Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NYC Sightseeing [picture heavy post]

Hubs and I will be sharing our birthday presents and taking another trip to NYC in November. Earlier we heard rumblings that one of my favorite actresses, Emma Stone, might be taking a role along side Alan Cumming in Cabaret on Broadway. Once the rumors were confirmed we knew we had to go back. With our next trip to New York booked I figured I better get on with finishing up my original NYC posts.

In the week we were in New York we tried to get in as much sightseeing as possible without overly exhausting ourselves. In the end I think we saw pretty much everything on our list of NYC sights.

We didn't do much sightseeing on our first day in New York. We mostly familiarized ourselves with the subway system and caught a matinee of Cinderella.

We hit the ground running on our second day in New York by going to the top of Rockefeller Center as soon as they opened. It was a nice clear day and we were early enough to beat the crowds allowing us to really enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.
L to R: city view and central park view from Rockefeller Center
Then we were off to a boat tour around half of the island of Manhattan with Circle Line Cruise. A friend of mine who lives in New York highly recommended doing a boat tour which gave us a pretty nice overview and some history behind some of the sights we planned to see later in the week.
top L to R: Lady Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Empire State Building from Circle Line Cruise
bottom L to R: Staten Island Ferry and lower Manhattan skyline
After the boat tour was over we rushed over for our Daily Show taping. After that we were off to see Avenue Q off-Broadway.
Before the end of the night we stopped by the Rockefeller Center one more time to take in the view with the city lights on. Again we were lucky to go late enough that there wasn't much of a crowd and we could enjoy the view without all the hassle of waiting in line or having people photobomb our pictures.
L to R: night view of Central Park and the city from Rockefeller Center

The next day we spent window shopping in SoHo. We also went to check out Eataly, an Italian-style market in the Flatiron District. So many people had mentioned we should check it out when we were getting suggestions for our New York trip. I thought it was so strange that people would recommend visiting a market, but once we entered I totally understood why it was so highly recommended. It really was a sight to see unto itself.
L: flat iron building
R top to bottom: handmade pasta and huge cheese selection in Eataly
That evening we went to our Tonight Show taping.

The following morning we spent in downtown. We started with our trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We spent some time at the Statue of Liberty where we were able to go up to the pedestal and visit the museum. But we just briefly got off the ferry to snap some quick photos of Ellis Island...since none of our relatives would've immigrated through there it wasn't really a point of interest for us.
L to R: Lady Liberty up close and personal, windy stairs up to the crown, replica of the torch
Once the ferry brought us back we headed to Wall Street to check out the financial hub of the United States.
L to R: rubbing the bulls balls for good luck, New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street,
and Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street
We then made our way to the 9/11 Memorial. Unfortunately for us we weren't able to go to the museum since it was scheduled to open a couple weeks after our trip. Although we were really disappointed that we couldn't go to the museum I'm glad we were able to pay our respects at the memorial. It's such a beautiful and peaceful place with such a tragic history behind it. I definitely got a little teary eyed being there.
L to R: 9/11 memorial pools and Freedom Tower
Then we made the long track across the Brooklyn bridge which provided a pretty awesome view of the Hudson River.
walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
We finished the day off with A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

We spent Thursday morning wandering around Central Park. Even though it was a gloomy morning it was impossible for me to day dream about how lovely it must be to live close enough to stroll the park every day. We even had a Gossip Girl moment as we sat on the Met steps.
That afternoon we strolled around in Grand Central Station. It's amazing to think how many trains stop there and go through New York everyday.
top L to R: hanging out in Central Park on a rainy day, Bethesda Fountain, and spotted on the Met steps
bottom L to R: outside and inside Grand Central
We ended the day with Rocky.

On our last day in New York we walked along the High Line which is a park built on a historic freight rail line above the Lower West Side of Manhattan. We took one last walk through Central Park and then made our way to FAO Schwartz for some window shopping. Our last stop on our trip in New York was MOMA where we learned that we aren't huge fans of modern art. But since we got in free for Uniqlo's Free Friday Nights so we couldn't really complain.
L to R: strolling along the High Line, of course we had to check out the Lego displays in FAO Schwartz,
and enjoying Van Gogh's Starry Night

We sure had a ton of fun playing all over the city. Next up I'll be sharing some of our favorite eats from the trip.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NYC Musicals: Rocky

On the Thusday we were in New York we planned to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neal Patrick Harris. It was the musical that hubs bought tickets for as soon as we knew we'd be in New York because we love NPH. Needless to say we were super excited to see that show. However, it wasn't until we were on our way to pick up our tickets from will call that we realized we'd made a terrible mistake. Apparently we put Hedwig on  the wrong day in our calendar and booked A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder for the same day. We completely missed Hedwig without even knowing it! We hurried over to the box office to see if there was anything we could do to get tickets, but they informed us that tickets were sold out over a month in advanced are escorted Heartbreaking to say the least.

We sadly walked toward Times Square where I proceeded to get separated from hubs in the hoards of people when he crossed a street before I was able to. Thank goodness for cell phones! After being reunited we made our way over to the TKS booth to see if there was anything we wanted to see. Hubs had been pointing out the Rocky billboards everywhere we went in New York but I was less than excited to see a musical based on a movie I'd never seen. But since hubs was so forlorn about messing up our Hedwig tickets I suggested we see Rocky in hopes of cheering him up. The musical is up for a few Tony awards including best actor in a musical and best scenic design so I figured it couldn't be so bad.

Since I haven't seen the movie I can't attest to how true the musical is to the movie, but hubs says that they did a pretty good job. To me the story seems pretty depressing up until the big fight at the end, but again apparently that's how it's supposed to be. The actor who played Rocky definitely had the Sylvester Stallone voice down, but strangely had a very distinct country twang whenever he sang. I honestly wasn't very impressed with the lyrics throughout the musical. For some reason they seemed forced. But maybe that's just what happens when you're trying turn a non-musical movie into a musical.

Even though I wasn't blown away by the story or lyrics of Rocky I'm glad we saw it for it's production value alone. If this play doesn't win best scenic design I will be shocked. The stage design of this show is absolutely incredible. From the little things like the rain that trickles down the windows in scenes where it's raining to the cameras they use to put up live images so it looks like we're really watching the news coverage of Rocky training for the big fight. But most impressive is the boxing ring that moves seemlessly around the stage throughout the show. In fact for the fight scene between Rocky and Apollo Creed a regulation sized boxing ring slides out into the audience and a jumbo tron drops from the ceiling just like you'd see at a real boxing match. The audience members sitting in the center of the first 10-15 rows are escorted on stage to sit in bleachers to watch the big fight. It really makes you feel like you've been transported into the movie. I can't imagine how they would possibly take such a large production on the road so if you liked the movie I'd reccomend seeing the musical in New York just for the sheer amazingness of the set.

Friday, May 30, 2014

NYC Musicals: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

About 1-2 weeks before we left for New York the list of Tony nominations were released. Upon reviewing the list of nominees, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder clearly stoodout amongst the crowd with a whopping 10 nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. Hubs insisted that we try to get tickets for this musical while I tried to convince him that if this musical was as good as it seemed that it would probably be in next years line up for us as SHN season ticket holders. As usual hubs won after arguing that the people nominated from the musical for best actor in a musical and best featured actress in a musical wouldn't be performing in the traveling version. We just lucked out and got some of the last tickets available for the week we were in New York.

The musical is a comedy about a gentleman who finds out that his late mother was from a very prestigious family, but was disowned after marrying her less than prestigious husband for love. He learns that he is actually 9th in line to inherit earldom. With that knowledge in handhe sets forth to eliminate the 9 relatives (all which are played by a single actor) ahead of him in order to earn his rightful spot as an earl.

I am sooo glad hubs convinced me that it was absolutely imperative that we see this musical while in New York. The musical was spectacular and absolutely hilarious. Jefferson Mays, who plays all 9 of the relatives who are eventually off'd was absolutely brilliant. In fact the entire cast is quite sensational. I'm so happy that we had an opportunity to see this musical and I hope to see it in line up for next years SHN season.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

NYC Tapings: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

A few months before Jimmy Fallon took over the Tonight Show we became pretty avid Late Night fans after seeing a couple hilarious skits that were popular around the interwebs. Once we started DVR-ing Late Night we were instantly hooked. Some of my favorite skits were Ew with Lindsey Lohan, the worlds most epic lip sync battle, #hastags with Justin Timberlake, and this amazing rendition of "Your Body" with Christina Aguilera . I mean how can you not love a guy who has a serious bromance with JT? Needless to say, we were back to excited when Jimmy Fallon got upgraded to the Tonight Show and even more excited at the opportunity to see a live taping of the show.

Similarly to picking up tickets for the Daily Show our email confirmation said that we needed to pick up our tickets at the NBC Experience Store by 3:40. However, just like the Daily Show they overbook the tapings so we started milling around (aka: stalking the NBC Experience store) around 1:30. We were told to come back at around 2:30. So we basked in the sun and people watched near Rockefeller Center and checked back in around 2:15 when they let us upstairs to wait for them to hand out our official tickets. By that point there were about 10 people ahead of us.

Before they started handing out tickets they let us know that everyone's tickets would have either a number or a letter written on it. They assured us that the system was arbitrary and not to fret over which you got it because it just meant that you would be lining up to get into the studio at a different time. We were also told that there would be no food or drinks allowed in the studio and that once inside we couldn't use our phones or cameras and wouldn't be allowed to leave to go to the restroom. They started handing out tickets around 3 or 3:30. We were given alphabet tickets and were told to meet back in the lobby of the Rockefeller Center at 4:45.

We arrived just at 4:45 and were quickly ushered through airport-like security. After clearing security we were lined up alphabetically in one of the hallways in Rockefeller Center. While standing in our line we noticed a very distinct difference between our line (the alphabet line) and the other line (the numbers line). Even though the producers had told us that the selection of alphabet versus line tickets were arbitrary, the alphabet line had a significantly lower average age than the numbers line. They let us into the taping studio one group at a time we were seated in the second row front and center...I thought I was going to die of excitement. Once we were seated we looked around, interested to see how the alphabets and numbers would be arranged in the studio. By the end it was clear that the alphabets were seated up front and center...god forbid we see old people in any audience shots (JK!) The nice thing about the Tonight Show is that they show highlights from previous shows to keep the audience entertained since they don't let you use your phones inside the studio.

Similar to the Daily Show they have a comic come out and warm up the audience. The guy reminds us that we are the "laugh track" so we should laugh heartily at anything remotely funny that Jimmy or the guests say. Then the Roots came out and played a few songs before they bring Jimmy out to do the show. Once the show got started we realized that being so close to front and center wasn't all that great since the cameras were constantly moving around and blocking a lot of our view...boo. Just like the Daily Show, once the show gets started the entire taping runs pretty quickly.

The guests that night were Seth Rogan, Matt Bomer (plays Neal Caffery in one of our favorite TV shows, White Colllar), and Coldplay. Like I mentioned in a previous post we signed up for tickets for a couple of different days so that we could choose the day that had the best guests. Even though our view was always a littlee obstructed it was a great show.

Once the show was over Jimmy Fallon did a run up and down the aisles to high five the audience members and I even saw him sign an autograph or two. After that he dug out pretty quickly and the warm up comic came back out keep us company as they escorted us out from the back of the studio to the front.

After getting out from the taping we were starving! All that cheering and laughing really works up an appetite. We grabbed some yummy ramen and headed back to our room to rest up for our next day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

NYC Musicals: Avenue Q

While in New York we went to see Avenue Q at an off-Broadway theater. I had heard great things about Avenue Q and it won Tony's in 2004 for best musical, best book, and best original score so I figured why not. I'd say this is like a very grown up version of Sesame Street with muppets and everything. The play is essentially about a typical Gen Y yuppie  who's fresh out of college with a BA in English and trying to muddle through the beginnings of true adulthood. It's a story that I think really resonates with my generation and their desire to find a meaningful and fulfilling job that gives their life a purpose. This musical is full of hilarious grown up topics ranging from racisim to using the internet for porn.

I really didn't know what to expect in terms of the caliber of the performance for an off-Broadway show so being the true pessimist I am I braced myself for the worst. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised at how awesome the actors were. There are several actors who play multiple characters absolutely seamlessly and the singing was fantastic.  I think the most impressive part for me was how well animated the actors made their muppets. It's really easy to let them fade to the background and just focus on the muppets. While this musical might not be for everyone, I'd definitely recommend it for the lighthearted who (spoiler alert) aren't easily offended by things like simulated muppet sex.

Monday, May 19, 2014

NYC Tapings: The Daily Show with John Stewart

On ourfirst full day in New York we went to The Daily Show with John Stewart. They start handing out tickets to people who've already reserved tickets at 2:30. We showed up at about 1:30 and there was already quite a line ofF ople which made me pretty nervous. As I mentioned in my previous post, they overbooked these tapings, so I was a little worried that we might not get tickets. Luckily, the line of people behind us started to grow and made  me feel a little more at ease. A little after 2:30 they started handing out tickets and we were probably in the last group of 10-15 people they had tickets for. *whew*

After successfully obtaining our tickets we were told to return to the studio by 4:30. We took that time to hightail it to the TKTS booth in Times Square to try to snag some show tickets for after the taping. We were in luck, and were able to get tickets to an off-Broadway production of Avenue Q (more on that later).

We headed back to The Daily Show studio and were lined up in order of our ticket numbers. Before letting us into the studio a hipster looking girl made a few announcements about what we should expect as we headed in. We were to use the restrooms before entering the studio as once we were seated we would not be allowed to get up. Once we had relieved ourselves we were to proceed through security which was comprised of a bag check and metal detector. We were told that food, drinks, cameras, and mace/pepper spray wouldn't be allowed into the studio and would need to be left with security and picked up after the show. Hipster girl went on to say that before the show John would come out and answer a few audience questions. We were specifically told not to ask for autographs/pictures or ask creepy questions (ie: will you marry me?)

Once inside the studio we were allowed to take pictures of the studio with our phones. Of course we took an obligatory selfie with the Daily Show desk in the background. After what seems like hours but is probably more like 45 minutes a comedian came out to warm the audience up. He taught us how to cheer and laugh loudly which is very important for us to do since "there is no laugh track" and we were it. We were then instructed to put our phones away and keep them there for the remainder of the taping.

As hipster girl promised, John came out be for the show started and answered a few audience questions...none of which were interesting enough for me to remember. He then took his seat behind his desk and they started the show. Everything runs amazingly smoothly and quickly with very minimal pauses for the commercial breaks. Our guest was NY Yankee, Mariano Rivera which made for some fun banter between the two of them since John is a NY Mets fan.

Once the taping was over we were told to keep our phones away and were quickly ushered out of the studio. We were out of there by about 5:30 or 6. Just enough time for us to grab a quick bite to eat and hurry over to Avenue Q.

Check out my blog on our NYC preparations to see how we got in on this taping.

Monday, May 12, 2014

NYC Musicals: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

On our first day in NYC hubs and I started our day with a traditional upper west side brunch at Good Enough to Eat. After we'd had our fill we made our way back to Times Square so we could check out what was available for a matinee at the TKTS booth. Hubs was so excited to see that tickets were available for Cinderella since it's featuring Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Drescher for a limited time. I, on the other hand, was a bit apprehensive about sa musical with Carly Rae Jepsen as the primary actress.  Don't get me wrong, I get all teeny bopper when Call Me Maybe comes on the radio, I was just a little concerned with how her singing would be sans studio post-production and even more concerned with her acting abilities. Never the less, tickets were 50% off original matinee prices so I figured even if it was terrible at least it'd be cheap.

 I've never actually read the original Cinderella story and only know Disney's Cinderella story from the movie so I'm not sure how close the musical was too the original story, but it was quite different from Disney's version. Because the plot was so different from what I know the story to be it was a lot more interesting to me.  As much as I've enjoyed Disney's adaptations of Beauty and the Beast or Mary Poppins as musicals there's always a little bit of excitement missing for me since I already know what's going to happen.

Unfortunately, Fran Drescher wasn't performing at our show. Even though the actress playing the evil stepmother was great I think that it would've been awesome to see Fran Drescher do it. But I must say I was surprised at how good Carly Rae Jepsen's performance as Cinderella was. She did a great job singing and her acting didn't induce cringing like I thought it would. I must say I have a lot more respect for her as s singer now... if only she would sing some songs with substance in them.

Overall,  I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this musical and would definitely recommend it to people who were looking to see something fun and light to watch.