Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Post-Christmas Matinee

There aren't many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

When I first moved to New York, the city was insanely overwhelming. It was huge and there was so much to do and see. As a result I didn't see much at all.

I took the subway and went to work. That was almost it. Sometimes I went to readings and book events around the city but I worked long hours, I wasn't making much money, and I only had a firm grasp on my specific subway line.

Time flew by a lot faster than I expected it to and slowly I made friends (it took me about 3 months). With them I started trying new restaurants for dinner or brunch and I even managed to get to some different neighborhoods and come to understand at least the west side subway system.

But when I saw my family over the holidays after a year in the city, they made me realize I wasn't really experiencing NY to it's full potential. (Family has a way of pointing those things out). They all wanted to know what I had been doing: had I seen the new exhibit at the Met, had I had a picnic in Central Park, had I seen any good Broadway shows?

I had not done any of these things. And the one that stuck with me the most: I hadn't seen any plays. Not since seeing Beauty & the Beast on Broadway when I was in high school.  In fact when I stopped to think about it, I'd seen more Broadway shows as a high school student who visited NY once a year than I had as an adult who lived in the city.

It didn't make sense. I love stories and storytelling. I love plays. I love the intimate setting and the acting and the singing and I had this whole experience unique to my city at my fingertips.

After that I made a conscious effort to see more shows--Broadway, off-Broadway, way off Broadway, whatever--anything that was getting good reviews. I realized that if I bargain hunted for tickets and skipped a few of those weekend trips to the movies (did I really need to see The Host in the theater or could I wait to rent it on demand?) a play wasn't too expensive.

For the last few years I've seen a play almost once a month and it's been amazing. So many have been absolutely incredible. Here are some of my favorites:

The Heiress


Sleep No More

Venus in Fur

The Other Place

Bring it On

That's why this year for Christmas I gave my parents this gift: a Saturday family get together.

My parents, sister, and one of my honorary sisters (long story) drove into the city and parked in midtown. They left with plenty of time in case of traffic and arrived early. I met them for a light lunch at Celsius where we could watch the ice skaters at Bryant Park.

These beautiful ladies are my sisters: Jackie (honorary sister) and Tracey (real actual sister).

With about a half hour to spare, we walked over to the theatre.

I bought tickets to The Bridges of Madison County. It's a musical that's new to Broadway, starring Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale, based on the novella by Robert James Waller.

Now, if you're like me you heard of The Bridges of Madison County back in 1995 when it was a Meryl Streep/Clint Eastwood movie, but the novella was published in 1992 by Grand Central and spent 3 years on the NY Times list, which at the time was a record.

It is a pretty incredible love story.

I admit I chose this play for my mom. Before the holidays I was scouring the Broadway sites, trying to figure out what would be a good show for all of us. The day I needed to pick a show and buy tickets, a flyer for Bridges was in my mailbox and I knew it was a sign.

I knew my mom would like it. She loved the Meryl Streep movie, after all, but the rest of us really lucked out with my choice. The show was amazing.

The story and the music was so well incorporated. It helps that Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale are absolutely incredible and the supporting cast was funny and talented.

My absolute favorite number was Steven Pasquale's Act II solo "It All Fades Away" and trust me, I was pretty weepy by then. It isn't anywhere online as far as I can tell, but you can listen to a released single if you want evidence of how amazing the music is.

When it was over, we wiped our eyes and went across the street to Carmine's for an early dinner.

At the end of the night I came home and felt inspired. It's those impossible love stories--the ones that have everything stacked against them--that hit me hardest. It's the stories that make me tear up or even ugly cry that stay with me longest.


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