We’re there for the dazzle and familiar pulse. The piss we could do without. NYC is familiar turf for The Friendly Greek and I: we know to step over the wet while looking for the wild.
Still, let’s get rid of the nasties at the top: the city reeks. Every corner is another piddle, another grim reminder of the squashed lives of many who inhabit this place. Garbage strewn on streets and subway tracks: in all my years visiting the place, I’ve never seen the city so filthy. Driving late last night through Toronto streets, coming home from the island airport, we three (my oldest came along for this one) cheered a little at our well-scrubbed city. It’s nice to be back. Even if we didn’t want to leave. We hadn’t seen enough theatre. Do we ever?
I was 18 on my first visit, a school trip and my first hit of Broadway to see Amadeus. I reached out to catch one of the stray pieces of sheet music props drifting down to the audience. I still have mine. Still believe in magic too.
Toronto theatre fans have plenty of options here, all worthy, many winning my admiration. Toronto is hardly a backwater dive. What New York offers for this fangirl is a visual assault, a potent injection of talent and aggressive vision. Nobody says sorry. It’s okay to be the best here.
How else to describe the Tony award wining spectacular sets and scene design of An American in Paris? Fluid movements of giant screens, floating from one scene to the next, setting us in Paris in 1945, the end of the Second World War. A score familiar and yet, here in lush arrangement. Was it just me swaying and sighing to this dreamy stuff? Nope. The crowd on their feet at the conclusion was with me, all of us together sending big love to this celebration of romance.
Gene Kelly is how most of us recall this story, but he shares the bill in my head with one Robert Fairchild, star of the New York City Ballet, and now thrilling audiences at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. Fairchild was already a prince in the ballet world. After a few months of singing and drama lessons, he may conquer the theatre snobs as well. Oozing charisma, post show outside the stage door, this 27 year old is about as American as the fried chicken and collards at our favourite place to spend the wee hours after a late night flight. No, I won’t spill the spot here. You’ll have to wait for my upcoming cookbook for that one. Cheap shot, I know. You see what being around all that New Yorker sass does to me?
Fairchild isn’t the only star here: he shares top billing with Leanne Cope, another dancer plucked from a professional company by celebrated choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Both Fairchild and Cope are what is known in the biz as triple threats. Thank you, fangirl, for stating the obvious. Aren’t they all? Maybe they thought they were. Maybe all those celebrated hoofers with the gorgeous gams have to up their game now that ballet dancers like these two are steaming up the stage?
What makes a perfect theatrical experience? One buoyant enough to require an hour of breathless gush between my once-ballet dancer kid and I as we left the theatre. Or did we skip? Not so fast, says The Friendly Greek, no stranger to romance, but here finding little. We forgave him. He saved his gushing for a hilarious outing the previous night.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, also a winner of a slew of Tony awards, opens with the cast warning the audience to get lost. For God’s sake, go, they warned. We laughed then and didn’t stop in this tale of a lowly chap, who discovers he is eighth in line of succession to become an Earl. What happens next is a procession of tidy murders and quips to match, many delivered by the brilliant Jefferson Mays, playing here eight different characters. Woe to the theatregoer who misses Mays in this turn.
Happy are we three (missing our youngest at camp, home soon: HURRAH!) to be sitting in these historic theatres. Budget won’t allow for a steady stream of shows (we are visitors to this town after all) and one has to pick among treasures, but we will be back for more.
Must do’s in Manhattan before summer’s last gasp:
- Walk the High Line. Packed on the afternoon we were there, this is a gorgeous and serene break from the city below.
See the spectacular China: Through the Looking Glass exhibit at the Met. Sumptuous haute couture inspired by Chinese art has drawn record crowds all summer and we were thrilled to be among them.
Order the summer pudding at Prune. This baker can only wish to achieve such a sweet sensation. And I don’t mean the woman at the bar with an actor known for another liason. I won’t spill. That would not be nice. He had other things on his mind beside the food, and he didn’t think we were spying.
Wear out your best summer shoes.
Order a nutella brioche at Eataly. This massive foodie destination is rumoured to be heading here. This is good news for foodies and theatre groupies alike. The place is pure opera.
And for all my readers wondering what rabbit hole I fell into over the summer: it’s called focus, folks. No use pretending to be a writer anymore. I had to shut it all down to finish the book. If this is the summer where love died, it was also the summer where Anne got busy. Look for the results next spring. Stick with me. I promise sweet returns.