Thursday, May 31, 2012

New York - Day 2


Hot and muggy, Saturday began with a "workshop" with a Broadway Actor.  Smithsonian's use of the term "workshop" was a bit misleading, since the event was more of a lecture/Q&A.  The actor was Madeleine Doherty, who is currently appearing in Sister Act.  She had some interesting things to say, but was obviously unprepared and rather oblivious to her audience, spending most of the time rambling and reminiscing about how different New York was when she first arrived in the 80s.

From there we headed to Rockefeller Center for lunch and a tour of Radio City Music Hall.  I was pleasantly surprised by the tour, which was fascinating (especially architecture and the art of the interior) and was led by a fantastic tour guide (the kind of lady whom you love right away because she's obviously awesome and very, very good at putting people at ease).

Next up was a tour of Lincoln Center.  The ABT was performing in the Opera House, so sadly my students couldn't even glimpse the lobby of the building I had most wanted them to see.  We toured some of the other buildings on campus, though, and got to peek in at the matinee performance of Susan Stroman's new ballet.  It was enough to whet the kids' appetite, and many of them expressed an interest in seeing a ballet for themselves.

Dinner was at a sandwich shop in the Fashion District, and the rain that had been looming all day finally burst into a downpour while we were at the restaurant.  We had some time to kill before that evening's show, so I asked Tim if we could branch out on our own again.  He readily agreed, so I put up my umbrella and led my troops up a few blocks to the nearest metro station.

I bought single-use passes for each of them, and we passed through the turnstiles into the Times Square station.  I gave the kids a quick run-down on how to read the signs, then led them to the shuttle to Grand Central Station.

Once there, though, the kids showed far more interest in riding the subway more than in seeing the train station.  So, in one of those happy fits of teaching inspiration, I said, "Okay.  Get us to Union Square."  They looked at me with disbelief at first.  They were in charge?  But what if they screwed up?  I just smiled.  "You can do it," I said.  "I'll get us to the show on time if you get lost, but you can do this.  Get us to Union Square." 

Two of the kids said, "I'm on it!" and immediately led the group over to the nearest subway map.  They consulted it and each other several times before turning to me with a tentative course to take.  "Is that right?" they asked. 

"Let's find out," I said.  "Lead the way."

And they did.  They were, in fact, quite right about the path and we arrived at the Union Square station in just a few minutes.  I congratulated them, and asked, "Are you ready for more?"

"Yes!" they cried.  So I gave them a new destination, one that would require a few transfers.  They figured that one out (and watched some subway performers and some giant rats scuttling along the rails as well, much to their delight and disgust), I gave them a new destination, one that was even trickier, and appointed different leaders from the group to make sure everyone was paying attention.  With 15 minutes left until we needed to be at the theater, I gave the group one last task - to get us to Times Square.  They did it perfectly (albeit with a little coaching from me about the difference between local and express trains).  We exited onto 42nd Street and I led them to the theater, delighted by their self-congratulations and their new-found pride at how easy it is to get around the city.

Then, Newsies.  I have mixed feelings about the show itself.  On one hand, the 14-year-old in me still loves the old movie version and was naturally offended by most of the changes made to it (and there were many).  This version lacks any nuance whatsoever - the plot races by on even more historical inaccuracies than the movie, and it feels like every emotion, every moment is shouted at you at top speed ("I WANT TO MOVE TO SANTA FE!  PULITZER'S A JERK!  WE SHOULD STRIKE!  STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! HOW DO I RUN A STRIKE AND MOVE TO SANTA FE AT THE SAME TIME?!  OH, NO, CONFLICT!").  Essentially, it has same lack of nuance and character development as all of the other Disney shows up on Broadway right now.

Conversely, the dancing and singing were terrific, if a bit high strung.  "Carrying the Banner" was a series of stunts and tricks, and they gave away their best choreography on that opening number so the remainder of the show was an ongoing repetition of the same stunts, albeit with a few prop tricks with newspapers sprinkled in along the way (Rachel - we should totally steal their tricks dancing on newspapers for the show next year).  At first, I was not happy at all with the show (except for the sets, which I did admire).  About halfway through, though, I realized that if I stopped looking at it as a play or even as a version of one of my favorite childhood movies, and instead watched it with the same perspective that I watched Lord of the Dance, it became a lot more enjoyable.  Just think of it as a concert - a showcase of dance and singing.  Good theater it is not.  But it is fun to watch, and whoo boy are those boys good at leaping.

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