Thursday, July 31, 2014

Four Broadway Shows: How We Did It

I recently returned home from my third ever trip to New York City, and it was out-of-this-world amazing.

My roommate Emily and I got cheap flights and a (relatively) cheap hotel and spent four and a half days trekking all over the city and having a wonderful time. We ate a ton of good food and desserts, went boating in Central Park, visited Brooklyn, walked the High Line, enjoyed live music at the South Street Seaport (with excellent views of the Brooklyn Bridge!), sat in on a singalong in Bryant Park, saw Grand Central Terminal and the 9/11 Memorial and the New York Public Library, wandered the Upper West Side, shopped at a flea market, and basically just never stopped walking.

We also managed to see four Broadway shows.

For a musical fan like me, this was just... unbelievable. Beyond imagination. Because while New York City is amazing and I absolutely LOVE being a tourist there, the whole point of this trip was to see shows. And those shows? Were AMAZING. The other stuff was just an added bonus.

So here's the short version (believe it or not) of how it happened.

Emily and I purchased tickets for Newsies and Les Miserables prior to our arrival in NYC. These two shows were basically the reason for the entire trip. We absolutely HAD to see our pal Ramin Karimloo perform the role of Jean Val Jean in Les Mis, and had been looking forward to that for months and months. Then when we heard that Newsies would be closing at the end of August (I'm still not ready to talk about it), that put even MORE of a fire in us to get up there as soon as possible. So those tickets were more expensive on the front end, but there was no way we were going to risk a trip to NYC without Les Mis/Newsies tickets in hand. No. Way.

We arrived in the city on Thursday, and after several hours of sight seeing, we went to meet some friends outside of Kinky Boots, the 2013 Tony winner for best original musical. While we waited, I pressed my ear to the stage door and was in heaven listening to the crowd cheer on Tony-winner Billy Porter sing the final number, and I thought I was going to die. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to be inside that theater. Well, my wish was very nearly granted when the door suddenly swung open and I was so caught by surprise that I had to back up quickly to avoid a face full of door and lost my shoe in the process. People began pouring out of the theater and I had to fight my way forward to rescue my poor flip flop. And then I somehow ended up holding the door open for half of the theater but THAT'S BESIDE THE POINT.

Wait, what is the point? The point is that moment was when I knew I was going to do whatever it took to see a third Broadway show while we were there. I even sent up (what felt like) a silly and lame prayer... Lord PLEASE let me see another show! I just wanted it. So badly. And I knew it was probably ridiculous. Probably...

Friday night rolls around, and I want to pinch myself, because we are actually about to see Newsies. Nearly two years and THOUSANDS of times listening to the soundtrack later, I have returned. I was absolutely giddy sitting in my seat and thumbing through the program. Then the overture started and the curtain began to rise. I was so OVERJOYED and I just... I don't know, I really don't have the words to describe how excited/thrilled/ecstatic I was in that moment. I was practically glowing.

That right there. That was the best moment of the trip.

The show itself was even better than I'd remembered. So funny, such an amazing cast, the BEST dancing on Broadway (or anywhere, really), and I was on the verge of happy tears the entire time.

Put it this way: imagine that there's a movie you've loved for nearly your entire life. Then they go and make a musical of that movie. And the musical is even better than the movie. That's Newsies for me.

After the show, we fought our way to the stage door so that I could get autographs and photos with the cast. I have a very understanding roommate who stuck with me and took pictures of me and stood her ground in a sea of INSANE "fansies," despite the fact that the entire situation is basically her worst nightmare. What a pal!

So then we turn to leave, and guess who we see across the street coming out of Aladdin? Adam Jacobs (Aladdin himself! Emily gets the credit for spotting him.) and Tony-winner James Monroe Iglehart! Wow, what a moment!

The only way to describe how I felt after all that was "on a high." I don't know that life will ever approach the feeling of sheer ELATION of that Friday night in New York City.

When we got back to the hotel, we talked strategy for the next day. We had done a ton of research into the other shows currently playing on Broadway, trying to figure out our best bet for picking up a third show. Some shows do a lottery for cheaper tickets, some offer rush tickets the day of the show, some offer standing room only tickets... You really just have to figure out what is your priority and what you want to try for!

Armed with invaluable information from and Broadway Spotted, we decided to try for tickets to this year's Tony winner for best original musical, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

The GGLAM box office opens at 10am, so we got in line at 8:30 with about 20 people in front of us.

please oh please oh please oh please

The wait was really not that bad-- we had coffee and sat on our Starbucks wrappers (super classy) to protect our shorts from the New York street, enjoyed powdered donuts offered to us by fellow line waiters, and only had to move twice for cars once we realized we were sitting in front of a driveway...

At the last minute we had to make a decision: do we try for matinee tickets or evening tickets? They were in two separate lines, and what if the line we got in SOLD OUT? Well, we took a chance, rolled the dice, and got in line for the matinee. And two $37 dollar tickets later, we were two VERY happy girls holding matinee tickets to a TONY AWARD-WINNING show! So happy that we just had to reward ourselves with gourmet cookies from Broadway bakery/hot spot Schmakary's.

Going into Gentleman's Guide, I was excited to see it in a kind of general way. I had seen them perform "I've Decided to Marry You" on the Tony's, and was... looking forward to it! With like... regular anticipation. Not eager anticipation or anything.

Then the show started, and Bryce Pinkham came out. And any illusions I was under that this was your average ordinary show went out the window. Bryce and his co-star Jefferson Mays (both nominated for Tonys for their roles) were absolutely FANTASTIC. Wonderful singers, incredibly gifted comedians, and very engaging performers all around. Bryce in particular could make us laugh with the simplest eyebrow arch or sly grin aimed at the audience. It is safe to say that he is our newest Broadway crush, and he can do no wrong.

But really, I can't say enough about how much WE LOVED THIS SHOW. It was funny, the music outstanding, and the casting obviously top-notch. If you are planning a trip to New York anytime soon, GO SEE THIS.

We hadn't intended to spend time at the stage door, but the actors started coming out very soon after we exited the theater, so we felt like we couldn't NOT see them. And that turned out to be absolutely the right decision! Despite being boisterous and over-the-top on stage, Jefferson and Bryce were both so soft-spoken, kind, and intentional with every single fan that waited for them at the stage door. They each made eye contact with everyone, asked questions, genuinely thanked each and every person... It was just amazing, and such a special time for both Emily and I. When we walked away we felt like we were floating. That was due in large part to the sheer brilliance of the show as a whole, but also because of how we were treated at the stage door by the actors. I think it is safe to say that we will both have a soft spot for both Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham for years to come because of this wonderful interaction.

After GGLAM, we decided to make a quick stop at Schnipper's (where we saw one of the ORIGINAL stars of Newsies, Evan Kasprzak!) to split some fries. Now earlier that day we had discussed the fact that since we had tickets to a matinee, we would have our evening free... so why not try to see another show? Why not? So once again, we did some prep work, figured out which shows held a ticket lottery and when, and ranked which shows we wanted to see most.

Emily headed to Aladdin to enter the lottery there, and I went two blocks up to try for Matilda. We were both SO NERVOUS and hoping against hope that one of our names would be called. We texted back and forth while we waited, anxious to hear the results.

Emily: I can't handle the suspense. My stomach is in knots. 

Well, neither of us won. HOWEVER. The ticket guy at Matilda said that if anyone wanted to line up and try their chances for Standing Room Only tickets, then just wait over here. Well since I was standing right there, I slid into line, text messaged Emily, and that's how we ended up right at the front! We thought we would wait for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, go eat dinner, then come back in time for the show. But 30 minutes came and went, and we were still standing in the lobby waiting... for a chance to stand for three more hours.

I could tell Emily was fading fast, but I knew we couldn't give up these spots in line now that it felt like we were SO CLOSE to seeing a show that I KNEW would be absolutely amazing. We found out that the reason the wait was so long was that they wouldn't sell any SRO tickets until they'd sold out the entire house. Henceforth every time the door to the theater opened, I was always hopeful that it was someone with the urge to buy last-minute full-price tickets (as in like $150 each) to Matilda. No such luck.

Fast forward another hour. It's 10 minutes to curtain, people are finding their seats, and we're STILL IN LINE. Finally, something happens. The two people in front of us get called forward to the box office. "This is it!" we think. "Standing room here we come!" But instead of buying tickets and entering the theater, the pair returns to the line, saying they were offered obstructed view tickets, and that they just weren't interested. Before we could really process this information, they're waving Emily and I forward, and here we are standing at the box office!

Box Office Guy: I have two obstructed view tickets available.
Me: How "obstructed" are we talking? Like, behind a pole or something?
BOG: No, they're just on the far side so you have partial view of the stage.
Me: Umm... How much?
BOG: $42 each.
Me: We will take two.

I mean, are you kidding me??? $42? That's less than a third of the price for a normal ticket! And do you know where our seats were? The first row of the first balcony. Not the second balcony. The FIRST balcony. WHAT. Yes, our seats were all the way over on the left side, but we so did not mind. Plus there was the fact that WE GOT TO SIT DOWN. IN ACTUAL SEATS. I just couldn't believe our good fortune. Before I knew it the overture was starting and the kids were performing and here we go: I'm on a high again.

If you've heard anything about Matilda, you've heard that it's a brilliant, clever, hilarious, FUN show. It is absolutely all of those things. It certainly has its dark parts (the original book is by Roald Dahl, after all), but we just loved everything about it. Amazing dancing, insanely clever song lyrics, incredible staging, and the cast made FULL use of the theater, running up and down the aisles, singing in the box seats (SUPER close to us by the way), and a few other fun bits that I don't want to give away. I felt like I was grinning the whole time-- that is, when tears weren't filling my eyes from the sweet wistfulness of certain songs.

I had looked forward to seeing Matilda for ages, without really believing I'd get a chance to, and I just couldn't believe it was really happening. If you haven't checked out the soundtrack yet: get on it. It's spectacular.

Sunday afternoon rolls around and it's time for our fourth and final Broadway show, the big one: Les Miserables. I knew we had floor seats for this one, but I wasn't expecting the SEVENTH ROW. Thanks to one of Emily's connections, we'd managed to score some seriously legit seats! Being that close was just... a dream. It was so, so wonderful. And what can you say about Les Mis? Of course it was outstanding. Ramin Karimloo has unequivocally the best voice I've ever heard, so getting a chance to hear him perform live was just unreal.

I expected to love Ramin as Val Jean. I was not expecting to ALSO love Will Swenson as Javert, another powerhouse singer whose sheer authority and command of the stage, not to mention his OUTSTANDING voice ("M'sieur le Maire you'll wear a different chaaaain" -- chills on chills on chills), made him the BEST Javert I've ever seen.

The rest of the cast was also very talented, although we ended up seeing understudies for Enjolras, Fantine, AND Cosette. C'est la vie, I suppose! At least we got to see Ramin and Will. I really just can't overstate how good both of them were. Just wow.

And that's how it happened! I'm sorry I seem to have gotten carried away in my own effusiveness, but it really was that wonderful. I've obviously run out of positive adjectives, but what can I say?

It was perfect.

P.S. After Les Mis we went back to Schnipper's and saw TWO MORE NEWSIES! Life made.


Amanda Wissmann said...

I. LOVE. THIS! And I adore your enthusiasm & "we can't quit" attitude. Get it!!!! Love you, pal!

SKMorbys said...

That was absolutely wonderful fun!!! (And the "Les Mis" clip gave me chills! Seriously!) I want to go now, too!

Steve Bezner said...

Greatness all around. Bonus points for your usage of "effusiveness," as well.