My husband and I didn’t need the New York Times to tell us what we saw for ourselves. Broadway shows benefited from Spring Break and the Easter weekend. The shows grossed $28.9 million up from $23.9 million the week before. Some of that money came from us. In one week, we saw six Broadway shows and one hometown nightclub entertainer. Every venue looked to be a sellout.
Yes, Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world with its broad selection of singers, dancers, acrobats, ventriloquists, comedians, strippers, impressionists and magicians. However, for those of us who enjoy live drama and musicals, New York City, in particular the Broadway/Times Square area, is the place to be…at least until the Las Vegas Smith Center opens.
Our plan of attack is this. A week before our trip, we look at the New York Times theater recommendations and check off the shows we want to see. Then when we get to New York, we make our rounds visiting box offices. We learned years ago that a number of tickets are released near show dates by producers and cast members, and these tickets are often for very good seats. One year, we picked up tickets at 3:00 p.m. for a show that night and sat sixth row center right in front of former President Gerald Ford and former ambasador Henry Kissinger and their wives.
We pick out our first choice of show; this year it was “The Book of Mormon”, and go to that box office asking for tickets any night in the coming week. Once we get those tickets, we then go on to the other box offices and fill in our dates. Most Broadway theaters are within walking distance of each other, so we can get all our tickets within a couple of hours. On only one trip did we not get tickets for a show on our list.
Full price tickets for the Broadway shows we saw this year ranged from $125 to $175 each, so for us, expensive restaurants are not part of the trip, though we do patronize the wonderful New York delis. The lineup for the “TKTS” booth on Broadway each day indicates that many folks save money by purchasing “day of” leftover seats.
So here are the shows we saw a week ago:
Sister Act, the new Whoopi Goldberg-co-produced musical, was great fun. We saw it Monday night, and the show officially opened two days later. The New York Times gave Sister Act only a modest OK, but the other two New York newspapers loved it. And we (and the audience Monday night) loved it as well. It’s a show for the whole family; the cast (like all the casts we saw) is fabulous; we left the theater singing.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde was originally produced in 1895! Neither of us had ever seen this play, and we laughed often, More than a century later, it is still very funny. This revival starred Brian Bedford (who also directed) as Lady Bracknell, and he, as a she, gave a showstopping performance. We felt privileged to see this particular performance.
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is “the Robin Williams play”, and it is delicious in telling about the futility of war. Yes, the show has many laughs, but after leaving the theater, the stories of the disruption of lives affected by war linger.
The Book of Mormon is as wonderful a musical as everyone says. It is fun and funny and yes, it is a story that deals with the Mormon Church, but it does so without being cynical. If you loved The Producers and its silliness, you’ll love The Book of Mormon.
Good People stars the wonderful Frances McDormand. The drama tells of a minimum-wage earner who loses her job and subsequently meets with an old boyfriend who has now become successful. Much humor is in the script, though the problems of our heroine are quite touching.
Billy Elliott is last year’s best musical (music by Elton John), and its 10 Tony Awards were well-earned. This is the story of a poor boy from an English mining town who finds that instead of boxing lessons, he is drawn to dancing lessons. Though the English accents are sometimes hard to decipher, nothing in the story is lost. The many young people in the cast were wonderful. Lots of energy in this show.
Overall the “best of the best” in American theater is in New York. We must add, however, that many of Broadway’s theaters, though picturesque, are not comfortable. For the new, larger American, the seats and aisles are narrow, and often the restrooms are on lower levels with no elevators available. I sat next to one six-footer whose knees for an hour and a half touched the seat in front of him; his legs were numb when it was all over. And yet…..we still flock to New York’s theaters.
I have included a video of scenes from the Times Square/Broadway area where we spent most of our time. Being on the Las Vegas Strip on a Saturday night is like being at the center of the universe. The same thing can be said for being in Times Square on most any night.
And what was the one nightclub we visited? It was Feinstein’s (as in Michael Feinstein) at Loews Regency where Las Vegan Clint Holmes appeared from April 19-23. Feinstein’s serves dinner, with the show being a separate charge. As fans, we were happy to see that the New York Times gave Holmes a great review as did TheaterMania.com.
We attended Holmes opening night show. Also in the audience was Harry Belafonte (84, tall, elegant and very gracious), Liza Minelli (she looked great), Gloria Ruben (attractive singer, actress, social activist), Leslie Bricusse (composer, lyricist & playwright who wrote “What Kind of Fool Am I” which is in Holmes’ show) and Paige Davis (she does those RC Willey commercials and is gorgeous in person). Ms. Davis was sitting across the aisle from us, loving every number, whistling and practically jumping out of her seat.
Next to us were three women, Dottie, Debbie and Lyn, who were also long-time fans. Two of the women and their husbands once saw Holmes every Monday night in Atlantic City for a month and had come to Las Vegas and met Holmes here as well. Sadly, both husbands have since passed away, but the ladies made a point to come to New York for Holmes’ show, and clearly, they were having a great time.
Lots of t-shirts are for sale saying, “I (heart) New York”. For many reasons, we do, too.