Category: Reviews

Photo Courtesy of CUBE

Step into another world and dive into wonderland with Columbia University Ballet Ensemble (CUBE)!

In this stressful time of the year, CUBE delivered a much-needed, light-hearted rendition of Alice In Wonderland, brightening up finals season. On December 8th and 9th, ballet dancers in CUBE took on the enchanting characters we all love, and turned them into delightful dancers. The performance featured a beautiful, expressive Alice, danced by Kasey Broekema, wandering her way through Wonderland, meeting characters such as the time-absorbed white rabbit, danced by Kyryk Pavlovsky, the mysterious Caterpillar, danced by Sophia Salingaros, the playful Mad Hatter, danced by Trevor Menders, and of course the feisty and elegant Queen of Hearts, danced by Anna McEvoy-Melo. The dancers playing lead roles were evidently accomplished and skilled as they pirouetted on pointe or leaped across the stage in their challenging choreography. Their acting and expression through their bodies brought the characters to life as well.

CUBE is lauded for their ability to integrate all levels of dancers while creating a cohesive piece. Alice in Wonderland was the  perfect example of how to do just that. With beautiful choreography for each dancer, CUBE highlighted everyone in all their dances, from Flamingos to Flowers to Cards.

Opening night was full of excitement and energy. The expressiveness of the dancers particularly stood out as they told the story of Alice falling through the rabbit hole to trying to save the Knave from the wrath of the queen. I only wish there were a larger audience to cheer on their work. CUBE’s Alice in Wonderland was a laudable and charming performance that left me wanting to follow the Alice down the rabbit hole to wonderland.

Haley So is a first year in SEAS who wishes she could dance and be as fierce as the Queen of Hearts.

At first glance, In Transit seems a tad odd: an a cappella Broadway production with no orchestra  based inside a gritty New York City subway station. As the first a cappella show on Broadway, it’s hard  to know what to expect even with a book, music, and lyrics created by Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), Sara Wordsworth, James-Allen Ford, and Russ Kaplan. Yet as the lights dim and the titular “turn off your cell phone” a cappella jingle from the show’s creators begins, it becomes abundantly clear that the audience is in for a treat.

There’s something  simple yet beautiful about In Transit. Just under two hours, the show focuses on eleven individuals trying to live their lives in New York. Through a talented street artist, Boxman, the audience watches how these people’s lives intertwine and the struggles of balancing their hopes and dreams with the crushing sense of reality. Through his witty beats and charming personality, Boxman unfurls the lives and current struggles of the show’s characters frantically rushing to get on their train (or in some cases, begging for help to pass through the fickle Metrocard turnstiles).

The show features standout performers including Moya Angela (The Lion King, Dreamgirls National Tour, 30 Rock). Throughout the show, Angela effortlessly switches between three characters: a religious mother, a subway booth attendant, and a routine office manager. And in one part of the show, she saunters out in a dress completely comprised of New York City Transit Metrocards!

Another standout performance came from Chesney Snow as Boxman who could produce almost any sound with his mouth — including the sound of the Metrocard Machine again failing to accept the cash he inserted into it. Throughout the performance, it was clear he was energized for the role, as his vocals to immersed the audience in the eclectic cacophony of music and voices in the city.  

In Transit is a thrilling show that is relevant to almost everyone as it questions what it means to follow your dreams and how we deal with rejection and hardship. From start to finish, the show captures your attention and thrusts you right up to the bare, raw emotions of these eleven residents struggling to be themselves and overcome their inner demons. This show will resonate with almost every New Yorker who encounters the trials and tribulations of trying to achieve your dreams in the city that never sleeps. Oh, and the struggles of riding the subway…

Photo courtesy of Russ Kaplan

Photo courtesy of Russ Kaplan

To learn more about the show, we talked with Russ Kaplan, one of the show’s writers. Kaplan, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, majored in directing with a minor in jazz piano. During the interview he noted how he originallygot bit by the directing bug in high school. But it didn’t occur to me to start writing music for theatre until I was a grownup and started writing In Transit (at my co-authors’ encouragement).”

But how did the idea for making all a cappella musical come to be? According to Kaplan, “Well, we (the writers) were an a cappella group, so it just seemed sort of obvious at the time. It’s what we were already doing!”

What was the process like of making an a cappella musical? What challenges did you face?

The writing process is actually similar to “normal” musicals…you’re still following the same fundamental rules of dramatic storytelling and trying to write emotional and memorable melodies. The challenges emerge later with logistics and performance, and that list is so long it’ll make your head spin, but I’d say the main one is that all eleven cast members have to sing for a hundred minutes straight…so even a staged reading of In Transit requires exponentially more rehearsal than other shows.

What was the inspiration behind the story of In Transit?

Ourselves and the people we know!

What was the songwriting process like? How did you decide what each song would be about? Were any ideas or sources you drew inspiration from?

First, we’d decide as a group what new songs would be about and what the general sound should be like; then one lyricist and one composer would pair up to do a first draft; then that draft would come back to the group and we’d all tinker together until we had a final draft we were all happy with.  We tried to tap into as many musical genres as possible, especially those that you hear blasting on the subway regularly (which is to say all of them).

As a musician, what do you think music has the power to do for audiences?

Music pretty much gives my life meaning. It’s the thing that provides me with hope and gives the world its beauty.  It was like that for me well before I knew anything about music, and I suspect it’s true for most people, whether the music is “about” something or not. It’s pretty cheesy but I really do think it’s one of the few things that can truly bring people together.

But the biggest piece of advice Russ had for Columbia students? “Sing a cappella. It’s good for you.”

Tickets to In Transit can be purchased through the show’s website here. The show also offers a daily lottery for $39 tickets daily through the TodayTix app.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Burton, CC ’18

RESTAURANT INFORMATION:

Restaurant: The Handpulled Noodle

Location: Harlem/Hamilton Heights

Cuisine: Northwest Chinese Soul Food

Rating: 4.75/5Continue Reading..

kati-roll-entrance

RESTAURANT INFORMATION:

Locations: Garment District | West Village | Midtown East | London

Location Visited: Garment District

Rating: 4.5/5

Catering is available.

 

“Everything you are eating is made fresh daily. We make everything from scratch every morning. There is no frozen food.”

Anil Bathwal proclaims this matter-of-factly across the table from me. As the husband of Payal Saha, the founder and owner of The Kati Roll Company, I thought his boasting might contain bias.

Boy, I was wrong.

kati-roll-walkway

Upon entering The Kati Roll Company | Photo by Justin Deal

Upon entering The Kati Roll Company on 49th W 39th Street, I was instantly struck by sensory overload—bright orange-painted brick walls (some exposed), distressed Bollywood movie posters, and top 40 pop/R&B blaring overhead. While it felt like too much at first, the ambiance came into focus when I looked down to see the hardwood floors and the minimal seating in the front with more seating in the back after one walks past the open kitchen. Overall, the mood straddled between New York City lazy chic and India street pop-culture.

Their menu is simple, and by “simple,” I mean it has focus and does not inhibit the customer’s ability to make a choice by giving you too many options. The caveat to this is that everything is delectable, so after your first try you may end up sweating over which Kati Roll to try next.

First, I tried the Aloo Masala Roll. I was impressed with the balance of flavors between their homemade paratha (lightly-fried, hand-rolled, layered bread) and the spicy and full-flavored fillings of hand-mashed, fried potatoes, tomatoes, and green peppers. “Spicy” describes their home-blend of over 25 distinct spices used on many of their rolls. This classic Indian street food creation was vegetarian heaven in roll form.

Next up was the Shami-Kabab Roll. Wow. The minced lamb and lentil croquettes inside the paratha provide both texture from the croquette shell and soft savoriness from the finely minced lamb mixture. I am a self-made connoisseur of lamb, and this hit the mark.

Three kati rolls | Photo by Justin Deal

Three kati rolls | Photo by Justin Deal

Lastly, the most famous roll—the Chicken Tikka Roll. Tender, juicy chicken, marinated in the house spice blend and yogurt…I could see why this was the most popular. The chicken is hormone and antibiotic-free halal chicken according to their website. It tasted so fresh! I realized Anil was not fibbing when he said everything was made from scratch daily. It shows in the quality of the food.

When asked about special dietary options, Anil said it is easy to accommodate such requests. If you are vegan, stay away from the paratha—it contains clarified butter. Instead, opt for the Roti flatbread. And make sure to choose one of the vegetarian rolls and simply request no cheese if it includes that (the Achari Paneer Roll appears to be the only one with this obstacle). Also, the Shami-Kabab Roll contains egg. The paratha is already gluten-free, so you’re ready to go! If that doesn’t work for you difficult ones (I joke I joke), there is an organic salad…

If you have a long break during the school day or want to travel downtown on the weekend, don’t miss out on The Kati Roll Company experience.

DIRECTIONS: Jump on the downtown 1 train and go to 42nd Street/Times Square. Get off and walk southeast for about six minutes to 49 W 39th Street. What’s great about the kati roll experience is that you can eat inside and enjoy a lager (the recommended alcoholic beverage to pair), soda, or a sweet yoghurt-based lassi to balance the spice of the rolls; or you can take it to go on your way to Bryant Park juggling class or to buy more (unnecessary) books from the New York Public Library’s gift shop (I opted for “Le Penseur” socks instead)! Anil says the kati roll is practical for hungry people on-the-go.

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How to Eat a Kati Roll | Photo Copyright by The Kati Roll Company

Also—the average price for a roll is $5.50! That’s cheaper than an Up Coffee Company salad-in-a-jar!

After I had finished stuffing my face and Anil taught me about the street fare of Kolkata, India (the source of inspiration), I started to wean away from the idea that the restaurant vibe oversaturated the senses. Instead, the restaurant’s humble liveliness embodies the spirit of the food, and that is something many of the imitation Kati Roll companies cannot live up to.

I will definitely go back.