New York 2005

Dani’s Broadway Journal

Day 1, 7/9/05 Manhattan

The day mercifully didn’t start out at the crack of dawn. We had an 11:35 direct flight to New York. The flight was rescheduled to 11:20 so we were a little worried about being late, but upon arriving at the airport we learned that due to the outer bands of Hurricane Denis the flight had been delayed to 11:40 so it didn’t really matter.

Instead of flying Delta like we normally do we tried their new commuter airline Song. It was wonderful, there are touch screens in the seats to play with that offer 24 TV channels, games, movies, and a trivia game for all the passengers. Song also offers real food for lunch. Unfortunately also due to Denis there was a lot of mild turbulence so the food couldn’t be served until the end and we were in the back of the plane but C’est la vie.

Mom and Dad were playing the trivia game and losing terribly but not for lack of trying, or so I’m told. Every time they tried to hit one answer the plane would rock and they would miss the answer they had intended. Mom gave up after one round but Dad hung in there for the second half of the flight and won the game 3 seconds before we arrived at our New York terminal.

So that we wouldn’t have to mess with finding a cab we had asked the hotel to send a car for us once we arrived. The city is a little like Los Angeles only cleaner, safer and with less graffiti. The city is so TALL!!! It’s much taller than LA. As we were driving from JFK towards the city but hadn’t gone through the tunnel yet it looked a lot like I expected it to. Some twenty or thirty story buildings mixed in with some smaller ones, billboards for upcoming Broadway shows, and very dirty. But once we got onto Manhattan itself the city was beautiful. It was very clean by comparison and the buildings are so TALL!!! I think I’m in love with this city. Even though there are no patches of grass the city is much greener than I expected. A lot of the major streets have fairly large (fifteen or twenty foot) trees planted along them. It is a beautiful city.

We are staying at the Waldorf Towers, in the Presidential Suite no less. Well, that’s not exactly true. We’re staying in a “sub-Suite” of the Presidential Suite. There is a main door to the Presidential Suite but there is also another door that can be closed to make the whole wing part of the Suite. It’s a very nice room with twelve-foot ceilings and tasteful decorations. There is one king-sized bed and a rollaway that fits nicely in the corner.

We were offered a tour of the Presidential Suite after our luggage arrived. It is to say the least large, not including its two sub-Suites. Some of the more famous patrons of the Suite include:

  • Every President of the US (Since 1931)
  • Queen Elizabeth II, England
  • King Hussein, Jordan
  • King Saud, Saudi Arabia
  • General Charles de Gaulle, France
  • Chairman Nikita Krushchev, Soviet Union
  • Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Israel
  • Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel
  • Premier Giulio Andreotti, Italy
  • President Valery Giscard D’Estaing, France
  • Emperor and Empress Hirohito, Japan
  • King Juan Carlos I, Spain
  • President Nicolae Ceausesch, Romania
  • King Olav V, Norway
  • King Faisal, Saudi Arabia
  • Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Alcorn, USA

Well okay, I made the last one up, but still. It’s pretty impressive.

Because we hadn’t eaten all day at 3:30 we decided to have a very late lunch. Given our disheveled appearance after 2 hours on a plane we elected to try the only restaurant in the hotel that would permit our (okay, my) blasphemous jeans to enter their premises, Oscar’s.

Big mistake. The food was okay but our waiter (his name tag actually said “bus boy”) Victor seemed to have been temporally slowed down to some degree. After sitting at our table for, oh, about half an hour he walked past and caught Dad’s meaningful glare and said with great surprise, “Oh, you’re ready to order now?”

The meal proceeded on along those lines until after 5:30. The people seated next to us, at his only other table, scarily enough, got up and left without signing their check, to our great amusement.

The thing that strikes me about New York is how expensive everything is. All I had was a hamburger and fries (the fries didn’t actually come with the hamburger, we ordered them separately). It cost 21 dollars!! After such a LATE lunch we didn’t see the point in dinner so we retired early to our room for a quiet evening.

Day 2, 7/10/05 Lion King

Dad and I ventured down to the 26th floor this morning for a continental breakfast. They had some good croissants (not La Duree, but hey) and some chocolate croissants filled with dark chocolate, good enough that a second one found its way onto my plate. We didn’t have too much time before lunch so we just went back up to the room.

Lunch was at a Parisian brasserie/bakery called Balthazar. It was a recommendation of Ron Siegel’s. Initially when we went in I was skeptical. There was not a soft surface in the place, so it echoed terribly. It was difficult to tell if it was old or just trying to look old. It had huge mirrors on all the walls that looked to be made out of a collection of old mirrors. None of them matched. I had the soup of the day, chilled carrot. It was delicious. Instantly all my skepticism evaporated. Mom had what she called “The best fois gras of my life” but I thought it was terrible. For our main course Dad and I had smoked salmon and Mom had beef stroganoff. The only weird thing about the whole meal was my coke; it tasted more like a drainage treatment solution than a fizzy beverage, but we had plenty of San Pelegrino. Dessert was a chocolate mousse that was to die for.

We had arrived early for lunch so we were done by 1:00. The Lion King tickets weren’t until 3:00 so we decided to stroll around the campus of NYU witch was only a block away. It was odd, without being told it was a campus I never would have guessed. It just seems like part of the city.

Mom had tried to find a pair of sunglasses that weren’t $65 at the hotel and failed, so she went into a grocery store at the campus. It was HOT out so Dad and I decided to check out the frozen food for a while. The only hint that we were in a college town was the fact that everything in the store was teenager sized. Mom also found some nice looking cheap sunglasses too.

After that it was time to head to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway to see Disney’s The Lion King. When I was nine we saw Lion King in Toronto but this was going to be my first “real” Broadway experience. I was pretty calm and collected while we waited outside the theater doors but about ten minuets before they opened the excitement bubbled to the surface. At long last the doors opened and I got my first look at a real theater. It was beautiful. We had the best seats in the house: first row, center on the mezzanine. The wide sweeping ceilings had beautiful paintings and gilt, the seats were made of green velvet. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. When the lights finally dimmed and the curtain rose I think I was the happiest person on the continent.

The show was even better than I remembered. I had forgotten how good it was. The young Simba and Nala were exceptional! It was such a great show. There wasn’t an inch of the stage that didn’t do something. There were at least three trapdoors and a staircase (Pride Rock) would rise in and out of the floor. The back half of the stage would raise up to about a 25-degree angle. They had plants that would inflate out of the floor and steam jets too. It was amazing. The lighting was superb, too, and the costumes. There was one cheetah that was simply breathtaking. The way the head moved it really looked like a cheetah. It was incredible.

After the show we bough a program and a shirt that had a painting of Scar’s mask that says, “I’m surrounded by idiots”.

We had already wandered around Times Square so we just walked back to the hotel. Dad had been sick all through the last week so he was pretty tired. Instead of going out we had dinner at the Japanese place in the hotel. It was good, I had Chicken Teriyaki and a really weird dessert. It was called “White Chocolate Ice Berg Floating on Deep Blue Ocean”, no I’m not kidding. The ocean wasn’t very deep blue, it appeared to be Lime Jell-O with white chocolate mixed in. It was served in a dark blue bowl with a long curved stem that split into three. It should have been on Star Trek. The only thing normal about it was the iceberg (white chocolate mouse).

All in all it was a very good day.

Day 3, 7/11/05 Sightseeing

Again Dad and I had a continental breakfast. Today was the only day we didn’t have a play so it was our sightseeing day. We all went down to the lobby and asked the concierge to recommend a tour. We ended up booking a two-hour boat trip that did a complete circle around Manhattan Island. It didn’t leave until 1:30 so we had some time for lunch. We wandered around for a while until we came to a Houston’s. It was very good. Mom and Dad ordered half-pound burgers. I, opting for something lighter, ordered a French dip sandwich au jus. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was covered in mayonnaise. Dad and I switched orders and he says it was the best French diphe’s ever had. I’m happy for him.

We didn’t realize how much the previous day’s activities had taken out of Dad. He ended up opting out of our planned sightseeing for a quiet day in the room. Mom and I caught a cab at the front of the hotel with plenty of time. The cab driver got to the corner of our hotel, made a right turn and was pulled over by a cop. Apparently the road we were on was a thru fare on weekdays and we had made an illegal turn. The cops wanting to thoroughly assert their authority over him made us wait, and wait and wait. After about ten minuets with no sign of the cops, Mom decided to bail on our poor cab driver. Having not even made it past our hotel we simply walked through another door, through the lobby and out the front again. A very confused looking bellman hailed us another cab. Once we got in and told him we wanted pier 78 and had to be there in 15 minutes. Nearing the corner of our hotel cab driver number two looked like he was about to make the same turn our last poor driver made. Mom quickly explained the fate of our last driver and he said “Oh yeah, I fuggot abou’ tha’. ” Surveying the traffic he asked me where the cops were. I told him they had just gotten out of their car and were walking towards our poor cab driver. He located a very large delivery truck and hid behind it while making the same illegal turn.

Now unfortunately traffic was bumper to bumper. I said that our boat left at 1:30, well, we arrived and 1:28. We ran down the pier and thrust our tickets at the man. He said, “Oh you need boarding passes to get on. ” I ran to the ticket office line where he had said to get them and encountered a man in front of me who had no idea what he wanted. As I stood in line for five minuets trying to be patient with the absolute moron in front of me I was sure that the boat was going to leave without us. Finally he left and I obtained boarding passes. As Mom and I stepped onto the boat they shoved off. Phew!

It was sort of funny: our guide’s name on the boat tour was Noah.

He was very personable and cracked a lot of jokes, he also knew a LOT about New York. He made a lot of potentially dull information very interesting.

Because it was Cole’s birthday today I used my new cell phone to call her. We suffered from a bad connection and I had to redial her SIX TIMES!!

Dad was still pretty pooped when we got back to the hotel. We decided to cancel our dinner plans and have it at the Bull and Bear downstairs. It was delicious. I had a Queen cut of Prime Rib with garlic-mashed potatoes. Mom had a strip steak and Dad had Surf and Turf with some of the best lobster I’ve ever tasted. Desert was to die for. It was a real New York Cheesecake drizzled with strawberry sauce.

Another great day.

Day 4, 7/12/05 Spamalot

Yesterday the maid had accidentally turned on our alarm, it went off at 6:30. So Dad, planning ahead laszt night, turned the alarm to 10:00 instead, because we couldn’t figure how to turn it off. Still, it woke us up.

The continental breakfast is only served until 10:00 but there wasn’t much point anyway because we had a 12:00 lunch reservation at Jean Georges. Instead of having a normal menu it has a tasting menu at lunch so you pick two or three things to try. They looked so good we decided to try three. Amazingly, the courses were only $12 each.

This was the best meal I think any of us has ever had. Every dish was an explosion of flavor. My favorite was Dad’s scallop dish. Mom and Dad liked his sea bass. The meal was too good to express with words. There was a REAL cheese tray. Mom couldn’t remember the last time she had a real one. There were about twenty different cheeses to choose from. She was in heaven. I personally thought they stunk (well they did!).

Dessert was the most amazing part for Mom and I. It was a Jean Georges’ specialty, marshmallows, coffee, mint or vanilla. They were not exactly the consistency of a normal marshmallow they were a little softer. Dad turned his nose up but we thought they were great.

We returned to the hotel for a quiet afternoon.

At 6:30 we left the hotel headed for Spamalot, the hottest ticket on Broadway right now. I wasn’t as thrilled about it as I am about Wicked or I was about Lion King because it’s based on Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. Dad is the real Monty Python fan but Mom likes it okay, too.

Spamalot was playing in the Schubert Theater. The show stars Tim Curry as King Arthur, David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) as Gallahad, and Hank Azaria (voice of Homer Simpson) as Lancelot.

We had pretty good seats as far as location goes, they were second row balcony, but the seats were so uncomfortable!!! There was no leg room. And normally when someone tells you there was no leg room it means they only had a couple of inches between their knees and the seat in front of them but in this case “no leg room” means that my shins were digging into the seat in front of me. I bruised the right one from prolonged pressure. There were literally only seven inches between the seat and the one in front of it.

It turned out that the show was GREAT. We all loved it. We were all laughing so hard!! The cast was the original Broadway cast and you could tell, they had the audience in the palms of their hands. The show was just so funny. They had their timing down to a science. It was truly amazing that a line as simple as “Well, I guess we’d better go and find some Jews” could bring the house down.

Sarah Ramirez was incredible as the Lady of the Lake. Her range was amazing; there was no style she couldn’t sing in. She also had this really funny number called “The Diva’s Lament” in the middle of the 2nd act (she doesn’t have much to do in the 2nd act). In it she asks the audience “what happened to my part?”. It ends with her yelling for someone to call her agent. After haughtily finishing and stalking off stage the action continues as though uninterrupted. Reading her bio I discovered that among one of her less prodigious roles was the cashier in “You’ve Got Mail”.

Spamalot was the funniest show we’ve seen!!!

After purchasing a “Fechez la Vache” t-shirt, a pair of coconuts, a program and a killer rabbit puppet, we crossed the street and had dinner at an after Broadway standard, Sardi’s.

It was really good. I had Shrimp Sardi’s and Chicken. Mom and Dad both had cannelloni. The walls were lined with caricatures of famous Broadway stars. It was a really neat place. We all had a really good time.

Day 5, 7/13/05 Wicked

We woke up really late today (we didn’t start dinner until 10:00 last night). We elected to cancel our lunch reservation at the trendy La Bernardin and go to a tourist standard, Tavern on the Green.

Tavern on the Green has lots and lots of dining rooms. There is a hallway covered in stained glass and mirrors that curves around and eventually leads to a conveniently placed gift shop and several of the dining rooms. The one we ate in was pretty, with a view of the garden. It looked like we were eating inside an Easter egg. The colors were all pale yellow, pink, and blue. There were at least six miss-matched chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was a nice meal.

Tavern on the Green is located in Central Park. We hadn’t intended to stay afterwards but there were carriage rides launching from outside the restaurant. We took a 45-minute ride around the park. We had a nice Irish driver and a horse named Jimmy. He told us all about Central Park and he drove us past the statue of Balto, the boat launching station (kayaks), and the rows of famous writer statues.

Jimmy had a very plodding gait until we were about two minutes from his stable. Then he didn’t understand why a simple red light ought to keep him from his oats. It was fun. The carriage was white with red velvet seats.

Central Park is nice, much nicer than I imagined. The trees are big, beautiful and green. It was quite a shock to see green after so much gray. I felt really safe while we were going around, and it didn’t have anything to do with the two-ton horse attached to our carriage. There are also some really scenic places in Central Park by the waterways. It was a really enjoyable afternoon.

We went back to the hotel around 4:30 to let Dad rest until Wicked. All afternoon I had been so excited I could barely sit still. After all, I have been waiting for more than 6 months to see this show. Finally at 6:30 I couldn’t take it anymore and started getting ready to go out.

It’s funny, no one seems to take Broadway seriously anymore. Everybody wants to go, but nobody wants to dress up for it. Admittedly Lion King is a kids’ show and we were going to a Sunday matinee but the dress for Spamalot was pathetic.

Well, even if no one else dresses up for Broadway, Wicked was my favorite show and I was going to look good for it. I silently kicked myself for forgetting my green blouse (get it?) but got dressed in a blue blouse, long black skirt, and black vest. The show was at 8:00 so we wanted to leave the hotel at 7:00 to allow plenty of time.

We encountered a problem downstairs. The theater was only eight blocks away but eight blocks in high heals seems like eighty, so we were going to take a cab, as were twelve other couples. At this point I started to panic, I was NOT going to miss the opening of Wicked. But luck was in our favor, a limo driver capitalizing on the lack of cabs in the vicinity offered to take us the eight blocks for $45 + tip. Okay, whatever, just get us there in time for the show.

It ended up being a good thing because, fishing for more business, he offered to pick us up from the hotel the next morning for our flight. We arrived at the theater with plenty of time to spare.

Our seats were REALLY GOOD!!! Third row, center section. OH MY GOD!!! We sat down and I was in shock. I knew we had good seats but this was unbelievable. This theater was more modern than the other theaters we’d been in. This one felt newer, the seats were wide with lots of leg room and it was a lot bigger.

The other shows’ sets somewhat extended into the theaters, but this one was just incredible. The whole proscenium was covered with gears. Some of the gears were decorative but others actually worked. There were also dead vines over everything. Elaborate sets on each side of the stage incorporated balconies and staircases. A huge tin dragon hung above the arch of the stage, animated by cables!! 

Finally the show started, and WOW!! This was no longer the Broadway cast, but everyone was so good!! The lead was a look alike for Idina Menzel the original Elphaba. She sounded like her, and she looked just like her.

After listening to the music for six months I was still blown away by all the story that you can’t necessarily get from the music. It was so cool to see all of the acting that went into the songs that made them so great. All of the characters were so REAL. I have seen some great theater but if the best thing I ever saw was a 10 this was an 11. All of the talent that went into the show was just so good.

The number that really surprised me was “No Good Deed. ” On the CD it is a really good song, but live it stopped the show.

Because of where our seats were it felt like we were getting a private show for the first five rows of the audience. All of the major action of the show took place on the right side of the stage, literally ten feet in front of us. TEN FEET!! It was like they were telling this story to us. You could see all of their facial expressions and it was just so cool.

There were two wings of the stage that came out on either side of the orchestra pit and most of the major action happened on that wing right in front of us. I have never had an experience quite like this.

It was just a phenomenal show. I loved every minute of it. At the end of the show we would all have happily gone back in and watched it again.

After the show was over we loaded up on souvenirs, a Wicked shirt that says “Defy Gravity” on the back, a coffee cup, a program, a baseball hat, and a jacket.

My parents were hungry after the show so we went to the Stage Deli (recommended by Thomas) and they had sandwiches larger than their heads. I was too excited to eat.

All in all this has been the best trip EVER!!!