I went to Manhattan, partly to see the X-Files movie with my close personal friend and former college roommate Aiko, and partly because there are so many cool things to do there and I could sleep on Aiko's and Elaine's floors for free. What can I say, I'm cheap and desperately needed to get out of Boston. And I have generous friends (not that they don't come sleep at my house with equal frequency...).
I was Very Busy while I was there, and saw Ragtime, Freak, Cabaret, A View from the Bridge and RENT (once). I also did other stuff too. I highly recommend the Museum of Television and Radio, which is one of the cooler ideas for a museum ever. It's basically a viewing museum as opposed to a museum with exhibits, and you go through their huge database of TV shows (unless you're interested in radio, and then you go through their radio database) and choose shows you want to watch. Then you sit in a tranquil room full of people watching television and view your shows with cozy headsets. Your own private Nirvana. It's on 52nd St near 5th Avenue, and costs only $4 for students, a heavenly bargain. I also visited MoMA, which I usually enjoy, but it was too crowded with annoying tourists that day, so beware. The sculpture garden is a nice place to sit and read or contemplate the scenery, as long as you don't mind cigarettes in your face.
Oh, also the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side is very cool, and their new Hall of Biodiversity is really worth seeing, as well as all the various evolution exhibits (human, mammalian and dinosaurish). The older dead mammal stuff is amusing in an antiquated sad and sorry kind of way as well.
Okay, on to the theatrical adventures. First of all, here are some tips on how to get hot tickets without waiting a year to see the show or paying $75 a ticket. If you're willing to get up early and wait on line and stand to see the show, you can see almost anything for a comparable song. There are SRO tix available for Lion King and Cabaret. Both box offices open (to my knowledge) at 10am, but the SRO lines start before then. I got to the Cabaret line at about 8am and almost didn't get a ticket, so I'd recommend 7:30am. And you wait at the Roundabout, NOT the Kit Kat Club. I'd say 7:30am for the Lion King as well, maybe earlier. I didn't do that line (I'd seen it on an earlier trip), but I walked past it on my way to Cabaret and it was substantial at about 8am.
My Ragtime ticket was a same day (?) partially obstructed box, very far forward in the theatre (I think it was the A box on the Mezz level). It cost $41, and was worth it. I don't think there are bad seats at the Ford Center, so whatever you can get should be worthwhile. I don't know whether there are SRO there, but this obstructed seat was good. Very very close to the action, so you gave up having a clear view of some of the choreography and staging in a macro way, but traded for up close and personal action. Also Harry Houdini magically appears in the house right box during the second act and shakes your hand while the spot light shines on you both. Kind of cool.
The best thing I saw by far was Cabaret. It's out of control. Dark, intimate, powerful. Alan Cumming is unbelievable. He's stunning and sexy and troubled and vulnerable and totally mesmerizing. Natasha Richardson I thought was pretty good, but overly cupie doll-ish for me. Her sung stuff was good, and she brings down the house in the second act (Life is a Cabaret, or whatever the official title of that song is). Oh, if you get Cabaret SRO, get the Mezz spots and not the Orchestra if you can get them. Much better view of the stage from higher up. From the Orchestra you apparently can't see the band at all.
Ragtime is really good. Very grand, sweeping, formal Broadway kind of show. A big difference from the raw, intimate stuff in Cabaret and RENT. Some really wonderful performances, particularly Marin Mazzie and Peter Friedman. Brian Stokes Mitchell is very good, but I didn't quite think he was all that, as advertised. Audra McDonald, who won the Tony, has a wonderful voice, but her part isn't that big so I didn't quite get it. She's a tragic figure though, so who knows. The staging is very formal and there's a lot of flashy technical stuff. The whole production holds you at a distance and feel pretty theatrical. It would be nice if it drew the audience in more and left you feeling more involved with the characters. But overall I really liked it, and I love the music. Definitely worth seeing.
Freak, the John Leguizamo show which has since closed, was also great. He's so talented - hilariously funny. And he has a real gift for physical comedy also. The show, which is about his family and childhood, is hysterical and biting, but also very sad at points. Supposedly he's taping it for HBO, so that will be worth seeing.
View from the Bridge was impressive as well. I got my ticket from TKTS, a really good front mezz seat for $30. Anthony LaPaglia is very good in a lumbering, tortured kind of way. Allison Janney plays his wife and she is really spectacular. It's a very powerful production, particularly the first act as the tension builds. By the time the actual tragic stuff rolled around I was like, get it over with already, but the first 3/4 were mesmerizing. Scariness - Playbill Online says that Tony Danza is replacing Anthony LaPaglia later this month. I'd say hurry and see it before then.
I was almost ready to go home, and I had yet to see RENT, which was starting to bother me, even though I was hoping to avoid it and start down the path of getting Over It, but obviously that wasn't going to happen. I kept losing the lottery, and even was unable to get SRO one day. So I finally went down for SRO at the mat on 6/28, which also happened to be Will Chase's last day. I met up with a bunch of cool people, and here's a picture, if you're interested. Hooray for non-rabid RENT fans born before 1980. The show itself was really great, especially since the last thing I had seen was the Benny Co in Providence, which left me feeling kind of blah.
Will was on as Roger, and that was cool. I thought he was really good, especially considering he didn't do Roger very often. He has a great voice for the part, and was really into it. Jim P. is growing on me. He's very spunky. Also, every time I see Marcy she gets better and better. I thought her Out Tonight was awesome. Gwen is really the living end. I realized later that I had never seen her do Joanne before. The last few times I was in NY were before Fredi left, and then once we saw Shelley Dickinson do Joanne. Anyway, I thought Gwen was great. She's so tall! The Tango was hilarious. Tracey Langran was in for KLK, which was kind of a bummer. She was pretty good, but so much blonde hair! It was nice to see Shaun Earl up there after seeing him with the Angel Co for so long. There was lots of cheering and shouting for Will from the various peanut galleries. I was glad I went.
That's pretty much the report. It was swelteringly hot there. I don't think I want to move to NY (which was part of my rationale for the trip as well). Too expensive, for one thing. But such a nice place to visit. Go see Cabaret! Hurry!