Tag: theater

Photo by Matthew Murphy

When Dina (played by Katrina Lenk) beautifully sings “Welcome to Nowhere,” a song introducing the audience to the show’s location, she doesn’t portray it to be one of the most exciting places. In fact, she goes so far as to sing “Such a city, nobody knows it. Not a fun, not an art, nor a culture. This is Bet Hativka.”

And her character is right: this show, like it repeatedly describes, is a simple story about how ‘’Once not long ago group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”

The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Yet, in this charming 95-minute show, audiences are thrust into a story that is so simple yet so complex, just like the human experience. Indeed, like life, the show begins with a slow start, in which we are introduced to the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra from Egypt, which, due to a misunderstanding of their final destination, end up spending a night in Bet Hatikva rather than Petah Tikva.

Stuck in a new place with nothing else to do, we see these strangers begin to connect. Part of the experience of meeting new people is finding out more about them: at first, you don’t know much about each other, but as time goes on, you learn more and begin to feel more for one another. The same is true for characters in shows. While The Band’s Visit eventually introduces us to all of its characters, unfortunately, we only get to really know a few. As the show progresses, though, we see extraordinary songs and heart-wrenching moments from most of the characters that, when the characters we as the audience get to know are involved, leave us tearful and filled with emotion.

For the characters we don’t get know as well, moments of truth — revealed in admittedly beautiful songs — can be a little confusing. Why does the man who waits by the telephone wait so obsessively for his girlfriend to call, to the point of being agitated when someone else uses the phone? Just because he misses her? Knowing nothing about this man except that he waits and waits and waits, it felt as if his behavior fell closer in line with someone who is unhealthily obsessed rather than in love. While this too can be part of the human experience, it was frustrating to see this moment aggrandized as it leads into the final grand moment of the show in which the entire cast harmonizes beautifully, singing about longing, love, and human connection. If we had gotten to know this man better, perhaps the final wouldn’t have felt as if it came out of nowhere.

That being said, the final song (“Answer Me”) is still beautiful in its own right, highlighting the show’s strongest component: its music. With lyrics and composition by David Yazbeck, every song pulls at the heart, making you laugh and leaving you contemplating your own desires. Each song is stunning and invites the audience members into the moment, allowing them to connect with the music on a personal level, even if they’re not familiar with the musical style, which is inspired by Arabic culture — something rarely seen on Broadway.

In a time that feels incredibly divisive, this production shows that, despite differences in our languages, our backgrounds, and our heritages, we all still are united in one human experience. We still all have a desire to love and be answered, and The Band’s Visit is such an important musical because it reminds us of just that. Rather than focusing on gaudy, ostentatious sets, colors, and music, it strips down these elements and focuses on the simple, the ordinary. This ordinariness actually produces something  unique and extraordinary, and, accordingly, the show should be seen by all.

Tickets to The Band’s Visit can be purchased from the show’s website.

Do you believe in magic?

Regardless of if you do or don’t, the show “In & Of Itself” at the Daryl Roth Theatre will convince you that you do in 75 minutes. Executive Producer Neil Patrick Harris presents a unique theatrical experience that blends illusion with a narrative of identity. Derek DelGaudio, the sole actor, does a fantastic job crafting an authentic performance, taking audience members on an emotional journey that explores identity, memory, how others perceive us, and what is meaningful in one’s own life.

Walking into the theatre, guests are presented with a standing board of “I am” cards. Guests are invited to choose a card that will later be used throughout the show. I chose “I am a ray of sunshine.” Why? It spoke to me. But they had a wide range of options, from alien, to C.E.O, philosopher, accountant, and troublemaker. Identities one strives to be are paired with true identities, such as occupation or family titles. You pick one that speaks to you, whether accurate, funny, or fictional.

The theatre is small and intimate. Perfect for what unfolds next. Delgaudio combines magic and storytelling seamlessly, leaving audience members in awe not only of the tricks he pulls, but also at the story he seeks to tell. Both personal and relatable, the story brings up our own memories and experiences – forcing us to confront who we are and how we identify.

The interactive element of the show is what really allows for the human quality of the production to come through. Each night something different occurs on stage because of the unique audience members present, who each bring with them their own identities and perceptions of themselves. Delgaudio forces you to question your identity labels and reminds you that sometimes people will never fully see you and your experiences for what they are – but that’s okay.

You will ask: Who am I? How do others perceive me? How do I perceive myself? Does it even matter? That’s the point of the show. Delgaudio reminds us to be cognizant of the fact that people are more than what they appear to be (just as magic is more than what it appears to be!). Dig a little deeper and you’ll see more and more of who a person is. It’s a glorious thing to dig below the identities we assign to ourselves and allow others to assign to us.  

If you want a different theater experience that is both intimate and beautiful, then see this show. Keep an open mind and go with someone you care about. It’s an experience worth sharing.

 

“In & Of Itself” runs through May 6, 2018 at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Tickets can be found here.

Photo Courtesy  of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl’s classic tale imagined in two drastically different film interpretations makes its sweet debut on the Broadway stage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 46th Street. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” can make the sun rise and sprinkle it with dew with the playful, child fantasy it creates, but some of the wonders that “must be believed to be seen,” as Grandpa Joe exclaims, do not live up to their hype and leave the audience disappointed with what they actually witness.

Back in my hometown, we have a small children’s theatre where new and old productions alike are performed. I distinctly remember that we had a small production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even though these productions were completely different and the songs in the Broadway version are much better, I was almost shocked when I saw the Broadway set as the set for my small children’s theatre all those years ago seemed to be of the same quality as the Broadway version, if not more profound. The magical world that is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory is hyped by every single character in the musical, including by actors who do ostentatious jazz hands and sing a repetitive shout of “Willy Wonka!” in order to signal the wonder and whimsy of the titular character. However, when it came time in the second act to witness the chocolate factory for the first time, the result was pretty underwhelming. This was not something I expected from the magic and grandiosity of Broadway.
As for the show itself, Willy Wonka, played by Christian Borle, was the clear star. His hilarious interpretation of the chocolate connoisseur kept me engaged throughout the entire show as Borle combined the different character interpretations from the films while also putting in some of his own flavor. My attention was glued to him for the majority of the time as he would infect the audience with hilarity such as the variety of different impressions he utilized including but not limited to Harry Caray. Even through the cringeworthy moments, such as the ear-piercing yodeling of Augustus Gloop and his mother, Violet Beauregarde’s lackluster explosion, the unique (for lack of a nicer word) Oompa Loompa musical numbers, and even the shocking morbidity to the show, Borle was able to ground the show with his maniacal yet heartwarming interpretation of the epitomal candyman. Through the unique (for lack of a nicer word) Oompa Loompa costuming and the  It’s a shame that the set behind him did not match his world of pure imagination.

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.

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.