feel as if they don’t have to change much. What they were doing off Broadway was enough to get them onto Broadway and hopefully if they continue, they will be there for a nice long while. Coming from someone who is typically a fan of musicals, Go See This Show!!

E-mail info@newyorkguest.com to plan your trip to NYC including tickets to see Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike!

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Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s – on Broadway at last!

By Alexandra, Concierge

breakfast1Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella by author Truman Capote, one of the most iconic and successful writers of the 20th century. The story was made iconic by the 1961 movie adaptation of the same name that starred Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard.  The tale has now been adapted for the stage by Richard Greenberg, and the show opens on Broadway this month.

The story begins in Autumn 1943, as recollected by an unnamed narrator.  This handsome young man has just moved to New York City to pursue a career as an author. When he meets the sensational tenant who lives below his tiny studio apartment one evening – a young lady named Holiday Golightly, or ‘Holly’ – his life is forever changed.  When Holly meets the narrator she happily exclaims that he looks just like her brother Fred, who is overseas fighting in World War II, and she proceeds to call him by the same name for the remainder of their year-long friendship.

breakfast2

Credit: Jason Bell

Holly Golightly is a country girl turned New York City socialite. While she has no official job, she makes her living by socializing with wealthy men who take her out on the town, give her money freely, and present her with expensive gifts. Fred is fascinated by her vivacious personality, stunning beauty and extravagant lifestyle.  Though the nature of Fred’s sexuality is brought into question throughout the play, he quickly falls head over heels in love with Holly. Meanwhile, Holly continues her affairs with wealthy men, intent on marrying one of them and being set for life. However, this does not stop her from confiding in Fred her deepest secrets, and they become very close friends.  Still, Holly keeps Fred at bay – even admitting that she never knows what is really hers until after she has thrown it away.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a visually decadent and delicious experience. Brilliant costume designer Colleen Atwood (who has won Academy awards for her work on Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) truly captured the elegance of the era and the personality of the characters with her costume design.  Expect glamorous silk gowns, playful matching skirt suits, tailored trench coats and lots of fedoras and fascinators.  Meanwhile, the rotating stage features the New York skyline, beautiful interiors, neon lights and a full bar – all setting the mood perfectly.

Cats on Stge

Credit: Zena Barakat

Highlights of the show include when Holly, played by Emilia Clarke, plays guitar and beautifully sings “I Am a Traveling Creature” on a fire escape, and the few scenes throughout the show with Holly’s cat, played by a live orange tabby.  Fun fact: the cat in the show wasn’t cast until four days before the opening performance, but makes a fantastic (and very cute!) addition to the play.  Just as an aside to anyone considering taking children to the show – there is brief full nudity by both lead actors.

Stars in the show include Broadway newcomer Emilia Clarke (famous for her lead role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO hit show Game of Thrones) and George Wendt (most famous for playing Norm Peterson on the long-running TV sitcom Cheers, among other notable roles). Actor Cory Michael Smith makes his Broadway debut as narrator ‘Fred’.

While the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a romantic comedy with a happy ending, the new Broadway production follows Capote’s original novella more closely than the film script. Those familiar with the film adaptation will find the Broadway show portrays a darker tale, wrought with tragedy and heartbreak.  The characters, while beautiful and vivacious, have heavy hearts and many flaws.  (For example much criticism has been noted of Holly’s exploits, but Capote insisted that she is not a prostitute but an “American geisha.”) Fans of the film will likely enjoy the show – but shouldn’t expect the same script and lightheartedness.  Also, the famous song “Moon River” which Hepburn performed in the film is replaced with the traditional folk song “I Am a Traveling Creature” on stage.

Making a trip to NYC this spring? Contact info@newyorkguest.com for exclusive package deals including tickets to Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

Take a sneak peek at the show:

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It’s a Human Drama Kind of Thing…

by David, Concierge

hoahb4Ten people on a hot auto dealership lot in east Texas enter into competition to win a new truck and the opportunity and prestige that comes with it. In the new musical HANDS ON A HARDBODY, contestants must stand and keep one hand on the body of a truck, and whoever who can do so the longest drives home in the prize. The annual competition is held by a local Nissan dealership hoping the boost sagging sales in a tough economy and offers hard-luck residents  hope for a piece of the American dream lying just out of reach.

Based on true events and a documentary of the same name, the characters are actual “hoahb2Hands on a Hardbody” contestants. The show’s creators hired a private detective to locate them for the purpose of interviewing all ten about the experience and their lives afterward. Some are young and seeking the opportunities the truck promises: a waitress with only her bike for transportation, the unemployed young man driving his mother’s Volkswagen Bug, the Texas born son of immigrants working two jobs with plans of becoming a veterinarian, a devout Christian enlisting the support of several prayer chains to win, a recently returned war veteran and a young woman who has a “good job” but yearns to travel. Some constants are older and are struggling through the setbacks and celebrating the gifts life has delivered.

hoahb4HARDBODY features a book by Doug Wright (Pulitzer Prize winner, I Am My Own Wife), lyrics by Amanda Green (Bring it On: The Musical) and music by Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Amanda Green. The music is not “typical” musical theatre. It is a high-energy mix of country, southern rock and gospel that is  very authentic to the show’s location. Fans of Anastasio’s work as guitarist and lead vocalist of the rock band Phish will probably not be surprised by his command of these musical styles here.

In the musical numbers, Neil Pepe’s direction and Sergio Trujillo’s musical staging allow the characters to move beyond the contest rules that force them to stand or walk along side of the vehicle. By no means is this a “dance show.” However, the creative team finds imaginative ways to bring movement to the piece, forward the story and highlight the emotional dynamics playing out in the contest; whethhoahb3er they be combative, cooperative, joyous or heart-breaking. The actors move the truck around the stage and turn it in circles in a cinematic manner. At times, it serves as a platform, a dance partner of sorts, a communal drum session and at one moment symbolizes the emotional tug-of-war in which the characters are engaged.

Anastasio says of Green “her work can make you laugh one minute and break your heart the next,” and she delivers on that promise here. Together with Wright’s book the show is joyous, cut-throat, devastating, hopeful and ultimately life-affirming.

Experienced audiences will truly enjoy this new and original production. People who don’t think they like Broadway musicals would do well to treat themselves to this show. The music and story are easily accessible for sophisticated theatre-goers and the theatrically uninitiated alike.

Looking to visit NYC and see Hands on a Hardbody? E-mail info@newyorkguest.com to start planning your trip!

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The Top 10 Rockefeller Center Photos!

We loved this months submissions and are so excited to finally have a winning photo from Rockefeller Center! Check out the top 10 and then vote for your favorite. Voting will be open until March 18th, 2013 at 10 AM.

#1 by Brianna Melanson

#1 by Brianna Melanson

#2 by Connor Morse

#2 by Connor Morse

#3 by Connor Morse

#3 by Connor Morse

#4 by Connor Morse

#4 by Connor Morse

#5 by Karen Gourlay

#5 by Karen Gourlay

#6 by Marita Dutto

#6 by Marita Dutto

#6 by Maria Dutto

#7 by Maria Dutto

#8 by Paula Lamota

#8 by Paula Lamota

#9 by Sarah Goldsworthy

#9 by Sarah Goldsworthy

#10 by Tracey Cheung

#10 by Tracey Cheung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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