Tag: theater

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.

Welcome, welcome to theater! After going over our last guide to discounted Broadway tickets, we realized that there are even more resources out there for students to utilize to get cheaper tickets to both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
Run by Columbia, the Arts Initiative provides students with discounted tickets, most of which can then be picked up at the TIC in Lerner. This is a great way to get tickets, but you have to be fast because they do sell out quite quickly.
If you’ve got luck and persistence, Broadway Direct has online lotteries for most performances of some of the biggest productions around, including The Lion King and Cats. Depending on the show, winners pay anywhere from $10-$40 for their seats, which is more than half off regular pricing.
Being a theater-goer and being a student at the same time isn’t always easy on the wallet, and the Roundabout Theatre Company understands that. So, if you’re between the ages of 18-35, you can be part of their low-price ticket program, HipTix, for free. By becoming a HipTix member, you can buy up to two $25 tickets to each Roundabout Theatre production. While these tickets may not be orchestra seats (unless you upgrade your membership to Gold or Platinum), you can’t beat the price.
Hamilton App:
While the Hamilton lottery used to be on Broadway Direct’s website, it has since relocated to the Hamilton App, which was released in August 2017. Despite this change, the most important aspect of the Hamilton lottery has stayed the same: the price. It is still the same $10 that it always was, so keep entering! You can download the app for your mobile device on the App Store or on Google Play.
General Broadway Lotteries:
Some productions choose to host lotteries for tickets on their own personally-tailored sites instead of using Broadway Direct or TodayTix. It can be hard to find these lotteries sometimes, or just plain annoying to google them everyday. So, here are all the ones with individual sites for your convenience:

 

Updated Monday, October 9, 2017

Meet Brandon Victor Dixon. Dixon, a Columbia College Class of 2007 graduate, is a two-time Tony Award Nominee. During his career, he has performed in various Broadway shows (including Columbia’s very own Varsity Show). Starting in August 2016, Dixon will assume the role of Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical. As he prepares for his role, I sat down with him to talk about his career in the performing arts and his insights on pursuing your dreams and excelling in your career.

What did you study while at Columbia, and do you have any favorite memories from your time there? 

I was an Economics major initially. I left after my first semester senior year, but when I came back and I finished, I was a theater major. My favorite memories from school were of working on the Varsity Show V107 and V108.

What first sparked your interest in theater, and how did you explore that field as a student? Was it mostly through the Varsity Show?

I came to Columbia because I knew what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to go to school in New York so that I could audition and build my career. That’s why I came to Columbia, and I appreciated that Columbia had a campus, and a vibrant curriculum that I could delve into and expand my information base in general. But no, I didn’t go to Columbia to train, or help my career, though a lot of the work I did and the classes I took were of great help and education to me in the theater department at large. I came to Columbia so that I could be in New York.

What were some of the shows you’ve performed in prior to Shuffle Along, and now, Hamilton starting next month?

The Lion King, The Color Purple, Rent, Far from Heaven, The Scottsboro Boys.

With your recent casting as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, how are you preparing for the role? Are you nervous about anything about it?

Nope. It will be a good time. I’m working on a lot of the movement. The movement style is a little different for me so I’m focusing on the movement, but I’m approaching it like anything else. I’m doing my research. I’m learning the material. It’ll be interesting replacing someone in such a big and involved show. I’m going to be learning it even as I’m performing it.

What’s the most surprising or interesting that’s happened to you while performing and go like backstage?

While performing I fell in the orchestra pit one time. That’s one of the more interesting things. I can’t really think of anything that stands out about anything that’s happened backstage but definitely falling in the orchestra pit, that was an interesting one.

 What has been your favorite role to perform so far and why?

Eubie Blake in Shuffle Along. I’ve learned more about myself as a human being in this show and about all of us as human beings in the show. Also, it’s a culmination of everything that has come before it, so you know, it embodies all of the things that you see.

What general advice would you give to students interested in pursuing their career in theater and the performing arts?

The thing I’d say to anybody interested in pursuing anything: there are no rules, your power and ability are limitless, and keep going.

With Hamilton, did you know that you wanted to play Burr, or did they offer that role to you?

I didn’t want to be Burr … I wasn’t interested in doing the show because it’d been done. I don’t tend to replace. My goal is almost always to create something new but this is a unique show, and a unique opportunity and it came on at kind of the right time. The more they talked to me about it, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I did get about the process of joining the show. I am happy; it’s going to be a new experience.

What keeps you excited about being in theater? Is it that the audience has you perform? Is it just the idea of taking on the role of a new character? What motivates you or drives you?

Creating. Creation is what drives me. The reason we are here on this planet is to connect more deeply with ourselves and with each other, and art, and performance, and theater I think is a tool that I’ve come here with to make use of. Creating stories in this way, particularly … In art in general, particularly in live theater, it is a highly communicative, community experience. We get to share something special in that moment of time and that room with one another … And we leave transformed, and that is the important to evolve, to transform, to emote, and to connect with one another.

Since a lot of the people who will be reading this are incoming students, like this is their first time in New York, some have never seen a Broadway show. Do you have any advice for them like for shows they should, or general ideas and tips about what the magic behind Broadway is, in a sense?

The magic behind Broadway is that the people on stage create something from nothing. It’s creating magic, and it helps inspire you to create something from what you have. New York is a cultural bastion unlike any other. So see everything you can, do everything you can. Big, small, do it all.

 As you prepare for Hamilton, what’s your favorite song so far, whether it’s one you’ll be singing, or one some other character will be singing?

My favorite track in Hamilton is Guns and Ships but my favorite song to sing in that obviously is Wait for It.

Can I ask why Wait for It is going to be your favorite one to sing?

I think because I’m exploring the detail of the song but the thing that it sticks out for me is the chorus. Not a love, nor death, nor life, you know. It says,

Life doesn’t discriminate

between the sinners and the saints

it takes and it takes and it takes

and we keep loving anyway

we laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive

While everyone who loves me has died

and I’m willing to wait for it.

So minus the coda at the end, it’s that element of that’s true. Life is that, as is love, as is death, and they are all phases of the same thing, and they do not discriminate according to who you are.

Whether you are good or bad, it’s going to take something but you have to keep giving to it. It’s kind of a mini-encapsulated message about the circle of life, and what living is about. It’s a song with no resolution. He doesn’t figure anything out by the e`d of it. He starts affirming something, and then he starts questioning it, but then he finds himself left with a question in the end of it. It’s interesting piece but it’s one that’s resonated with me.

Brandon will begin performances as Aaron Burr in Hamilton: An American Musical starting in August 2016. For tickets to the show’s New York production, visit the show’s Broadway site.

Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.