I like the hit big cities deliver, each with their own energy and colour palette. If Toronto is still trying to figure out what colour it is, as it sinks lower in the wide chasm of Rob Ford vs The Elites, NYC presents a crimson sash that grips me by the collar every visit.
11 pm. We’re seated at Balthazar, an old friend welcoming us with familiar bustle. The nooks are packed. Somebody’s ordered Le Grand Plat, a tower of shellfish for many. Tonight, for two only, tucked in the corner, a bulky slick and his tiny companion. I sneak an occasional glance, can that much food be consumed by these two? Directly across, a slip of aisle between us, wine glasses precariously tipped, a couple murmurs in heat. She’s given up her seat to slide in beside him, their long boozy embrace as unabashed as the group of Facelifts in the next booth, shooting the lovers I-don’t-give-a-f–k glances. All ignore the crowd of diners and wait staff whistling past them.
We considered a Canadian canoodle of our own. My little chocolate pot de crème was velvety smooth.
It was good to be back.
Walking through the city, we spotted the beginnings of what will surely be a media frenzy as the city hosts the Superbowl this weekend. Mercifully, our line-ups were few, theatre tickets available. The 400,000 visitors expected in town this weekend may have their own agenda ( read here NFL tourist guide to NYC) but ours is always the same.
walk, walk, walk
eat late (easy to do here in every price bracket)
swan dive into culture, oozing from every pore.
Sunday night we were at the Blue Note to see the very hot Christian Scott. The real highlight though was across town: we were tipped off to a show, moved from a makeshift tent in the Meatpacking district where it became a critical darling, to Midtown where we lucked in to catch it at the end of a sold-out run.
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 was as brazen as the Balthazar lovers and equally intimate. We sat at little cocktail tables and peered at our program, nervously wondering what we were in for. I have learned to recognize this as a very good feeling to have. A musical adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace sounded daunting, buzz or no buzz. The opening number put us at ease:
Helene is a slut, Anatole is hot, Mary is old school, Sonya is good, Natasha is young and Andrey isn’t here.
When it was over, I wanted to see it immediately again. A decadent set design, meant to capture a world at the end of an epoch, delivered us into this small slice of Tolstoy’s classic. Beautiful Natasha is seduced by the rogue Anatole while Pierre stumbles through a spiritual crisis. The music is a mash up of 19th-century Russian composers, folk music using accordions and guitars, indie rock, and electronica. Seated with strangers in this makeshift cabaret— in our case a local mom, who had moved to the neighbourhood to be closer to theatres, and her four-year-old daughter, now a theatre regular— we were all enthralled, if a little dazed at the end, blinking as we came out from the tent.
This brief little documentary tries to sum up the experience.
We ended our theatre blitz on Broadway with The Glass Menagerie, a play I’ve read and seen here in Canada. Yet, like most talent on these stages, this cast, including the formidable Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto, was electric, turning the show into something current and transformative.
It too has enjoyed sold out runs and is now been extended through February.
|Courtesy: American Repertory Theatre|
Superbowl’s kick off may not happen until Sunday but mine came early. 2014 is looking up.
If you missed it, here’s more on NYC: You make me feel
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