ShowStoppers

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In the world of Broadway musicals, there’s a term to describe a song that stands out above the rest of the selections. A song or a performance that is so over the top that it’s known as a showstopper. Steve Wynn has brought a show to Las Vegas that is simply known as ShowStoppers because every song and every performance is a pinnacle of magical interpretation.

I had the pleasure of seeing this magnificent show on my last trip to Las Vegas and for those of you that read that first blog, you know how much I loved it, but I have to say, this time around, it was even better than I remembered. From the first sweet musical note to the final curtain and exit music, I was enthralled, enchanted and completely entertained. There is no other show that compares to this extravagant production that encompasses the best of the best. Both in musical selection and in the talented performers that do what they do so extraordinarily well.

When I first saw this show, I absolutely raved about the lead female cast members and I have to tell you that I’m in awe of the three gorgeous and talented women that grace the Encore theatre six nights a week. One of the leading ladies left the show recently and I knew that Kerry O’Malley was irreplaceable. I was convinced that no matter how good the new female lead was, she wouldn’t be able to touch the performance of Ms. O’Malley.

Well, I was wrong. Rachel Tyler is a beauty that hails from the United Kingdom and has a resume that includes national tours with Mamma Mia, Grease, Fame and The Rocky Horror Show. Ms. Tyler was every bit as good as her predecessor, while still bringing something new and vibrant to the stage. Her voice is unbelievably strong and her stage presence was so powerful that from her first song, she had touched my heart and brought my emotions right to the surface. By the last song, I had tears running down my face and goose bumps on my arms. She’s believable, she’s natural and above all else, she’s definitely a star.

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Joined by the two other female leads, Lindsay Roginski and Nicole Kaplan Fenton, she easily could fill the shoes of any great Broadway performer. The three of them together on one stage, makes this show worthy of the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence, informally known as the Tony Award. I can’t say enough about these three stand out performers, but I will say that they make me wish I had just a smidgen of their talent.

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The biggest difference between this show and the last one I saw was how impressed I was this time by the male leads. Randal Keith, David Burnham and Andrew Ragone were at the top of their game with this particular performance and I was more impressed than ever with their vocal range, powerhouse voices and stellar performances. Randal Keith was born to perform and he easily has one of the best voices out there. David Burnham and Andrew Ragone bring a masculinity to stage that rounds out the sweetness of the ladies.

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Every song in this amazing show quickly becomes a favorite with hits from shows like, Cabaret, Chorus Line and Chicago. Not only was I mesmerized by the lead vocalists, but I was also blown away by the cast of fabulous dancers. All of them are extremely talented and lend so much to this production. There were three stand outs for not only their fancy footwork, but by their shining personalities. Natacha Bachour is a gorgeous creature that stood out in every thing she did. Stefan Raulston is the dance captain and with good reason. His smile, his easy moves and his connection with the audience makes him someone to watch. However, the dancer that caught my attention and made me want to know more about who she is and where she comes from is, Genise Ruidiaz. This young lady hails from Miami, Florida and throughout each and every performance, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by her beauty, her acting and her flawless dancing.

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Every performance and every song from ShowStoppers is simply the best. I would like to tell you about all my favorite moments, like the jailhouse scene from Chicago that has world class pizzazz with lovely leading lady, Lindsay Roginski. Then another favorite was Nicole Kaplan Fenton singing alongside David Burnham in Money Money or when she plays the adorable Lola in A Little Brains, A Little Talent. This petite, uber talented lady could easily be mistaken for Kristen Chenoweth except she brings her own perfectly suited personality to life when she performs each of her fantastic numbers. I would also like to tell you how magical and powerful the newest cast member, Rachel Tyler was when she sang, Don’t Rain On My Parade from Funny Girl. I thought I had seen a great show, I thought I had witnessed polished talent, I thought the show was as good as a show could be, until Ms. Tyler came out and nailed this classic number from Funny Girl. It doesn’t get better than that. Ms. Streisand should be jealous.

If you have never seen a Broadway musical, or if you have seen them all, you will still want to go see Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers. It is the epitome of the greatest songs from the all-time best Broadway shows. Even if you don’t think you like Broadway, you will still be pleasantly surprised and leave the theatre feeling something you didn’t expect to feel. There is nothing like live musical theatre and with this show featuring a thirty-four piece orchestra conducted by Maestro Dave Loeb, you will be entertained in a way you’ve never been before.

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Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers

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A big thanks to my best friend for procuring center-stage seats for one of the best shows in Las Vegas. This is the same man that took me to my first Broadway production more than two years ago and because of that introduction, I have fallen in love with this genre of art. Broadway shows tell a story through music and you get the best of both worlds. You get to see a marvelously acted story and you get to hear a grand musical concert.

Steve Wynn and the creators of ShowStoppers brings its audience to the absolute pinnacle of musical performance with a cast of sixty-six singers, dancers and musicians. The orchestra is led by Conductor Dave Loeb who does a legendary job in directing the music for each of the numbers. The curtain rises after a short audio introduction by Steve Wynn explaining what we’re about to see and experience. He tells us that a “showstopper” is a musical number that is so outstanding and so over the top that it literally stops the show. Sometimes, it will be a piece from the beginning of a show and sometimes, it can be at the end. Mr. Wynn decided that we needed a show where every song is the showstopper. I couldn’t have imagined what then took place for the next ninety minutes.

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There were more than twenty hit songs from classic Broadway, including personal favorites like, “Together (Wherever We Go),” “Cabaret” “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “One.” These sensational showstoppers were garnered from such greats as, “Mame”  “Annie Get Your Gun”  “A Chorus Line” and many more. There were six vocalists featured in the show and while they were all uber talented, I have to say I had my favorites. The three male leads are, Randal Keith, David Burnham and Andrew Ragone. These guys are all so versatile and are experienced actors and singers with impressive credits ranging from top Broadway shows to movies and television that we would all know.

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The guys were great, but, the three lead female performers were the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe because as a little girl, I was entranced by opera performers or the pictures my mom used to bring home from the Reno showrooms. There’s something old-world style about glamourous dresses and trendy coiffures. The first woman to blow me away was, Kerry O’Malley. What a classically beautiful performer with a voice more powerful and authentic than any I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing live. She’s mesmerizing in all of her stand-out performances and I swear by the end of the night that I had a little crush on this amazing lady. When she sings, she commands you to pay attention and to feel. Feel each note as she wrings it from her soul for the benefit of the hundreds of people that show up for this show each week at The Wynn Las Vegas.

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Kerry O’Malley could star in this show and it would be good, but add in the other two female singers, Nicole Kaplan and Lindsay Roginski, and you have the epitome of Broadway and you have a compilation of true “Showstoppers.” Nicole gives a genuinely cute performance in many of the songs including an interaction with a lucky audience member when she does, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent.” She’s as gorgeous as any Vegas showgirl, but has an obvious sense of humor and comedic talent up on stage. I loved her air of innocence and approachability with every song she sang.

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Lindsay Roginski was the stand-out performer of the night for me. With this sensational show and cast, that’s saying a lot. There wasn’t one member of the ensemble that were not stars in their own right and it’s really unbelievable the amount of talent that Steve Wynn found for this incredible production. However, there was one strikingly beautiful performer that instantly drew out the heart in me and that lady was, Lindsay. It’s hard to name just one thing about this performer as there’s so much to draw from. She has a great voice, she’s more gorgeous than a Victoria’s Secret model, she’s tall and willowy, she makes you think of the girl next door or the famous pin-up posters from an earlier generation. She’s all those things and yet, there’s something more. Something that brings to mind the golden age of Hollywood, the glitz and glamour that used to be old Las Vegas. I could easily imagine Ms. Roginski draped on the arm of Frank Sinatra or a young Howard Hughes. She has something; a ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality. She has IT. That something special, that something destined to make her a star.

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Showstoppers has incredible sets and colorful costumes and part of the fun was getting to be dazzled again and again when the curtain would rise to some spectacular scene or a stage full of sequined performers. It’s hard to say that I had favorite numbers as they were all so brilliantly performed. But, if I’m hard pressed, I loved the numbers from “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” probably because I knew the shows and really knew the songs.

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One of the most poignant moments of the night came in the form of a duet between Randal Keith and Kerry O’Malley. It was the song, “Anything You Can Do” and though there were many other numbers more flashy and complicated, there was none that touched me as a human more. The two of them not only sang the song creatively and brilliantly, but put enough of their own personalities into it, to make it relatable and funny. There’s a part of the song that Randal sang in such a way as to actually make his co-star laugh for real. Not acting, not pretending, but really having fun on stage. When performers can make you feel like that, there’s a magic that is unattainable in any other venue.

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Millions of people visit Las Vegas every year. Some go for the gambling, some go for the shows and some go to do things that can only be mentioned when in Las Vegas. The next time you find yourself in the desert of southern Nevada and are looking to have a “real” experience, you have to make your way over to the high-end, luxurious complex known as Wynn Las Vegas. Then you have to shell out a few bucks (okay, more than a few, but you get what you pay for.) and go see this perfectly suited to Las Vegas show. It’s a taste of yesteryear and some of our favorite Broadway shows. Bring the kids if you can afford it. While it’s not geared for a younger audience, this production keeps it fairly clean and there’s nothing like exposing a younger generation to art and culture that is on this level.

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers could just possibly be the best Broadway show out there, even if the Las Vegas strip is a long way from New York. This show will leave a mark on your heart. For me, it was one of those special, magical nights that makes me so thankful to be living my life. Another perfect night of friendship, Broadway and songs that I’m still humming three days later.

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Broadway of Branson presents Disney’s Little Mermaid

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Broadway of Branson had a VIP gala and premiere of Disney’s Little Mermaid at the White House Theatre this past Friday night. This was a Broadway stage production of the original 1989 animated feature movie. I was fortunate enough to have my friend, Randy Plummer escort me to the show and we arrived at the theatre just as the rain started coming down.

The lobby was buzzing with conversation and the sound of excited kids and adults who were anxious to see Ariel, Sebastian and Scuttle. There was at least one adorable girl dressed as her favorite mermaid and I saw many others with Ariel hair clips and bows. I even saw an adorable set of sisters that had on Little Mermaid flip flops.

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We found our seats in the fairly large theatre and within minutes the music that we’re all familiar with filled the room and the lights dimmed. There was a lengthy delay without lights or music and I had to remind myself that this was opening night. Unfortunately, I kept having to remind myself of that fact, numerous times throughout the performance.

There were many, many positives in this show produced by Country Club Entertainment. But there were also many awkward moments during the night as microphone after microphone malfunctioned and timing between stage crew, actors, and lighting was out of sync more often than not. Even when the the actor’s microphones were on, there was a low hum and the occasional annoying screech of audio feedback. So, yeah, it was opening night. There were technical difficulties, I understand that.

What I don’t understand was a Broadway production without live music. We live in the “live entertainment” capital of the world and yet there wasn’t a musical instrument in the house. What I also didn’t quite get was the mermaid costuming and the fact that not everyone even had shoes. Quite a few of the characters including Ariel and Flounder were wearing tennis shoes with the roller balls in the bottom. I agree that it is a creative idea to make the mermaids and fish appear to be swimming rather than walking, but in reality, it didn’t work. I was also a little disturbed to see the undergarments of a few of the mermaids as their “tails” had apparently ripped enough of their costume to see beneath.

What really saved the show from being a disaster was the professional and talented performers that graced the stage. I would love at this point to give accolades to the performers and mention a few stand out actors who turned a mediocre production into an entertaining show. But, I can’t, because there was no program for the evening’s performance and when I asked for a listing of the cast, it was not made available. What a shame because they really do deserve all the credit.

The young woman that played Ariel was beautiful, acted well and sang with a voice that was perfectly suited for the famous Disney mermaid. Another actor that really stood out was the man who played Sebastian the crustacean sidekick and mentor. He played the role perfectly with a wonderful energy on stage and he displayed a powerful, but artful voice. One more actor that I thought was exceptional was the young man playing the chef that makes the romantic dinner for Ariel and Prince Eric. That particular scene was also one of the most polished and entertaining segments of the show. All of the cast actually did a fine job and it was their human contribution that made the show not a complete disaster.

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A couple of other things that I want to mention that I liked very much were the LED screen and graphics that were used in the background. The scene where Prince Eric is thrown into the ocean and Ariel rescues him was brought to life with the help of technology. The next scene where the prince is being tended to on a beach, had moving ocean waves behind him that while not completely believable, did add a very nice visual effect. They used the LED screen and special effects during the dining room scene that gave the set depth and color. There were many colorful acts and I know that the kids in the audience probably enjoyed the bright colors.

One last mention is about costuming, once again. I have to say that as bad as the mermaid costumes were, Ursula was magnificent. She was bigger than life, scary, menacing and as villainous as any Disney character out there. The actress playing the part did an excellent job, even when she had no microphone and the stage hands who operated her tendrils were the most understated members of the troupe.

I still got teary-eyed at the end because mostly I’m just a big mushy-hearted softie. But the tears also told me that there was enough magic in this production to touch my heart and though I feel like they have room to grow, I think that with time, the show will improve. I’m glad to see a Broadway style production here in our little small town, but, someone needs to go to a real show and see how professional and grand they are when accompanied by a live orchestra and smooth directing.

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One last disappointment was at the end of the night when several people waited for some kind of meet and greet with the cast. I know there were little kids in the audience that wanted to get an autograph or a special hug. Interaction with the audience is something that Branson is famous for and I was quite surprised when it was explained that Disney forbid the characters that particular interaction at the end of the night.

By the time the thousand or so people had made their way out of the theater and into the lobby, the horderves had finally been laid out in the lobby. Frankly, I thought they had simply forgotten them since food is usually served before a performance. Oh well, just chalk it up to opening night.

If you find yourself in Branson at any point in the summer and your kids are clamouring for a Disney show, take the hill off Hwy. 76 and then a quick right and you’ll find yourself at the White House theatre. The little ones will enjoy it and you will have some under-the-sea songs to hum while driving home.

Once

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Broadway’s production of Once graced our lovely city with a great performance last night at The Orpheum Theatre.  This was my twelfth show to see at The Orpheum and it did not disappoint.  Two of the things I like most about Broadway shows is their originality and of course, the music.  Once was a completely different kind of show without a lot of fancy stage sets or elaborate costuming, and the story was so real, so emotional, you didnt need or want a lot of distractions. This was one of the most touching shows I have seen. It was simply amazing in it’s simplicity of telling a story between a guy and a girl.

Once is a story of a young, talented musician and it is set in a pub in Dublin, Ireland.  Upon walking in to the theater, your eyes are drawn to the stage where they are letting members of the audience mingle and order some cocktails from what appears to be a real bar. The cast are already present and they break out into impromtu songs with the audience still gathered around them on stage. Every cast member has an instrument and the folk music they are playing is accented with heavy stomping on the stage floor and lots of energy from both the cast and the audience. The members of the audience that have been up on stage are slowly sent back to their seats while the music continues.  The house lights stay up for a couple of more songs and I wasn’t quite sure when the actual show commenced, but it was very cool in it’s casualness and gave the gigantic room a feeling of hominess and warmth.

Early in the show all the stage lights go out except for a gold light that strikes our young musician upon the stage and bathes him in this glow that seems to come from his guitar and from the emotion with which he belts out his original tunes.  When the girl enters and keeps him from leaving his guitar behind in disgust, she looks like a Tolkien fairy princess who just might live in the real world. She’s a young immigrant from Czeckoslavakia that has a little girl named, Ivanka and we learn that she is in a loveless and possibly abusive marriage. Her husband has run out on her and the child and her family has taken her in. When girl meets guy, there is chemistry and destiny and throughout the show, you root for them to find a way to be together.  When the girl approaches the piano for the first time she explains that you must always say hello to a piano, and when she does say hello, you feel the love and tenderness she has for the instrument and for the songs.  When they sing the duet, “Falling Slowly”, the tears became a torrent. Towards the end of the show, there is a scene where every actor on stage sings a quiet song in such an ethereal way as to make the angels in heaven jealous.  You know I cry at every show, but when the ensemble performed that perfectly quiet song with such emotion and with such beauty, I literally sobbed in my seat.

I wasn’t the only one feeling slightly overwhelmed with all the emotions that the songs and the story brought out in me. When the show was over and the cast came out to take their second bow, I saw the girl actually wipe tears from her eyes as she walked to the edge of the stage.  When it’s this good, it’s not called acting anymore,  it’s  just called brilliant.

Nearly every performance that we have seen includes a speech at the end of the night about an organization called, Broadway Cares. One of the actors takes a couple minutes to explain what Broadway Cares does and asks for donations on our way out of the building. This is a wonderful and caring charity that provides support for people with Aids/HIV and since 1988 has raised more than 250 million dollars from donations from theatre patrons.  We were especially impressed last night that it was the leading man and the leading lady who missed the final curtain call because they were already in the lobby, with buckets to collect our donations. They missed some well earned accolades and instead, allowed the crowd to gather round them while they helped make the world a better place. What a great group of people, both on the stage and off.

So, another perfect night in Memphis goes into the book. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to unearth an entirely new side of myself in discovering my love for Broadway and my love for the stories. As a writer, I compare the words in each song to the words in my heart and then want to take the words from my heart and put them on paper in such a way as to bring out that same feeling and love that these musicals and plays evoke in me.  I’m thinking one day, there just might be a screenplay in my heart, just begging to get out. I already have the name…..Life, The Musical.

Book of Mormon

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The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee is hosting the hit Broadway stage production of Book of Mormon and I had the pleasure of attending last Friday night. I went with my Broadway buddy and his daughter and her husband. The night started off on a hilarious note when my friend and his son-in-law decided to dress as Elders, complete with black ties and short-sleeved white shirts. All they needed was a couple of name tags and of course the renowned book in question. They also needed to be pushy, obnoxious and a little closed minded.

As soon as we get out of the car, I’m struck by the dazzling lights of the Orpheum marquee as I always am. We walk across the parking lot towards the entrance when we see young men in white short-sleeved shirts and black ties and these men do have the Book of Mormon in hand along with some literature that included business cards to direct you to the Ladder Day Saint website. When I willingly accepted the little card, I honestly thought that this was part of the show and that the young guys were actors hired to promote this event. Until I looked at the card and realized that these guys standing on the corner in front of our majestic Orpheum were in fact, Mormons. Now the funny thing about all of this is when one of the Missionaries made a comment to my friend’s daughter. “Nice blouse” he says to her as we walk by. She was wearing a nice blouse, one that was off the shoulder and that highlighted her stunning tattoos.  Any young man in America would have to be blind not to notice her, but for a Mormon on a mission, it seemed like an out of place comment that only added to the humor of the night.

And, humor was definitely the theme for the night. I’ve never been into comedy very much as I honestly don’t find most of it funny. I never understood The Three Stooges or slapstick comedy and I have never laughed at Don Rickles or Rodney Dangerfield. Just never really got it. Never found their schticks even remotely humorous.  For the most part, I’ve also stayed away from adult comedy humor and can remember one time going to a show in Tahoe and seeing Eddie Murphy do his adult stand up and I was disgusted. His obsession with bathroom humor just turned me off and though I’m not a prude, I felt like one while sitting through his routine.  I’ve also been to quite a few Broadway plays now and I’ve enjoyed each one immensely, but I have to tell you this was my first comedic play and I wasn’t sure what I would think about it.

Can you say, laugh out loud?

Well, we sure did and it was an uproariously funny show that did it’s absolute best to offend everyone, make the ladies blush and had the Christians in the audience wondering if they were going to hell after laughing through this performance. It was fresh, smart and carried out all the offensive gags with just enough class, truth and candor to tickle just about everyone’s funny bone.  There were some people offended but for the most part, the crowd loved the boisterous performances and the raunchy humor.

It kind of surprises me that Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone had the foresight to write this comedy that puts such a strong spot light on the Mormon religion.  Oh, and it’s not just the usual spotlight, but one that absolutely screams out how ridiculous religion can be and yet at the same time, highlights how wonderful humans have the capacity to be. The Book of Mormon was most surprising not for it’s crude and in your face humor but for it’s very evident story line that life is about love and understanding and a desire to unite the human race into a race of true brotherhood that transcends so called religions and their dogma.

These creator’s of South Park hit the mark and then some with this so very human show. They gave us laughter without bitterness and brought humor to our human condition with intelligence, compassion and a good dose of self deprecating humor. One of the most interesting things of the night for me was watching some of the older, obviously more conservative theater patrons and their reactions to some of the more outrageous skits. An older couple were sitting right next to me and I was curious to watch their reactions, and it was funny to see them at first uncomfortable and embarrassed and then laughing so hard, they had to hide their faces in their hands. It was reassuring to see people like that be able to laugh at the absurdities of life.

The Book of Mormon shot to the top of my favorite Broadway shows and it might always stay at the top of my comedy list. It was an awesome production that left me feeling good with the underlying story-line that love will always persevere and that if we can’t laugh at ourselves, there is no point in anything we ever do.

Is the show for everyone? Absolutely not. It is definitely an adult show and I would hesitate to bring anyone under the age of 18. I also would probably refrain from bringing my uber religious friends that don’t have a really good sense of humor and an ability to laugh at themselves. But, for anyone else wanting to spend a night at the theater being tickled funny, this is definitely the show you’ve been waiting for. Oh, and don’t forget to go to that Mormon website and download their free book! You’ll see pretty quick how easy it was to write a satirical play about this particular religion. I doubt many Mormons will be flocking to see this one, but if any do dare to venture out, I challenge them not to laugh out loud.

New York Day Three

Good Morning, my friends!

Waking up to a warm 72 degrees this morning in Brooklyn, NY. Beautiful blue sky out there and it promises to be another picture perfect day. It’s our last full day in New York and we plan on going out to Coney Island today. I’m going to catch you up on all our fun from yesterday and hopefully will be able to get a post in this evening when we get back sharing with you the pictures and the fun we’re going to have today. 

Yesterday started with finding out that the subway train that we normally take doesn’t run on weekends, so we scrambled first thing to find a bus that would take us to a transfer station that would then get us down to Rockefeller Center. Between the two of us and a grumpy, Polish lady, we managed to get on the right bus and get to the right subway station. Once again we managed to get to where we needed to be with not a minute to spare. The nice thing about that is we didn’t have to stand in line.

We entered Rockefeller Plaza off of 50th St. and we’re immediately ushered to the elevators that would take us to the top. Elevator capacity is only 15 people and once inside you can look through the plexiglass roof and see all the way up to the top of the shaft. The elevator rose quickly and while I didn’t watch the ascent it still gave me that fluttery feeling in my stomach and when I wondered why we feel these things, I read that just like your ears are a barometer and your skin is a thermometer, well, your stomach is an accelerometer. See what you learn while on vacation in New York?

The elevator lets you off on the 67th floor and you exit out onto patios that have plexi-glass partitions guarding the ledges of the building so that no one jumps. You’re able to see the city from all four sides of the building and it’s a panoramic view that is simply amazing. On one side you see Central Park in the middle of all the skyscrapers and you look off into New York Harbor and can see the Hudson and the East River. On the other side is a perfect photo op for the Empire State Building and of course you can see pieces of Times Square and the Broadway section. I would love to spend a few hours on the rooftop with a native New Yorker and have them point out all the different buildings and tell me their names and their histories. The different styles of architecture fascinates me and intrigues me. I live in the 21st century and it’s still a marvel to me how they built these graceful buildings that reach so far into the sky. We made our way up eventually all the way to the 70th floor which is literally the top of the Rock and on this level most of the plexi-glass partitions are absent as there are natural barriers to keep you from leaning over or falling off. To see the views again without any obstruction or barrier was a little bit like flying to have that bird’s eyeview. Seeing the city from that vantage point also allowed me to get more familiar with the lay out of this huge metropolis.

We descended as quickly as we went up and this time I was able to look up and watch us fall from the 70th floor. Pretty cool. Susan and I took a break, found a Starbucks (I’ve only seen maybe 50 of them so far) and got some pastry and an Americano and sat in the garden cafe that looks out onto the famous Rockefeller plaza. It was fun sitting in 30 Rock and imagining all the people that go up the twin escalators every day. 

After a short break we went in search of Broadway as I wanted to see every theater and look at every playbill. It’s just a short walk from Rockefeller Center and within minutes I was standing on Broadway. I had never been to a Broadway show until my friend, Lee began taking me last year to the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. I’ve fallen in love with everything Broadway starting with my first one, Mary Poppins. To see the “real” Broadway and to stand in front of the famed doors of these historic theatres made me feel so complete. To read the play bills from Wicked and Once and Kinky Boots made it seem so real. Some of the theatres took me back in time with their bright lights and flashing marquees. I’m not sure I found every theatre on Broadway, but I did my best. The only thing that could have made this part of the trip any better, any more special, would be getting to see it with the man that introduced me to the theatre. One day, my friend, I promise I will take YOU to your first New York Broadway show!

We had planned on eating at the Stardust Diner and we did find the restaurant in fairly short order. There’s some renovation under way and it was a little hard to see the name under the scaffolding. We crossed the street and realized as we got to the diner that there was a line of people waiting to be seated for lunch. Not a little line, either, but one that stretched around the corner and half way down the block. I settled for taking some pictures and we reluctantly moved on to other sights and picture opportunities.

We finally took time out for lunch and found an adorable Mexican restaurant that had outside dining right on the sidewalk in front of the building. We were on 48th St. in the heart of the theatre district and I couldn’t help but wonder how many performers and Tony award winning stars had eaten here or passed by here everyday on their way to perform. Tonight is the 68th annual Tony awards live from Radio City Music Hall and to think I’m walking the same sidewalk that these stars have walked made me feel pretty special. Can you tell that I just love this town? You might even say, it’s my kind of town.

Broadway melds right into Times Square and before long I found myself standing in front of the place where the ball drops on New Year’s eve and the funny thing was that it was much smaller than I had imagined. Really, when I think of it, New York is a juxtaposition with everything being both larger and smaller than what I thought it would be. Hard to explain, but when you’re standing there, you’re overwhelmed with the enormity of the huge buildings and the dazzling lights, but at the same time, it’s a city block and while impressive and of course quite famous, it’s not as big as it seems on television. Susan just helped me with the word I was looking for: intimate. It’s an intimate setting blaring with bright neon lights and video billboards, but it’s personal and intimate. Thanks, Sue! 

We reluctantly left the bright lights and descended into the Times Square subway station to catch a train downtown. We popped up in China Town and we were taken back a century or so. Seriously. This is not the China Town of San Francisco which I’ve been to many times since I grew up not far from there. This is New York’s China Town and it’s hard to describe the sights and the sounds and the smells. It’s crowded with both locals and with tourists and the locals have to sort of hate the intrusion into their world that all us out of towners bring. We saw jewelry stores galore, restaurants and markets selling things that were unfamiliar to me. I recognized ducks hanging in windows and some of the veggies sold out of baskets, but there were a lot of Chinese items that I couldn’t even guess as to what they might be. There’s lots of street vendors hawking to the tourists, but you also see old grandmothers in traditional garb being helped to the market by their sons and daughters. The buildings are old and dilapidated with rickety fire escapes running up the sides of the apartment houses. It’s dirty with trash in the streets and grime on the hand rails leading to the shops and eating establishments. Once you get onto the side streets most of the signs are all in Chinese and I got the feeling that we weren’t particularly welcomed or wanted there. It smelled. It smelled of foreign spices and literally decades of sweat and tears. Chinatown seemed to be the hardest place I’ve seen in New York and it’s one place I didn’t dreamily think about living in. 

The highlight of China Town for me was finding a park to use the restroom and seeing two elderly chinese men playing a game of checkers in the park. Classic New York scene and Susan snapped a picture to capture that sweet moment. The bathroom was horribly dirty and very unsanitary and it was a side of New York that I had not seen up until then. 

We walked a few short blocks over and looked at City Hall and the Supreme Court building. Magnificent. Overwhelming. Huge. Grandiose. Old architecture that is monumental in size and adornment. We continued hoofing our way across city blocks and took a small left turn to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge. We then proceeded to cross the Hudson River on foot and of course I had the opportunity to snap another hundred pictures. At this point in the day, I think Susan and I both had the beginnings of blisters and the sun was hot and beating down. We took a few breaks along the way, and though the views were well worth that walk, we were getting pretty weary. I have to say that I love the fact that from now on when I see the Brooklyn Bridge, I will know what it felt like to walk a little over a mile on that historic piece of history and to see Manhattan behind me glistening in all it’s wonder and glory. 

What a wonderful day full of so many sights and sounds. Susan is such an absolute joy with her bubbly personality and the patience of a saint. We have always gotten along and this trip is no exception. We were laughing about it the other night as we realized that in forty years of friendship we have never had such much as one cross word with one another. Not one. Now that’s simply amazing and so unique and special. How blessed am I? You know my heart is full to bursting with gratitude and gratefulness for this trip and for this friendship. If I’m never successful at any other thing in life, I take great satisfaction in knowing that I was one half of one of the best and closest friendships ever and for that I’m eternally thankful.

Okay, peeps of mine, it’s time to get in the shower and get our day started. We have trains to catch and a roller coaster to ride. You know I’m gonna be taking a couple of pictures and checking in with all of you sometime this evening.

Whatever all of you are doing today, I thank you for going on this wonderful journey with me.Image