Every spring in New York City, there is a flurry of new plays and musicals opening on Broadway to beat the deadline for Tony Award nominations. Of course productions do also open other times of… More
Steinway Tower: 111 West 57th Street
Among the super-tall skyscrapers along “Billionaire’s Row” on 57th Street, it’s impossible to miss Steinway Tower, at 111 West 57th Street. It looks impossibly skinny, tapering dramatically (see below for a recent side view I took from Central Park West recently).
The skyscraper sits on top of the building that was Steinway Hall, a 16-story landmarked building that was the marquee showroom for Steinway pianos. The condominium is now closing on residences, some in the landmarked building but most in the tower. The idea of skinny “pencil towers” like the tower portion of 111 West 57th took off in Hong Kong in the 1970’s, and the mechanics of creating a stable building that is this high and this slender are so complicated that there is a documentary about the engineering of the building (you can find it here and it is really interesting!).
After watching this impossible skyscraper rise over the past several years, this month I was fortunate enough to see a model apartment on the 43rd floor twice, and even go up to the 76th floor to see a triplex penthouse still being finished. As you can see in the photo above, the tower is perfectly centered for a unparalleled view of the entire length of Central Park.
First, entering the lobby, the scale and grandeur of the design is clear. I loved how details like door handles echoed the iconic look of the tower.
In the tower, each apartment is at least one entire floor. As the building tapers, the penthouses become duplexes or triplexes. For the model apartment, a full floor, the elevator opens into the home, and looking to the north, the open living/dining/kitchen area features those full Central Park views.
Just as the door handles in the lobby reflected the silhouette of the tower, I loved that the cabinets in the kitchen resembled piano keys, another sly nod to the history of the site.
While I knew to expect the Central Park views, I was not expecting to see that the bedrooms with south views had such incredible NYC skyline views. I posted a few videos on Instagram from these rooms (see them here and here).
And the primary dressing room – with window – and bathroom with giant golden tub! I loved the bathroom so much I posted a video of it as well, and used one of my favorite songs to represent it (Jill Scott’s “Golden”). See a 360 degree view of the primary bathroom here.
Going up to the high-floor penthouse, the windows were dirtier since it’s still be finished, but the difference in the the view was pretty obvious.
It’s always fun to see a project when not finished yet, and imagine what it will be like when completed and filled with fabulous decor. This spiral staircase is going to be pretty dramatic.
And although I was not able to go outside, this penthouse has outdoor space! This is the view looking south. I believe the top penthouse has a wrap-around terrace with 360 degree views.
This full-service building also has a fabulous pool and large outdoor terrace for the use of residents. Let me know if you’d like me to make an appointment to show you this one-of-a-kind place to live in New York City.
Missing my city while still in it: NYC, Spring of 2020
January and February of 2020 were just another winter in NYC: cold, punctuated with occasional extreme cold, but not that much snow this year. I showed apartments, went to sales meetings and my office, and enjoyed the city as I always did: experiencing the performing arts multiple times per week, trying out bumper cars on ice at Bryant Park, and a public art installation just south of Times Square that involved giant seesaws in the middle of Broadway. There were reports on the news of a new virus in Wuhan, China. By the first week of March the alarms were beginning to sound louder. On March 6 (two days after I enjoyed a preview performance of Company with Patti Lupone), Compass, where I am an Associate Broker, suggested that agents work from home when possible. On March 7 I attended an all-day board retreat at the Larchmont Yacht Club, where one topic of conversation was contingency plans around the virus. Just a few days later, Thursday, March 12, Broadway and all performing arts in NYC were shut down for a month “resuming the week of April 13.”
By March 16, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo had placed our state on “pause.” Real estate showings were not allowed, and everything was shut down except for grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses (which included bike and liquor stores). People were encouraged to stay home at all times except for getting essential items like food, or for exercise outdoors.
The city quickly became a ghost of itself. Many who had another place to go left the city, and the rest of us spent most of our time inside our apartments. We all began to hear of friends who were sick, or even very sick.
As March crept into April, it became clear that we were far from the peak of infection, despite weeks of lockdown. As we headed toward the second week of April, when we did hit our peak, most of us learned that someone we knew had died, or was close to it.
In April, we began to see refrigerated trucks outside hospitals. The US Comfort docked a few blocks from my apartment, and the Javits Convention Center was set up for hospital overflow (although neither of these turned out to be heavily used). There were hospital tents in Central Park across from Mount Sinai Medical Center.
At first we were advised not to wear masks; but then we were. This is the way science works with a new phenomenon: educated guesses are made until more data come in that suggest alternate approaches. Going out for a walk every day for exercise and fresh air was eerie at times. Where were all the people? To stand in Times Square in the middle of the day and have no one else in your photos was previously not something I could have even imagined.
As April came to a close, it became clear that what we were doing – isolating, distancing, wearing masks – was working and our numbers began to improve. Signs began to appear everywhere showing what 6 feet of distance looked like, and reminding us that we are “New York Tough.”
Meanwhile, the entire city seemed to lean out of their windows, go up to their roofs, or out to their balconies or terraces, to applaud and make noise to thank the essential workers every evening at 7PM. It was incredibly touching that so many people did this, night after night, and it also served as a way to feel less isolated. As we applauded with others, we also signaled to each other “I’m still here, and I’m glad you’re still here, too.”
As May turned toward June, our numbers were under control enough that we began hearing about the future of phased reopening. Simultaneously, protests over the death of George Floyd swept the city. Although the vast majority of these were peaceful, some of the unrest led to the city having a curfew for several nights.
In June, the city began to slowly reawaken. Times Square was still quite empty, but clever signs were put up to remind people of safe distance and mask wearing, with hat tips to beloved Broadway shows.
On June 22, Phase 2 reopening meant the return of real estate showings – with extensive safety measures in place. Appropriately, new Fair Housing disclosures and notices also became a part of our new normal, along with the Covid-19 health questionnaires and liability forms.
Now in August, it is clear that it will be a long time before New York City can reopen performing arts, indoor dining, and so many aspects of life that make living here such a rich and enjoyable experience. This pandemic has taken NYC’s super powers – so many people from so many places, all crowded together and often experiencing things together in crowds indoors – and turned them against us. But there is more to New York City than these experiences, although of course I can’t wait to be able to have our city back to normal again. We have shown that we could do the difficult things and make the difficult choices to save as many lives as possible, led by data and science, and beat back a virus that had taken hold before we realized it. If we can continue to do so, we can stave off this enemy until we can declare it vanquished and return safely to the activities we love. To meet a group of friends and hug them, to sit in a darkened Broadway theatre and be transported, to eat and drink and laugh and sing together – I believe we will do these things again. Many times before people have counted NYC out, and yet we always rise again like a phoenix. Being patient is hard, but we will rise again.
London Holiday Decor and Markets 2022
My beloved New York City never shines as bright as between Thanksgiving and New Year’s – it’s hardly an original opinion, and yet I can’t help but to reinforce it. I have blogged several other years about holiday decor (here from 2014, here from 2015, here from 2016, holiday markets, Dyker Heights lights in 2019 and earlier in 2014, how NYC decorated during the pandemic in 2020, etc., etc.). But my second-favorite city is London, and they certainly know how to do the holiday season extravagantly as well. I have visited many many times over the years, but only once before during the holiday season (in 2011). I was fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving week in London just last month (2022). I simply couldn’t stop taking photos, and felt completely immersed in the holiday spirit during the entire delightful week. Here are a few of the highlights of the 2022 holiday decorations and markets as I came across them during my stay.
First, let’s talk about the Holiday Markets. They are all over London, and full of shopping, snacking, and eating opportunities. The market all along the south bank of the Thames was a lot of fun, stretching from the London Eye past the National Theatre and almost to the Tate Modern. There was a terrific market at Trafalgar Square, and a quite large and raucous one at Leicester Square. See here for a video of marshmallow toasting at the Leicester Square market.
Covent Garden, one of my favorite places to wander in London, has not only a Holiday Market added to the normal plethora of shops, but also fantastic decor, entertaining buskers, and restaurants along with snacks. Props to their classy use of a disco ball, which gives a subtle snow effect at night (see it here). I thoroughly enjoyed seasonal gingerbread and along with Ben’s cookies, which are always there – and always worth the wait!
Harrod’s was well-decorated as always, and I never go to London without including a lengthy visit to their food hall. In addition to looking at all the fun holiday foods, I was able to get several items to go for an impromptu lunch al fresco.
And Fortnum & Mason! Ah, to dream of receiving one of those huge Christmas hampers!
Borough Market is another of my favorite places in London, decorated festively, and providing an opportunity to have absolutely the best cheese sandwich in the world.
Somerset House has a wonderful skating rink – see here for a video including the cutest tiny skater.
Christmas trees are of course everywhere. I particularly liked the one at the London Transport Museum adorned with double-decker buses and the one at the Buckingham Palace gift shop entirely decorated by crowns.
In Hyde Park, they had set up a Winter Wonderland, with food, drink, and carnival rides. I discovered that a “helter skelter” is a traditional British ride where you sit on a mat and go down a curvy slide. There was a real ice slide that I went down – twice – on an inflatable tube, a haunted house, a fun house, and the opportunity to try “tornado chips” (a potato sliced in a spiral, skewered, fried, and dusted with garlic salt – absolutely delish).
The wonderful thing about London during the holiday season is that you don’t even need to seek out decorations – you will come across them everywhere you go. They are all festive during the day but particularly magical at night. As the days grow so short and the nights so long, this celebration of light and joy is particularly appreciated.
Of course I enjoyed the London theatre scene while there, and indulged in several pints of draught lager as well as an absolutely yummy gingerbread milkshake spiked with Bailey’s (find it at Byron), but what made this trip special was being immersed in the London holiday spirit. And then I was able to come home to New York City and appreciate this most special time here as well.
Here’s to many merry celebrations as we all end 2022, and look forward with hope and anticipation to 2023!
The Museum of Broadway
There have always been good exhibits about Broadway theatre around the city that come and go. The Performing Arts Library has excellent displays – some more elaborate, like the Hal Prince exhibit a few years ago, and some as quick pop-ups like the one honoring Stephen Sondheim via his correspondence set up after his death almost a year ago. There was a terrific temporary exhibit about costumes around the time Broadway reopened after pandemic. And many theatres themselves have displays of old show art or even props or costumes from productions that have been in that theatre. But when I heard people were planning to create a permanent Museum of Broadway, I thought that was a splendid idea and knew I wanted to be there as soon as they opened. I was fortunate enough to be there on opening day, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The museum is on West 45th between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, right next to the Lyceum. You walk in through the gift shop (will exit there as well, two chances to shop!), head toward the giant Tony Award, and either purchase a ticket or scan in if you have purchased in advance.
Everything is completely themed – so when you are entering through a stairwell, you see information about warmups in stairwells before a show, backstage traditions, and even the bathrooms are disguised as dressing rooms.
The first room has a poster for every Broadway theatre, and information about the show currently there, as well as a QR code to go through to purchase tickets to the show. If an theatre is currently empty, the poster is blank, so this room will need to be constantly updated as shows come and go. You can see a video of this room here. I noted that the small group of people who saw 15 or more shows in a given year (and I am quite definitely in that group!) account for 28% of all tickets sold. And only 35% of tickets sales on Broadway are to New Yorkers like myself, so you quickly realize the importance of tourist dollars to the Broadway economy.
You might wait a bit to be let into the next room, as it features a lovely short film about the history of the Times Square theatre area. They let groups of people in at a time so that those enjoying the film aren’t constantly interrupted by people coming or going, and I appreciated that.
Then you begin the main portion of the museum, which is a timeline of Broadway. Each time period features costumes, props, information, and interactive displays with which to explore that era. The first was of course the vaudeville/Ziegfeld Follies period.
The next section featured Show Boat, often considered to be the first true musical theatre piece (rather than a revue). The cross section is of a tree trunk showing the time between 1927 when Show Boat first was produced, and 2022, the opening of the Museum of Broadway
The next section featured the “golden age” musicals such as Oklahoma, and the beginning of the Tony Awards.
Moving forward in time, there was a wonderful room dedicated to West Side Story, including a video highlighting the choreography. This was one of the many places you could insert yourself into the set, here behind Doc’s counter.
The next era included Cabaret, Hello Dolly and Hair (these costumes from the 2009 revival).
Interspersed with shows of the time were information and interactive exhibits about people who did important work in the time being portrayed (Hal Prince above, for example, or Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim here).
The large interactive exhibit about Company was in the timeline associated with when Company was first produced, but the sets shown here are from the recent Tony Award-winning revival (see a video of this room here.)
After “easing on down the road” from The Wiz, there was a large display about A Chorus Line, including this mirrored room, seen here on video.
After Annie, there was an interesting area about jukebox musicals, which are not all the same. As pointed out in the chart above, some are based on movies, others not, some feature the music of only one person/group (Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys MJ, A Beautiful Noise) and others of various artists (Moulin Rouge, Rock of Ages). They had a video screen showing clips from several of the jukebox musicals currently playing on Broadway that I expect will be changed out over time.
While Off-Broadway, The Public Theater has been an incubator for several shows that have gone on to Broadway. Continuing in time, there were small displays for Cats and La Cage Aux Folles.
The next room underlines the impact of the AIDS crisis on the Broadway community, and the creation of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Red ribbons cascade down next to a two walls filled with names of those who died of AIDS in the creative community.
Heading into the 80’s, there are displays for Evita, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and of course the Phantom of the Opera. A large beaded curtain features a hidden Phantom mask that you can only see from a particular angle (see it here).
The next, large, room highlights Rent. I really enjoyed this room, as it had costumes, sets, props, cute interactive aspects (ring a doorbell and see who shows up at the door), a telephone where you can listen in to casting recollections, and a place to draw your own recollection and add it to the digital tribute wall.
Moving forward, you can see props from The Lion King, Avenue Q, and The Producers (you can sit behind the desk).
While not one of the larger exhibits, I enjoyed this section about Spring Awakening.
I loved the 360-degree set showing Wicked inside the Gershwin Theatre. You can see the public areas but also the backstage areas for warm ups and dressing rooms, and the backstage machinery that makes the set pieces move.
After a small display for Hamilton, there are panels for shows that opened each year, and I really loved that there were blank panels for the next several years. It’s exciting to think of what might lie ahead for us on Broadway!
Leaving Broadway through the years, you enter a very informative session about the creation of a Broadway show, from initial playwriting, to production and design, casting, out-of-town tryouts, and arrival on Broadway. There are many video interviews with creatives explaining how stage managers/stagehands/makeup artists, etc., work.
There is a section after this which will have special exhibits that switch out over time. The first one is about the art of Al Hirschfeld, and even has a fun interactive way to create your own Hirschfeld caricature.
Exiting again through the gift shop, I left happy with what I had experienced. I already have plans to bring someone else to the museum in the next several months, and this is the kind of place that you can spend as long or as little as you want while there. I would say the bare minimum of time would be about 90 minutes, and more if you want to really watch the videos, read and listen to information presented, and study the props and costumes. Tickets are $39 and up, and a portion of every ticket sale goes to Broadway Cares. Broadway is the heart of New York City, and I think a museum dedicated to this art form fills a need. Also – it’s fun . . . don’t forget to enjoy and let the sun shine in!
The Upper East Side of Manhattan in October
When one thinks of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you often imagine rows of elegant townhouses and apartment buildings, interspersed with high-end shops, elegant restaurants, and schools with children in tidy uniforms. All those things are true, but they aren’t the entire story. The idea of the Upper East Side as a stuffy, reserved neighborhood is negated every October when walking through the gauntlet of Halloween decorations that adorn block after block in the neighborhood. Some decor is indeed elegant but much of it – much more than you would expect – ranges from spooky to terrifying. I have posted before about Halloween decor in NYC (here and here for instance) but this post is specifically about the Upper East Side this year, with a bonus of a dog costume contest held yearly in Carl Schurz Park!
I have posted a few videos on Instagram, too – here’s an example.
Here’s another video that I posted on Instagram. This was one of the more terrifying displays, and the sound was triggered by someone walking by.
Another Instagram video, just to give more of the flavor of being in front of one of these houses.
Although a lot of those photos may make the Upper East Side seem like a terrifying place in October, there are more light-hearted things to enjoy as well! One of the best is the yearly “Halloween Howl” dog costume contest held in that well-kept secret treasure of NYC, Carl Schurz Park in the Yorkville neighborhood of the Upper East Side (I’ve blogged about it before, in general and after a snowstorm). Here are a few photos from this year:
Now, a lot of these same townhouses decorate for the December holidays as well, but there is nothing quite like the gothic excess of so many of these decorations! Walking to an appointment on the Upper East Side in October, with the first touches of chill in the air, and taking in the sights of what my fellow New Yorkers have done to celebrate the season in the city – and share it with others – I am reminded once again of how fortunate I am to live and work in this vibrant city.
South Street Seaport
Heading to a concert at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find the area vibrant and busy – people were eating, drinking, there was a DJ outside playing music as people danced, all with spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge on one side, and an enormous four-masted schooner, the Pioneer, on the other. With the Fulton Street fish market having moved to the Bronx in 2005, the area no longer has a pervasive piscine smell, and the new shopping area that opened in 2018 mixes a variety of shopping and dining choices next to one of the oldest bars in the city (The Paris Cafe, from 1873) and the South Street Seaport Museum, one of several that make up America’s National Maritime Museum. Here’s what this revitalized mix of old and new in lower Manhattan has to offer.
Entering the Seaport area from Fulton Street as it dead ends on the East Side, right away the lighthouse and cobblestoned streets give one notice that you are entering one of the original areas of Manhattan settled by Europeans. In 1625, the Dutch West India Trading Company built the first pier nearby, and the port was a focus of trade with England. During the Revolutionary War, the port was occupied by the British for several years, and after the war many merchants returned to England, marking a slump in the Seaport’s fortunes. But by the mid-19th Century the port was booming again. Many of the buildings burned to the ground in a fire in 1835 but it recovered quickly and was at its peak as a maritime trading center again by 1850. Such history in this area, and you can sense it as you walk on cobblestoned streets past low brick buildings.
It’s also important not to forget that New York City had a market near here, between Water and Pearl Streets, in the early 18th Century for selling enslaved persons captured from Africa. We in NYC often choose not to look on this part of our history, but in 1730 42% of people in the city had enslaved persons, a higher percentage than any other city other than Charleston, SC. At this time in the city’s history, between 15 and 20% of the population was enslaved, and enslaved people literally built the city and fueled the economy that made the city run. There is a plaque nearby first installed in 2015 that reminds us of this, see it and read more here. I also highly recommend reading the 1619 Project from the New York Times to learn about this aspect of the city’s history.
The South Street Seaport was home to the Fulton Fish Market until it moved to the Bronx. Now with formerly commercial buildings turned into restaurants and bars, this area has become a very popular place to gather in the evenings. The new Jean-Georges development, Tin Building, just opened this month, and has everything from full-service restaurants and a wine bar to food to-go and a culinary shopping marketplace.
It wouldn’t feel like the Seaport if you didn’t have lovely ships to gaze at (and you can pay to visit or even take a sail on some of them). Check out the Clipper City if you want to go on a sunset sail. The Wavertree, a wrought iron tall ship typical of those that would have filled the Seaport in the mid 19th Century, and a few other ships can be visited as part of your ticket to the South Street Seaport Museum.
Industry Kitchen, under the FDR drive, has great views and I have enjoyed dining there on several occasions.
There’s an ipic movie theater and lots of shopping in the more recently developed sections of the South Street Seaport. Ipic has reserved stadium seating and food and drink service to your seat, like my personal favorite Alamo Drafthouse (which now has a theater near the Seaport in the Financial District to add to their original location in Brooklyn).
The view as you walk around the Seaport next to the East River encompasses Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Bridge. When I was there a DJ was playing music and people were dancing in the open spaces with this view as a backdrop (see my Instagram video here).
I was at the Seaport a few weeks ago for a concert at Pier 17 (Nick Lowe opening for Elvis Costello). Having been to two concerts there before lockdown, I was happy to see that the magic of this space for a concert venue is unchanged. When there aren’t concerts happening, you can go up to this space for drinks and enjoy the views as well.
The South Street Seaport is a part of New York City that reflects on its history – good and bad – and is adapting to serve the needs of the 21st Century. I was taken by the vibrancy of the area when there a few weeks ago, and it reminded me in some ways of the area around One World Trade, which has completely transformed itself over the past decade to be a destination area for entertainment, shopping and nightlife. And like that area, there are new development residential condo buildings being built to keep people in lower Manhattan after work hours are over (or work-from-home hours!). 130 William, near the Seaport, is an important new development designed by famed British-Ghanian architect, Sir David Adjaye. Such a project would have been unimaginable even ten years ago, but is now part of this neighborhood which, as New York City constantly reminds us in so many ways, is evolving and will continue to do so.
Rise New York
Have you ever been on the Disney ride “Soarin'”? It started out as “Soarin’ over California” at Disneyland’s California Adventure Park, and then a duplicate was installed at Disney World in Florida. You sit in a large device that simulates the experience of hang gliding while watching a large-format screen, originally showing scenes of different places in California, synching the visuals, movement, and even scents to create a sensory experience that I quite enjoy. (The visuals have been changed to fit the concept of soaring over the world, and now the ride in both American parks simulates flying over the Taj Mahal, an island in Fiji, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Wall of China, etc. There are also different versions of the ride now in Disney Parks in Tokyo and Shanghai which I have not yet experienced, but I digress . . .) Why am I discussing this Disney ride on a blog primarily about NYC? The answer is because there is a new venue in the Times Square area that culminates in what I can only accurately describe as “Soarin’ over New York City.” Well, of course I had to try it, and here is what I experienced.
Rise NY is located at 160 W 45th St, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and is open every day beginning at 10 AM, until 8PM on most nights but until 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays. There are timed tickets available in advance, and walk-up tickets subject to availability. Although I went primarily for the ride, I was interested in the walk through history of New York, with a focus on Times Square, that was more extensive than I had guessed in advance.
After a simulated subway ride with introductory video, you walk through the initial history of the city and then through exhibits related to specific themes.
I hadn’t fully appreciated the importance of the development of the elevator brake to the development of Manhattan as we now know it, with skyscrapers, but it makes a lot of sense!
After an interesting display about the skyline, the next exhibit related to the entertainment industry, specifically television.
Given my own special interest in Broadway, I really enjoyed seeing the room devoted to its importance to NYC, with costumes and videos.
There were also areas devoted to the iconic Beatles performance at the Ed Sullivan show, the music scene including the Village People, and NYC in the movies (all video so I didn’t take photos).
After all these displays, the set-up for “Soarin’ over NYC” (OK, not its actual name but I can’t seem to think of it as anything else!). You go back in time to see the ball drop in Times Square in 1958 (although the ball has been dropped there since 1907, these were the early days of it being televised nationally).
Entering “Sky Studio,” we find ourselves in the same kind of simulator used for “Soarin'” with our items stowed – so once I had done that, I had no more photos of the experience.
Basically in the film accompanying the simulation, we are first watching the ball drop in the past. But a storm is coming! Lightning hits our perch and – wait for it – we travel forward in time and soar among the skyscrapers and icons of New York City. It’s fun, no doubt about it, if over in only a few minutes.
Is it worth going if you live here? I say yes but then again, I do everything! I learned a few things in the exhibit, and truly enjoyed the ride portion even if it is short. The price for this varies depending on the date, time, and whether you get VIP tickets (really just a “jump the line” pass), but count on about $30 for an adult with no discounts in 2022. This would be a fun thing to take visitors to when they come to NYC – you can do it all in about an hour, and it’s near Broadway theaters so you could fit it in before or after taking your guests to a show. And if you aren’t a New Yorker, I think this would be an enjoyable addition to a trip to NYC (just don’t forget to check out one of the observatories in the city, like Summit at One Vanderbilt, or the Edge at Hudson Yards). And if you are consumed with wondering what it would be like to hang glide over New York City, I am confident that this is a much more enjoyable – and safer! – alternative.
Tony Nominations 2022
The Tony Awards given out next month will represent Broadway’s lurching progress toward normalcy (with periodic covid positivity shutdowns continuing) after the pandemic shutdown from March 2020 to September 2021. The Tony Awards for the truncated 2019-2020 season were held last September, and also served as a way to promote the reopening of live theatre in New York City to a wider audience. Those awards were anything but typical, however, since many new musicals and plays open in the spring to capitalize on the Tony nominations and awards, and the shutdown occurred before many had been able to open. “Six,” for instance, was set to open the very night Broadway was closed (March 12, 2020). Because of the shortened season, some categories had no nominations at all (Best Revival of a Musical, for instance) and Best Actor in a Musical had only one nomination (Aaron Tveit – and while that is not a guarantee of winning as over 50% of voters need to actively vote yes instead of no, fortunately he did win!).
While this season again was an unusual period (to be eligible, shows had to open between February 20, 2020 and May 4, 2021), the time included encompassed the normal seasonality of openings and the Tony nominations for 2021-2022 are robust. Out of 34 eligible productions this year, 29 received at least one nomination (even “Diana” received a nomination in costume design). All categories are competitive, with one even having seven nominees, and several with six. Since I have seen the majority of the nominees, I thought I would weigh in a bit on the bigger categories, both with my own opinion and what the general buzz is.
“The Lehman Trilogy”
I think it’s going to be hard for anyone to beat “The Lehman Trilogy” here, and it would get my vote. The only new plays nominated here that are still running are “The Minutes” (which I saw in previews pre-pandemic when Armie Hammer was still in it) and “Hangmen” (which is set to close mid-June) so I don’t think that “Lehman” having only run last fall will be a factor against it.
Revival of a Play
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf”
“How I Learned to Drive”
“Take Me Out”
“Trouble in Mind”
Again, it seems that “How I Learned to Drive” will be hard to beat, and it would certainly get my vote. Simply brilliant.
Actress in a Musical
Sharon D Clarke, “Caroline, or Change”
Carmen Cusack, “Flying Over Sunset”
Sutton Foster, “The Music Man”
Joaquina Kalukango, “Paradise Square”
Mare Winningham, “Girl From the North Country”
While I absolutely loved Carmen Cusack in “Flying Over Sunset” (check out the cast recording!) and Joaquina Kalukango is giving a bravura performance that is perhaps the best thing about “Paradise Square,” if I had a vote I would cast it easily for Sharon D. Clarke in “Caroline or Change.” This was a Caroline whose simmering anger over the state of her life boiled over in a thundering “Lot’s Wife.” It would be wonderful if they could bring her back to do this for the Tonys.
Leading Actor in a Musical
Billy Crystal, “Mr. Saturday Night”
Myles Frost, “MJ”
Hugh Jackman, “The Music Man”
Rob McClure, “Mrs. Doubtfire”
Jaquel Spivey, “A Strange Loop”
Rob McClure’s nomination here is the only one for “Mrs. Doubtfire,” Crystal and Jackman are the old pros, but I think this comes down to two newcomers in their first role on Broadway: Myles Frost and Jaquel Spivey. My vote would go for Spivey, who carried me through Usher’s journey with intelligence, heart, and tremendous vocals.
Featured Actor in a Musical
Matt Doyle, “Company”
Sidney DuPont, “Paradise Square”
Jared Grimes, “Funny Girl”
John-Andrew Morrison, “A Strange Loop”
A.J. Shively, “Paradise Square”
I posted the playbill from “Funny Girl” above because this category features its only nomination, and I am glad to see Grimes singled out. I will also note that I love John-Andrew Morrison in “A Strange Loop” and it was hard for him to stand out in the six excellent performances being given by Usher’s Thoughts (L. Morgan Lee was also recognized in Featured Actress). For me, though, this award has gone to Matt Doyle in “Company” from the first time I saw his bravura performance of “Not Getting Married Today” as Jamie (changed from Janie in the original) less than a week before Broadway shut down for the pandemic. I’ve seen it twice since and he never fails to dazzle me with his ability to make the lyrics so clean and acted out so clearly – while going so incredibly fast.
Featured Actress in a Musical
Jeannette Bayardelle, “Girl From the North Country”
Shoshana Bean, “Mr. Saturday Night”
Jayne Houdyshell, “The Music Man”
L Morgan Lee, “A Strange Loop”
Patti LuPone, “Company”
Jennifer Simard, “Company”
I’m glad to see L. Morgan Lee and Jennifer Simard recognized in this category, but Patti LuPone is just SO GOOD as Joanne in the revival of “Company” I would be unable to resist casting a vote for her.
Leading Actor in a Play
Simon Russell Beale, “The Lehman Trilogy”
Adam Godley, “The Lehman Trilogy”
Adrian Lester, “The Lehman Trilogy”
David Morse, “How I Learned to Drive”
Sam Rockwell, “American Buffalo”
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, “Lackawanna Blues”
David Threlfall, “Hangmen”
Look at this category – seven nominees! All three actors from “The Lehman Trilogy” are nominated, which might split votes and lead to none of them winning (although I could see Simon Russell Beale doing it). Sam Rockwell fully inhabited the character of Teach in “Buffalo.” But my vote would go to David Morse in “How I Learned to Drive.”
Featured Actor in a Play
Alfie Allen, “Hangmen”
Chuck Cooper, “Trouble in Mind”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Take Me Out”
Ron Cephas Jones, “Clyde’s”
Michael Oberholtzer, “Take Me Out”
Jesse Williams, “Take Me Out”
Six nominees in this category, and no clear favorite. I would probably vote for Michael Oberholtzer in “Take Me Out,” although again, you have three nominees from the same play which might split that vote and lead to another actor taking the award.
Leading Actress in a Play
Gabby Beans, “The Skin of Our Teeth”
LaChanze, “Trouble in Mind”
Ruth Negga, “Macbeth”
Deirdre O’Connell, “Dana. H”
Mary-Louise Parker, “How I Learned to Drive”
All worthy performances, but I will be shocked if Mary-Louise Parker doesn’t win for “How I Learned to Drive.”
Featured Actress in a Play
Uzo Aduba, “Clyde’s”
Rachel Dratch, “POTUS”
Kenita R. Miller, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow Is Enuf”
Phylicia Rashad, “Skeleton Crew”
Julie White, “POTUS”
Kara Young, “Clyde’s”
I put the picture of the “POTUS” Playbill above because two in the ensemble were nominated here. By the way, I agree with the recent article in The New York Times that the Tonys need an ensemble category – none of the wives in “Six” were nominated singly but as a group they might have won. I might vote for Rachel Dratch in “POTUS,” or Uzo Aduba in “Clyde’s” – but anyone could win here.
Revival of a Musical
“Caroline, or Change”
“The Music Man”
I would vote for “Caroline,” but with it having been a limited run and closing just after New Year’s, sometimes it is harder to stay fresh in the Tony voters’ minds. If so, then I think “Company” will win – although it is possible that Marianne Elliott might win (deservedly) for best director and “Caroline” win for Best Revival.
“Girl From the North Country”
“Mr. Saturday Night”
“Six: The Musical”
“A Strange Loop”
Until “A Strange Loop” arrived this spring, my vote would have been for “Six,” which I saw twice before the pandemic and have seen three times since. But having seen “A Strange Loop” twice now this spring, it would have my vote for Best New Musical without any hesitation. I also hope that Michael R. Jackson, who has been working on this musical for about two decades, wins for best book of a musical. It is possible that “Six” might win for best score. “Girl From the West Country” also has some critical acclaim so I would say it is likely the only dark horse if this win doesn’t go to “A Strange Loop” or “Six.”
As mentioned before, the revival of “Funny Girl” garnered only one nomination, for Featured Actor. “Plaza Suite,” the revival of Neil Simon’s play starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, had no acting nominations. The lead of the revival of “Company, ” Katrina Lenk, was not nominated for Lead Actress. I don’t necessarily disagree with these snubs, but I would have liked to have seen “Flying Over Sunset” – flawed as it was, it also was often quite brilliant and certainly original -nominated for Best Musical over “Mr. Saturday Night” and “Paradise Square.”
The Tony Awards will be held at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 12, starting at 7pm on Paramount+ and continuing from 8-11pm on CBS. Hosted by Ariana DeBose, recent Academy Award winner and Broadway veteran, look for an abundance of musical numbers as Broadway hopes to lure the casual theatre-goer back. Whether casual or devoted, go support the Broadway community, so integral to the very spirit of New York City, and don’t forget the established productions that have made it back from the pandemic as well!
Top of the Rock – Sun and Stars
I have blogged about going to One World Trade Observatory, to the Empire State Building Observatory at sunrise, to The Edge at Hudson Yards, and to the new kid on the block, Summit at One Vanderbilt (comparing day and night visits). There’s one last observatory to mention, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. I went once during the day and again after dark, to see how the view changed. Here’s some information about going, lots of photos, and – at the end – my own thoughts on how all of these experiences compare.
You enter Top of the Rock from 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. As you get checked in and head for the elevator, there are various facts about Rockefeller Center and about what you will see from the observation area (some, like the exact number of taxis and people you will see, seem unnecessarily and inaccurately precise!).
There are three observation decks, inside on the 67th and 69th floors, and then an outdoor deck on the 70th floor. This outdoor deck has stone barriers to above waist level, but then no obstructions to open air and open views.
One of the advantages to not being on the Empire State Building or One World Trade, of course, is being able to see the same!
While the daylight views were enjoyable, to me the real magic was going back at sunset and watching the lights come on as night fell on New York City
The experience of being there and witnessing the city’s transformation can’t really be conveyed in words and photos. The best I can do is this series of photos showing the Empire State Building first in a shot taken during the day and then in several more beginning at twilight and ending at full darkness:
Which observation experience is the best? Hey, I loved them all! If you live here, don’t think you are above going to one of these to have a great time; and if you are visiting, try to work in a few different ones if you can. The Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt are certainly the “cool kids” of the bunch. One World Trade has the best “reveal” – the elevator ride up is an integral part of the experience, and then the way you first see the view is in fact breathtaking. The Empire State Building is the classic of course, with the disadvantage that you can’t actually see the Empire State Building while on it! Top of the Rock is a classic and you can see all the iconic buildings from it. One World Trade is far south, so a better view of the Statue of Liberty but a more distant view of the midtown skyscrapers. The Edge is far west, which is why the primary views are oriented east and south. SUMMIT, Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock are all in midtown, so your views are more balanced in all directions. And The Edge and SUMMIT have the most fun “experiences” – especially, I would say, SUMMIT, which is basically an immersive art experience with views.
Finally, there is the issue of going during the day versus at night. I suppose you could argue that you “see the city better” during the day, but to me, the city transforms into its essential self when the unbiased glare of the sun is removed. Then New York City is allowed to show itself as it wants to be seen – lighting what it wants lit, leaving in darkness what it prefers to hide. To love the city as I do means being able to do the same on a daily basis – choosing to see this place as its essential essence and in the light of my own romanticized gaze. The romance of seeing the lights of the city at night from a lofty perch is a win in my book – who wants to go with me?
A Day In Napa
I love living in New York City, but love travel as well. Over the past decade I have become more and more enamored with California – such a delicious change from NYC! Most of my trips to California have been to So Cal, although I have been to San Francisco several times and once enjoyed a delightful drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles. However, until recently I had never gone to an area I have always had on my desired travel list – Napa Valley. And I love wine! I have no idea why it took me so long, but a few months ago I finally did it, even spending a birthday visiting three wineries and experiencing tastings. Was it worth it? Spoiler alert: a thousand times yes! I’ll post photos of what I did in case it inspires you to make such a trip. It also allows me to relive the experience until I can get back there.
My companion (my daughter!) and I drove to Napa from San Francisco (this was a side trip as part of a longer vacation in SF). The first day there we walked from our hotel (River Terrace Inn) along First Street and enjoyed walking into shops as well as visiting two tasting rooms. Vineyard 29 tasting room had a cool elegant vibe, delicious wines to taste, and gorgeous comfy green velvet couches to lounge on while tasting.
Mayacamas Tasting Room was a nice atmospheric change from Vineyard 29 – this felt a little darker, like being in the cellar at a winery. Our server spent a lot of time discussing the qualities of the soil and the process of fermentation.
Despite a foggy day, cocktails at the Archer Hotel Sky + Vine Rooftop Bar provided a wonderful way to start winding down. The Archer Hotel also has the delicious Charlie Palmer Steakhouse for a hearty dinner to balance out all the alcohol!
The next morning it was my birthday, and time to head out into the vineyards on what was a spectacularly clear and sunny day. It is possible, but unlikely, that you can get a day-of wine tasting at the most popular wineries, so my recommendation is to reserve well in advance (several months is not too soon!). Tastings are never free, but trust me, the experience will be worth the cost. We had a fairly hearty breakfast, and then our first Uber driver arrived. As an aside, there are several choices for transportation to wineries. You can of course take your own car, but unless someone in your group is abstaining from the tastings, this is not a safe option. You can hire someone to drive your car all day for you, or hire a car and driver for the day, or use ride share apps individually from each stop. The first two of those options are pricey, and the third can lead to delays if you can’t find an Uber/Lyft right away and you have your next appointment coming up. My daughter, who for my birthday gift had reserved all the tastings (keeping our itinerary a surprise!), also pre-booked Ubers to fit our schedule and it was the perfect solution. Each driver was waiting for us every time we finished at one place and were ready to go to the next.
The first stop of the day was Silverado Vineyards, founded by Ron and Diane Miller and her mother Lillian Disney (Walt’s wife) and still run by third and fourth generations of the family. This was a gorgeous estate, and after being welcomed with a glass of rose’ we had a few photos taken on the terrace overlooking the vineyards. Then we went into the tasting room, which had the vibe of a luxe yet cozy club, with a roaring fire, and a private table next to a window looking over the vineyards. The initial tasting was set, but over the course of the tasting our guide spent a lot of time discovering our personal taste and bringing us additional selections. I loved it here and was sad to go. I did order some wine to be shipped home, and it arrived surprisingly quickly (in less than a week).
The next appointment was for Stag’s Leap, the winery that put Napa on the international stage when its Cabernet Sauvignon won the judgement of Paris in a blind taste test in the 1970’s. Caution: be careful to look for Stag’s Leap rather than Stags’ Leap if you want the famous Cab! We heard the interesting story of the legend of the notch in the surrounding hills and the white stag that leapt over it, as well as the litigation that led to the decision that the area is named based on this legend and so it was not possible for Stag’s Leap to prevent another vineyard from using a deceptively close name. Since then, the two vineyards have become friendly and even released a joint wine named the Accord. Stags’ Leap makes a great Petite Syrah, but if you are looking for the Cab that beat French Bordeaux when no one believed the United States could make a world-class wine, you want Stag’s Leap.
The Fay tasting room is on ground level, so rather than looking off to the vineyards, you are looking directly at their Fay vineyard. Stag’s Leap has two areas with very different soil and drainage, S.L.V. and Fay. The tasting includes selections from both, including Heart of Fay, from the vines you are looking directly at. Our guide allowed us to go outside and walk to the edge of the vineyard while holding a glass, and it was wonderful to have that sense of place, tasting the end result of a process that started on the very ground you stand upon.
Our final stop of the day was Darioush. I loved how each of the vineyards we visited that day had a unique feeling and created a different experience. The exterior of Darioush feels like being in a fabulous European ruin! We were given a taste to enjoy while standing out among the vines, and then headed through cellars where barrels of wine were aging, into rooms with some of the owner’s acquisitions of great bottles from vintages around the world, and finally into an underground cozy room where we had a wine and cheese pairing. This was one of many different kinds of experiences offered at Darioush, and I truly enjoyed learning about the various pairings and how the right wine and cheese pairing compliments the experience of both.
What a splendid day, and an extremely memorable and enjoyable birthday! What took me so long to go to Napa? Don’t delay as I did if you enjoy wine and gorgeous surroundings. I definitely look forward to going back, as well as to trying Sonoma and perhaps even the Williamette Valley in Oregon for Pinot Noir tastings! Robert Louis Stevenson said “Wine is bottled poetry,” and who doesn’t want to drink a poem every now and then?
Sondheim at NYPL: “No One is Alone”
When Stephen Sondheim died on November 26 of last year, we lost a towering figure in musical theatre. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center quickly put together a pop-up installation of some of his correspondence from their archives, which proved to be so popular that they have recently enlarged it, adding set models from several of his musicals, and highlighting Sondheim’s interactions with collaborators. This exhibit will be on display through February 12, and if you are able to stop by, I believe it is well worth it (as with everything at the library, there is no charge). To me, the most interesting aspects were the way his playfulness and humor showed up in his correspondence with others. It’s easy to be so intimidated by someone’s talent that they seem more than human, but in this exhibition Stephen Sondheim’s personality and humanity shone through.
If you have never visited the Performing Arts Library, you need to put it on your radar. They often have very informative and entertaining displays about various areas of the performing arts. They also hold panel discussions and interviews with well-known artists. They are located just to the south of Lincoln Center Theatre. Bookmark their website!
The photos above show some of the additions made to the original display of Sondheim’s correspondence. The library has an interactive screen that allows you to go through and look at Playbills and production notes from many Sondheim musicals. In addition, they had an early design for a tree for Into the Woods, as well as early design sketches and models for the set design for Company and Follies.
On a screen, images of Sondheim with his collaborators, going all the way back to Gypsy and West Side Story, rotate through candid photos over the years.
The real heart of the display continues to be Sondheim’s correspondence, however.
Look at this thank you note to Broadway lyricist Betty Comden and her husband, “just A note” included!
I loved the personality shining through these notes to playwright Peter Stone and his wife, Mary. Given the date of the one on the left, he was presumably referring to A Little Night Music. After asking them whether they had seen it, he added,” If you adored it so much that you can’t keep away, come again as my guests. And if you didn’t like it, f*** off. Love, Steve.”
Here you can see lyrics written by Michael John LaChiusa in honor of Sondheim’s 80th birthday, and a congratulatory letter from Richard Rodgers to Sondheim on the opening of Company, with Sondheim’s reply (“no letter I have received on the show has meant more”).
I love these notes. In the upper right, he expresses thanks for the gift of a diary from Hal Prince and his wife, Judy, and then claims “I plan to do nothing whatsoever this year. Again.” In the upper left, he thanks them for a wire but says ” . . . we did get mugged. Surprise.” (Presumably, given the year, a bad review for Sunday in the Park with George?) And at the bottom, to Hal alone, notes on Sweeney Todd, which would have just opened a week before. After noting that the pies in the second act should look baked, and that the books coming down the chute when trying out the “special” barber chair should match the ones put in, he claims he dares not risk Hal’s wrath by giving the notes directly to the stage manager.
Stephen Sondheim won eight Tony Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has theatres named after him in both New York City and London. He died at the age of 91 on a Friday, after having seeing both a matinee and an evening show on Broadway on Wednesday, and celebrating Thanksgiving with friends on Thursday. A few days later – on a Sunday – the Broadway community gathered on the red steps in Times Square to celebrate his life (I was there, and posted a clip on Instagram that you can see here). As they sang “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George the word that rang out was “forever.” Just as the people immortalized in the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat will be viewed forever, Stephen Sondheim – the icon, and the man – has changed musical theatre and will be remembered with respect and affection forever.