48Hrs In The Big Apple

Recently, my friend May & I had an opportunity to make a quick getaway to New York City.  After our recent daytrip to LA for The Ellen Show, she applied for a variety of other talk shows that we thought might make good excuses for excursions and adventures.  This time she got tickets to The Martha Stewart Show in NYC.  While we could have done this as a day trip too we decided that we’d stay overnight and have an extra day in the big city.
The timing of the Cathay Pacific flights from YVR to JFK are perfect for a quick getaway as being red-eyes, they maximize your time in the city.  We headed out on Sunday night at 10pm PST and arrived in NYC at a bright an early 6am local time (if you are able to sleep on the plane, which I rarely do, it’s even better).  Luckily we both have NEXUS so can speed through customs and were out on our way immediately.  Taking public transit from JFK to midtown Manhattan is easy, in less than an hour we were off the subway at Penn Station and walked the four blocks to the Fairfield Inn Manhattan/Chelsea which was super convenient located in the Flower District on the edge of Chelsea and Midtown.

Flower shops line 28th Street

  Being so early we expected to just leave our bags and then head back out to the city but happily the room was ready and they allowed us to have the complimentary breakfast too. Bonus!!
After a quick change, shower and bite we were recharged and ready to go.
This was only May’s second trip to the Big Apple and my 4th so we pooled our experiences to show each other parts of the town that we’ve found and liked. First we headed uptown to Columbus Circle and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the lobby lounge has one of the best views in the city. Located on the 35th floor and open to non-guests it’s a great spot to take in a (reasonably priced for NYC) refreshment and enjoy an amazing view of Central Park. 

Central Park from the Mandarin Oriental Lobby Lounge

After a pot of tea and some star spotting…Ian Somerhalder of The Vampire Diaries was having breakfast at the next table…we were back on our adventure.
Walking along Central Park towards The Plaza Hotel and Fifth Avenue, we tried for some more star spotting as Gossip Girl was filming in The Plaza but just saw a big group of extras and none of the cast. Wandering down Fifth Avenue browsing in the boutiques and shops we ended up at Rockerfeller Center, we’d both done it before

Skating Rink at Rockerfeller Centre

and we’d highly recommend visiting the Top Of The Rock and taking in the amazing views from the roof the the Center. We stopped in at the nearby branch of the famed Magnolia Bakery for some mid-morning sustenance. Then over to Times Square for the true tourist experience and the amazing hustle and bustle.  While there we checked at the box office of The Palace Theater to enquire about tickets for that evening’s preview of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, we’d seen discounted tickets on Travelzoo and luckily the box office was able to honour the discount and save us the $9.50 Ticketmaster service fee!

Marquee at The Palace Theater

It was now midday so we thought we’d venture into a new area of town and headed downtown to the FI-DI (Financial District) to check out Wall Street,

In the Fi-Di

I’d told May a few times about Stone (Pearl) Street and what a great place it is too hang out…in the summer it’s better as the street is filled with tables and all the restaurants serve in the street. In the frigid winter everyone is indoors.
From the FI-DI it was a short walk over to Century 21 for some discount shopping, if you don’t know about it check it out next visit…it’s madness!
After a few purchases we meandered through SOHO and into the West Village for more boutique browsing and bargain purchases at Uniqlo and Marc Jacobs.  All the while on our ventures the sights, sounds and smells of the city filled our senses, people watching is a major sport in a city like New York.
While roaming the West Village a friend emailed to say he had us on the guest list to check out a band showcase at the Mercury Lounge at 7pm. Since it’s an iconic venue we jumped a the chance but it was already 5pm so we needed to hurry back to the hotel to drop off our shopping and again refresh for the rest of the evening’s adventure.  Catching a taxi to the Mercury was a classic New York moment, from standing in the street to hail it to the ‘edge of your seat’ drive through heavy traffic to the lower east side.

Noxshi at Mercury Lounge

The band Noxshi, was late coming on so we only got to catch a couple of songs of their showcase but still interesting and entertaining even in that small of a dose.
The next taxi was again a thrill ride as it raced it’s way up the east side to get to Times Square, but the driver made up twice the distance we’d gone earlier in less than half the time.
Getting to The Palace Theatre with time to spare we found our seats for Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.  Still just in previews the

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

musical, based on the 1994 movie of the same name, is an amazing spectacle: over-the-top costumes, outstanding vocals and choreography plus a big pink bus onstage…what more could you ask for?
After a great time at the show we met another friend at Junior’s in Times Square, famed for it’s cheesecake, we had to try a slice! Yum! Besides the tasty food and good company, people watching was the order of business as all walks of life cross through the Time’s Square area.
Finally after lingering at Junior’s for a couple hours we made a quick trip into Times Square for a ‘tourist’ pic under the lights

Alex, May & Jay in Times Square

 and a quick jaunt into the massive Forever 21 branch so I could get a second opinion on a jacket…shopping never sleeps either!
Back to the hotel for a little shut-eye, morning came too soon as we quickly packed up again after breakfast and then made our way a couple blocks to the Chelsea Studios for The Martha Stewart Show taping.
An incredibly organized experience (would you expect any less from Martha?!), even waiting for the show was an experience. 

Martha Stewart

Well known stand-up comic, Joey Kola, is the warm up guy and also tells us what we should expect and what’s expected of us during the show.  Quickly we are whisked into the studio where we are still able to take photographs right up until the taping starts. Martha’s celebrity guests for this live episode were Joan and Melissa Rivers, they were a fun duo for Martha to cook for/with. Other segments of the show were about Allergies and Sensitivities, featuring specialists in these fields.  After the taping we were again allowed to take pictures while Martha answered questions from the audience members. We were quite amazed at how unexpectedly interactive and accommodating Martha was to her audience. We really enjoyed the show, we’d do it again.
After the taping we roamed around the Meatpacking District,

Chelsea Market

through Chelsea Market and the East Village on the way to Union Square.  From there it was a quick subway uptown to Grand Central Terminal and again to sit and people-watch in Times Square before making our way back to the hotel to grab our bags and head out of the city to our flight home from JFK.  Overall we packed a whole lot of seeing the city into our 48hour trip, we were worn out but would probably do it again in a heart beat!

Top 10 Movie Cinema Etiquette Do’s & Don’ts

Last week’s Top 10 Concert Etiquette Do’s & Don’ts turned out to be popular and readers suggested other Etiquette lists. It’s a great idea so here’s the next in the Etiquette series.

Next time you’re at the movie cinema think about these hints to help everyone have an enjoyable experience!

1. DO arrive on time. Even if it’s just during the trailers, no one likes having you squish your way into the seats once the house lights are down.
2. DON’T take up more than your own space. If you have bags, coats or parcels keep them on your lap or under your feet.
3. DO turn off your mobile phone or at least put it on silent!
4. DON’T talk throughout the movie. If you must ask your friend something, whisper quietly in their ear.
5. DO enjoy something from the concession.
6. DON’T loudly slurp your empty drink or rustle and crinkle the wrapper or your candy
7. DO laugh or exclaim at the movie but try to keep it appropriate and contained so not to interrupt the next scene of the movie
8. DON’T loudly snap, chew and pop your gum.
9. DO dispose of your gum and other trash in a bin as you leave not on the floor, especially a greasy popcorn bag or unfinished drink cup. They spill and make the clean up slow for the next patron to enter the theatre.
10. DON’T forget this isn’t your living room, you are still in public, keep other bodily sounds contained!

 

Legally Blonde: The Musical – On Tour

Legally Blonde: The Musical – Queen Elizabeth Theatre – March 1, 2011

The Broadway Across Canada tour of Legally Blonde: The Musical opened tonight in Vancouver for a limited run of 8 shows. If you like smiling and laughing (and pink) you should make an effort to get out to see it. Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster.

The musical adaptation of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie of the same name, Legally Blonde tells the “fish out of water” tale of Elle Woods and her journey from vapid, blonde “Malibu Barbie” to Harvard Law student and legal wiz. Along the way Elle faces many obstacles, rivals and roadblocks, while looking outstanding in a dazzling array of bubblegum pink outfits.
Don’t feel that you have to have seen the movie to enjoy this musical, in fact it might even be better if you haven’t seen it.  This adaptation eliminates and combines a few characters  and scenes to give room to some brilliant comedic singing and dancing with a little romance…ok, a bunch of romance thrown in along the way.

Lead Nikki Bohne does an amazing job of growing up, from a ditsy college senior into a capable “serious” Harvard grad student, before our eyes.  The supporting cast and chorus include male leads Matthew Ragas as Warner Huntington III, Elle’s college boyfriend who she follows to Harvard, and Nic Rouleau as Emmett Forrest, the Yale law teaching assistant who helps her to find herself.  Supporting Elle and lending an sympathetic ear is Paulette the hairdresser with the lackluster lovelife, played with over-the-top verve by Jillian Wallach.
Although there seemed to be some slight audio tweaks that were done during the first number all of the cast sounded great and the dance numbers were excellent.  Especially the second act which gets into some of the larger song and dance pieces. All of it was FUN, I would think it hard to find someone who didn’t smile throughout the show (or at least part of the time) and I’m sure there was hardly anyone who didn’t leave the theatre humming “Oh My Gawd, Oh My Gawd, You Guys!”

Huge Thanks to Vancouver Events Gal, Catherine Barr and NorthVancouver.Com for holding the contest so I could win these tickets to the performance!

August: Osage County

August: Osage County – Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage – February 8, 2011

August:Osage CountyOne hot summer meltdown (literally & figuratively) in the life of the Weston Family is portrayed in this Tony award winning play by Tracy Letts.   The story plays out over the course of a swelteringly hot summer in the American South as a large family gathers to deal with love, loss, betrayal and intrigue. Throw in a dash of drugs and drinking to this perfect recipe of dark comedic family angst.

Directed for the Arts Club Theatre Company by award winning director/actress Janet Wright (Corner Gas) this production features a large ensemble of seasoned actors who bring this family to life…larger than life at times.  The two female leads bring some truly scenery chewing moments to the stage in the, often loud, battle of wits between matriarch and eldest daughter.  A couple of the characters seemed a bit underwhelming in the shadow of the great force of the leads but overall the cast was solid throughout.  The amazing set, bringing an entire three story house on to the stage, was almost another character as the family’s sense of ‘home’ was questioned throughout the play. Without the solid set to ground the play in reality it may have slipped closer to being a farce. Instead we get to peak into this family’s dramatic unravelling and feel for the characters instead of just laughing at them…although there are many moments of dark laughter throughout the memorable 3 hour performance.

If you are able to see this play live do it now, then you have something to compare the inevitable film version.   You can very much see this play being perfect for a screen adaptation and a movie version is in development.  The latest news is Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts are due to begin filming in March 2011. Let’s wait and see!

Avenue Q – On Tour

Avenue Q : The Musical – The Centre in Vancouver – February 1, 2011

The touring production of the long running Broadway and Off-Broadway hit has made its way to Vancouver for 6 shows only.  Opening tonight and running until Saturday February 5th (playing nightly plus matinee on Saturday) I highly recommend checking it out.

Set in a New York City where puppets and people live together in perfect harmony…ok, so at times not so harmoniously…in an apartment building on Avenue Q.  The tenants cover all walks of life; humans Brian and his Japanese fiancée Christmas Eve, Kate Monster (a puppet), Roommate puppets Rod & Nicky, Trekkie Monster (a bit of a reclusive porn addict) and newcomer Princeton (a fresh-faced college graduate puppet).  Watching over the tenants is Superintendent Gary Coleman, of Different Strokes child actor fame.  This character was presumably intended to mock the plight of the child star but since his passing has become more of homage.

Hilarious music and lyrics along with some ‘full puppet nudity’ lift this musical about real-life situations into an extraordinary fun filled two hours. You’ll never look at puppets the same way again!

Although this opening night production had a couple of small technical glitches it’s still very worth seeing…try to catch this unique musical before it’s gone.  Look for tickets from The Centre In Vancouver online.

Don Quixote – Arts Club Theatre Company

Opening Nights at the theatre are full of anticipation; will you like it, will it be boring, will it be… Even more so when you’re seeing a new work as we did last night at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage. 
Don Quixote is a collarboration between The Arts Club, Centaur and Axis Theatre Companies. This comedic adaptation by Colin Heath and Peter Anderson of Cervantes classic tome also stars Peter Anderson as the title character.
With inventive sets and costumes, especially the masks by Melody Anderson, take us from a simple stage out into the Spanish countryside or within a castle walls.
Having not read the orginal work I can’t say how true to the story this play followed but it obviously took some liberties as they began to play the dialogue for laughs.  Colin Heath told us, at the Artistic Directors Circle, he found his ‘angle’ in the second volume of the original work, written after the exploits told in the first book have made ‘Don Quixote’ famous throughout Spain, taking the point of view of a story within a story or play within a play in this case.  
The writing, unfortunately, left me a bit wanting, I felt unsure exactly what this play was trying to be, as it wandered from a period drama to buddy/road trip comedy to pantomime, never quite resonating on any level. There seemed to be plenty of laughs from the audience but some of them came very cheaply via out of place toilet humour. Maybe I’m being overly critical but I don’t think I was completely alone in feeling unsatisfied.  
The producers have developed a good structure for this play but still could use a bit more time refining the writing to have a hit.  Afterall, not all plays begin life as an instant ‘classic’ and thanksfully we have companies like The Arts Club Theatre that allow playwrites and producers a place to nurture new works and new ideas.

Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Specatular

Walking with Dinosaurs:The Arena Spectacular – Rogers Arena – Aug 26, 2010

Based on the award winning BBC-TV series, Walking With Dinosaurs truly brings the giant beasts to life right in front of you. Led by an ‘archaeologist’ / host who guides us through the eras and tells the story of the dinosaurs, flora and fauna of each passing stage of dinosaur evolution.

Although it sounds like it should be, you would be mistaken if you dismissed this show as “for kids”.  Children and adults of all ages get something out of this presentation, little kids all around were screaming out the names of the dinosaurs (it’s amazing what little kids know!) and shrieking as each one lumbered and roared into the arena.  Adults were learning alongside their children and many were probably revelling in a little childhood wonder as well. 

This was the second year I’ve seen this show and both times I was amazed at the intricacy and realism of the dinosaur creations.  Even though you can plainly see the legs of the actor working the smaller creatures or the wheeled base of the giants, it’s incredibly easy to suspend reality and believe that we are in the Cretaceous or Jurassic periods.  The simplicity of the darkened set, surrounded by inflatable plants and flowers and filled with vast amounts of projections and lights allows your mind to complete the picture and take you back in time.

Although the tickets for this event can be high, depending on your city, if you can manage to I highly recommend seeing it, my description does not do it justice.

*warning for parents, younger sensitive children may find some parts of the show a bit frightening. The Dinosaurs roar quite loud, the arena is dark other than the floor/set and the first scene involve a predator dinosaur eating a newly hatched baby