Category: NYC

Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone. Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”

Helena Rubinstein, cosmetics entrepreneur and rival of Elizabeth Arden, repeated that over the course of her career. Beauty was revolutionized by Rubinstein and Arden, but more importantly, they were powerful entrepreneurs in a male-dominated workforce. War Paint, a new musical at the Nederlander Theatre, gives us a glimpse of the day-to-day of the lives of these women and their rivalry.

The set design was beautiful, the costumes were magnificent, and, of course, the two-time Tony Award-winners Patti LuPone (Helena Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) were fantastic, as expected. The musical progresses from the advertised topic, the rivalry of these two beauty entrepreneurs, to a broader reflection on their internal struggles as powerful women. By the end of the musical, drugstore cosmetics lines have devalued the image of timeless beauty, and the two women are forced to reflect on the value and impact of their lives’ work.

While a compelling and moving narrative put to incredible music, the flow of the lyrics was sometimes stilted. Elizabeth Arden, despite her humble upbringing and incredible corporate empire, was portrayed as a brainless blonde in contrast to Helena Rubinstein. She was ‘obsessed’ with her packaging, as opposed to obsessed with how good her porcelain containers were for business. In wartime, the outfits of her sales representatives were exaggerated by ‘military women’ in short skirts, contrasted sharply by Rubenstein’s clinical containers and women in military-inspired uniforms. The rivalry between the two women was written with a strong hand and exaggerated dialogue, while their hesitant coming together seemed much more natural. And at the end of the performance, a question about the unresolved impact of cosmetics on women’s freedom seemed to be misplaced. The narrative of two successful women strong enough to create a lasting industry was diluted by the question of their lasting impact, not on professional women but on beauty standards.

Overall, War Paint brought this narrative into the 21st century with grace and respect for the immense task that both Rubinstein and Arden faced in building companies named after and run by women.

Photo courtesy of BBB.

Rousing applause closed the night at Bandstand, the latest of Broadway’s American musicals. Bandstand boasts an all-original storyline and an all-American plot, addressing the inaction of American government and society in addressing the needs of our veterans in a post-World War II, swing-era context. A tantalizing portrayal of the not-so-glorious aftermath of World War II, Bandstand catalogues the story of Donny Novitski (Corey Cott), a swing pianist from Cleveland with a desire to make it big in the city that never sleeps, and Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes), a recently widowed choir singer who decides to pursue the dream of being a jazz vocalist in order to cope with the unfortunate demise of her husband in the war.

The musical tells the story of a group of veterans gathered by Donny (in a wonderful scene in which each character has a chance to declare “I know a guy”) who form a band to compete in a national radio contest in New York City while struggling to fit into their old lives and deal with the lingering effects of the war. The prize could guarantee celebrity status to its winners, but dealing with complicated interpersonal relationships and the challenges of finding jobs in post-war America, provides obstacles to the band that confront not only the dismal treatment of veterans, but also the essential flaws haunting any pursuit of the American Dream.

Throughout the musical’s opening, Donny is tormented by his role in Julia’s late husband’s death, and is not alone in his burden. Every character bares the marks of the war on their minds, in their music, and in their hearts. Physical ailments are paired with post-traumatic stress and beautifully choreographed scenes wherein the actors physically struggle under the weight of men in military uniform— dragging their ghosts with them. Even Julia, as she joins the band of veterans, struggles with her own loss in the aftereffects of the war.

In addition to survivor’s guilt, Donny has to overcome his pride and fear. His failure to save Julia’s husband presents a very cutting scene on stage in part because Donny is the epitome of the trope of the overconfident male with complete faith in his ability to achieve the American Dream. In fact, in a beautifully belted solo, Danny even quite forcefully inserts himself among the era’s greats, denigrating Sinatra’s skills in comparison to his own.

Altogether, Bandstand hits on a sensitive and relevant topic in today’s society in a way reminiscent of White Christmas’ classic “What Can you Do with a General,” an early commentary on the aftereffects of war; however, with Bandstand modern theater brings us a portrayal more unapologetically gritty and honest…

And, as the musical clearly elucidates, contentious.

It is often hard to like Donny as he gives in to his pride and aggression, losing himself at times to his own mind, but as Julia comes around to see him in a different light, audience members cannot ignore his charm— nor the damage unfairly done to him by the lack of support and representation for returning veterans, veterans living in a society that does not want to acknowledge the scars inflicted on their brothers, fathers, and sons.

Occasionally the complexity of projecting multiple perspectives onto the stage (i.e. the first scene, which is both set at home with Julia and simultaneously abroad in the trenches) and pairing them with interpretive demonstrations of the characters’ mentalities manifests in Bandstand as strange staging and slightly confusing choreography. But, considering the massive scope of the undertaking, Bandstand does an impressive job of playing out its various plotlines.

The only real criticism that came to me in the mutterings of the audience and my own hesitations while watching Bandstand was the distinctly awkward inadmission of the concurrent issue of racial segregation during the 1940s and early 1950s. After all, Brown v. Board of Education didn’t even occur until 1954. As a result, it was a little disconcerting to see the token black character come to life in their use of Kevyn Morrow, the only POC cast member, as blanket ensemble in ambiguous roles with minimal speaking, the musical’s realism marred by its refusal to acknowledge its historical context in this regard. At one point, he is a preacher (for an all-white church), and, at another, he works as a radio executive (for an otherwise all-white station). To leave this unacknowledged is to pretend the harsh reality of the segregated social climate did not exist.

That being said, the musical dealt and dealt well with the issues it did confront, and it is understandable (though unfortunate and perhaps uncomfortable) that, in the stress of dealing with such a hugely important and controversial subject as the mistreatment of veterans, certain aspects of the play became “unreal” and certain unpalatable realities went unacknowledged.

Still, we can learn from Bandstand, in its message and its omitted lines, a great deal about the change that our society calls for, that America needs. So I would still call Bandstand a great American musical, and, with its hard-hitting message on veterans’ needs and its equally stunning choreography, certainly worth watching.

A cohort of Columbia students have reached the semifinals for the The CommonBond Social Impact Award. The award, along with its financial components, is to help foster a new generation of social entrepreneurs.

Photo Courtesy of StreetMate team

Photo Courtesy of StreetMate team

The idea behind StreetMate is to help offer connections to ensure every homeless person can access a bed to stay in at night. From their team description:

StreetMate: Recognizing that 70% of homeless individuals have smartphones, and that with the creation of LinkNYC all will soon have easy access to the internet, we’ve created a webapp that allows anyone to find and access a shelter that’s guaranteed to accept them after just four simple questions. We ensure that NYC’s homeless are only a few taps away from a warm bed.

If the team is in the top 3 teams in terms of the number of votes, they could receive $10,000 in funding to develop the app and deploy it to people throughout the city.

Voting ends at midnight on Friday, June 29th.

To support the StreetMate team, simply fill out the voting form here.

If you would like share information about the competition, team member Michael Pusic (CC ’19) shared the following blurb with our team:

A friend of mine created an app to make information about homelessness services easily accessible, and we just made it into the semi-finals of a national competition for social start ups. To get to the final (and to get funded), he needs to have the top 3 amount of votes, so lets help out by going on the link below and voting for StreetMate. It just takes a second (only name & email) and it’d make a big difference. Thanks so much!

http://woobox.com/3bgoz9/gallery/4Ghy7AyMTgY

Christy Altomare and company of Anastasia. Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

 

When the long-anticipated Broadway adaptation of the cartoon classic Anastasia (1997) debuted under the bright lights of the Broadhurst Theatre, the audience was tightly packed and diverse: thick Eastern European accents were offset by the squeals of American women in their teens and early 20s, eagerly anticipating their favorite story brought to life. Indeed, all of the audience members were likely intimately familiar with some form of the story behind Anastasia— whether the “true” history of the ill-fated Tsarevna Anastasia Nikolaevna, allegedly murdered by the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police) in 1918, or the whimsical tale of 20th Century Fox’s “Anastasia Romanov(a),” with its talking bat and mad villain Rasputin hunting the Romanov family to near-extinction, with its train crashes and hexes and wild run to the streets of Paris— but few could predict what would happen when the lights grew dim and these two stories intersected in a new translation of the classic tale.

With the introduction of Anastasia to the stage, Rasputin gave way to the Russian Revolution of 1917 (specifically the February Revolution and the fall of Winter Palace) and the rising Russian Communist movement; the new adaptation brought new “villains” to the story. But as Anastasia grew closer to real life, so did its conflict. Instead of employing the black and white morality shown in the movie, the Broadway play Anastasia thoroughly developed its villains and their drives. This idea of gray-moral conflict was embodied by the well-rounded character development of the main antagonist Gleb (Ramin Karimloo), who faced a moral dilemma threatening his identity even as Anastasia came to recognize her own.

Despite these major changes to the plot, the majority of the characters and music that made Anastasia the movie a success remained in the play. In fact, not only were iconic songs like “Learn to Do It,” “Journey to the Past,” and “Once Upon a December” beautifully rearticulated, but also the original songs like “My Petersburg” performed by Dmitry (Derek Klena) and “Stay, I Pray You,” which featured nearly the entire cast, were instrumental in exposing the raw nerve endings of a country torn apart by revolution and giving new depth to the characters.

“Stay, I Pray You” was a particularly timely addition for today’s audiences, given its thematic focus on the struggles of leaving a war-torn country to seek refuge away from one’s home. Dmitry and Anya (Anastasia) may have been full of hope, but they, along with the refugees they accompanied, still called:

Stay, I pray you.

Let me have a moment,

Let me say goodbye;

Harsh and sweet

And bitter to leave it all,

I’ll bless my homeland

Till I die.

The eyes of the cast at this point twinkled with tears in the bright stage lights. The audience was not immune from the sudden onset of emotions.

Anastasia is inherently self-aware: a nostalgic story centered around nostalgia; a story about respecting the past while growing to make new decisions respecting its past and growing into new decisions. And for the audience members not satisfied by this balance of whimsy and historical realism, a near-topless Derek Klena and a bejeweled Tsarina, stunning graphics that expanded the small stage into a platform crossing international boundaries and spectacular Russian choreography filling the stage in thrusting limbs and fluttering skirts— these seemed to have been enough of a distraction from defamiliarizing plot elements.

In the course of the night, very few technical or performative issues arose. The opening of the first scene, featuring a young Anastasia and her Grandmother the Grand Duchess as the Grand Duchess says goodbye before departing to Paris, was a bit choppy, seeming to be a near-direct quotation of the movie lacking the vivid character of the rest of the play, and Ramin Karimloo (Gleb) sounded slightly nervous at the play’s start; that is, Karimloo’s first two vocal performances were a bit more breathless than breathtaking. However, these minor issues were quickly eclipsed by the interactions between the young Anastasia and her family, the collapse of the Grand Duchess at the news of their deaths (a tear-jerking performance), and Karimloo’s heart-stopping second reprise of “A Simple Thing,” in which his voice persisted where many other actors would have failed.

Altogether, Anastasia overshot all expectations of success and managed a seemingly impossible feat with its reconciliation of history with fantasy. Its near-perfect opening performances can only improve as the actors and actresses continue to bring the streets of Leningrad (ne Saint Petersburg) to our very own West 44th Street, between 7th and 8th Aves.

The Columbia bubble is a beautiful place, but sometimes you just need to get out and explore. While everyone here at the Lion loves Columbia Blue, sometimes a little NYU purple is exactly what you need when that bubble gets  claustrophobic.

Transportation:

First , before you can explore NYU, you have to know how to get there. As NYU does not have a campus, different areas of the university are closer to different subway stations, so knowing where exactly you want to go can be helpful for saving time. There are four main stops near the NYU area:

  • Astor Place

A stop on the 6 train, Astor Place is the closest station to the Tisch School of the Arts. It is, however, a bit of a hassle to get to from Columbia. If you’re up for the challenge, though, you can take the downtown 1 from Columbia to Times Square-42nd St. (or you can take the express 2 or 3 there by switching at 96th). Then, at Times Square, you can transfer to the downtown/Brooklyn-bound N, Q, R, or W trains and take that to 14th St.-Union Sq. There, you can finally catch the downtown/Brooklyn-bound 6 to Astor Place.

  • 8th St.-NYU

Located off the NE corner of Washington Square Park, the 8th St.-NYU station is very close to Astor Place and is much easier to get to. To get to this stop, you can take the downtown 1 from Columbia to Times Square-42nd St (or you can take the express 2 or 3 there by switching at 96th). Then, once you’re at Times Square, you transfer to the downtown/Brooklyn-bound W or R and get off at 8th St.-NYU. Easy-peasy!

  • W 4th St.

Located off the SW corner of Washington Square Park, W 4th St. is the NYU stop for the A, C, E, B, D, F, and M trains. To get here from Columbia, you take the 1 downtown to Columbus Circle-59th St., where you can then transfer to the downtown A, B, C or D, which takes you to W 4th. Then, ta-da! You’re in the land of the purple!

  • Christopher St.

The station that involves the least amount of transfers to get to, Christopher St. is located directly off the 1. Simply take it downtown from Columbia, and you’ll get there eventually. The 1 is local, though, so do take some class readings with you to get done on the train. You can always transfer to the 2 or 3 if you’d rather go express, but you have to remember to transfer back to the 1 at 14th St. so you can arrive at Christopher St.

 

Local Events:

Since NYU is located around Washington Square Park, there are often many things happening in this area. From parades to markets to protests, there is always something new to see or do. Facebook is often a great resource for finding out about these events, especially the unofficial ones. For sponsored events, though, you can check out these sites:

http://washingtonsquareparkconservancy.org/events/

http://www.washingtonsquarenyc.org/events/

 

Food:

Making the trek to Greenwich Village can be taxing, which means sustenance is essential for making it back to Morningside Heights. Depending on your budget, there are different food options available to you

Cheap Eats:

  • Papaya Dog is a great option if you’re in the mood for greasy food, and it’s cheap if you’re worried about not having enough money to buy textbooks next semester. Their hot dogs and fries will satisfy your craving for a midnight snack, especially since they’re open until 3 am.
  • Located by the W 4 station, Anton’s Dumplings are just like Grandma’s according to the New York Times. And if you’re a fan of Broadway, they’ve even got a special menu based off of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
  • The Traditional Chinese Food Cart often parks itself near Bobst to feed the many hungry NYU students who have classes nearby. Known for their fried rice, they offer large portions for affordable prices, but make sure you have cash on hand because they don’t accept credit or debit cards.
  • Highly praised by various publications, NY Dosas will satisfy your hunger with its vegan creations. Make sure to check this food cart’s Facebook and Twitter, though, to see if it’s in the area before you go.
  • While you can also get this filling meal near Columbia, you can never go wrong with halal. There are quite a few places to get halal around NYU, but if you’re near W 4, Sammy’s Halal is critically acclaimed for their food.
  • If you’ve got friends who go to NYU, you can always mooch off their meal plan. It’s by far the cheapest way to eat, and their meal swipes can get you a chicken sandwich or an eight count of nuggets with fries and a drink at Chick-fil-a.

Not too cheap, not too expensive:

  • With relatively cheap ribs and other BBQ classics for sale, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ is closest to the Astor Place stop, but it’s worth the walk no matter what part of NYU you’re in.
  • A cute date spot, La Lanterna di Vittorio not only has outstanding lasagna but also sells pie that is to die for. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, the hot chocolate with marshmallows can warm the coldest of hands and hearts.
  • Sick of waiting in line at Shake Shack but still want a good burger? Burger Joint is a small local chain with a shop near NYU that will fulfill your greasiest dreams with their burgers and fries.
  • Hungry, but only want snack food? Pommes Frites is for you. With authentic Belgian fries, large portions, and an extensive list of sauces, this food is worth the prices.
  • 1 AM on a Saturday night and craving chicken tenders? Stop by Sticky’s Finger Joint! This spot on W 8th St. will hit the spot with their hearty tenders and gimmicky sauces.

Quality Dining:

  • Run by Mario Batali, one of the most famous chefs around, Babbo has Italian food that’s out of this world, and the Michelin star to prove it. The prices are steep, though, so save up before going.
  • Also nearby and with a Michelin star is Blue Hill. If you don’t want to eat extremely early or late, though, be sure to book far in advance as reservations fill up quickly.
  • A recent addition to the Michelin guide, Sushi Zo offers impressive Japanese food. Bound to only get more popular with its recent reviews, it’s probably smart to go here sooner rather than later.

Coffee:

  • Want to keep getting hole punches in your Joe Coffee rewards card? Have no fear, there are multiple Joe Coffee shops by NYU as well! (West Village and Washington Square) The West Village storefront is small, however, so don’t count on finding a spot to camp out and get work done in.
  • An Indonesian Cafe and Ramen Bar, Kopi Kopi has some of the smoothest blends around. Don’t fall victim to the Dunkin Donuts located nearby; this place by far has better snacks and coffee to reinvigorate you.
  • La Colombe is one of the country’s largest independent coffee roasters, and their coffee doesn’t disappoint. Their shop in NoHo is a great place to stop before or after seeing a show at The Public, the theater which was home to Hamilton’s off-Broadway run.
  • Located off Mercer St. and W 3rd St., Think Coffee is small NYC chain of coffee shops which provides ethically and sustainably sourced coffee to its customers. It also provides a great place to study if you want to get off campus as they have free wifi.

Other Things to Do:

  • Close to Noho and Soho, the NYU area is a great place to shop. It might take a bit of walk to get to the stores, though, so if it’s cold, you might want to use Google Maps to see what subway stop is closest to the stores you want to visit.
  • Located near W 4th subway station, the IFC Center is one of the best places to go see independent films. On Fridays and Saturdays, they host Waverly Midnights, where they screen cult movies at midnight (as the name suggests), and they also show classic movies at 11 AM Fridays through Sundays.
  • Right off Washington Square Park is Uncommon Goods, a game cafe that hosts one of the largest collections of games on the East Coast. Open 363 days a year, this spot is always available for a late night game of Cards Against Humanity with friends. It’s $5 per person to play as many games as you want ($10 on weekends and holidays), and they’ve also got drinks, snacks, and coffee to keep you going.
  • Want to see a play or musical but don’t have the money to see something on Broadway? Have no fear, Off-Broadway theater is here! There’s plenty of shows you can see for as cheap as $15 at plenty of different venues! There’s the Gym at Judson, which was home to the New York Times Critics’ Pick Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility; Under St. Marks, located in the East Village in a small basement which will make you feel like a theater nerd; Dixon Place, which not only hosts theater productions but also dance shows, literary events, and music performances; and Barrow Street Theatre, which starting February 14 will be putting on a production of Sweeney Todd coming straight from London.