Sutton Foster at Cafe Carlyle

As I mentioned in my previous post this past weekend my husband and I took a trip up to NYC. It happily coincided with Sutton Foster’s run at the Cafe Carlyle. At some point in the late spring/early summer I was lamenting on Twitter about how the only shows The Cure were scheduled to play in the U.S. were at large festivals, and was saying that if they would just play their own show somewhere I would even travel to see them. (Obviously out of spite they did wind up playing one non-festival show…in Hawaii.) In response one of our friends replied and said speaking of traveling for concerts did you know Sutton Foster is going to be at the Cafe Carlyle in September? Now this is the point where it comes obvious that my husband can in no way justify all the complaining he did prior to going to this show. He (not I) looked up the dates and said hey I was already planning on going up that weekend for World Maker Faire so it’s perfect. Silly me. I took that as hey if you want to go to this we should go. That was not the reaction I got when I told him I had made us reservations and was doubly not the reaction I got when he found out he had to wear a suit.

Fast forward whatever amount of time to a week or two past the point 3 months previous to September 21 when I realize I forgot to make the reservations. Reservations open for shows at the Cafe Carlyle 3 months prior to the show. When I went to look, the Open Table reservation system on the site indicated to me that there were no longer any reservations available. I publicly kicked myself on Twitter for missing out and was prepared to move on with my life. I hate the phone so it did not even occur to me to try and call at that point. Obviously Cafe Carlyle is doing Twitter right though, as I didn’t even @ them in my tweet yet this still saw it and replied letting me know that if I called they would be able to book me. So basically the moral of this story is that I apparently would never have actually gone to this concert if it wasn’t for Twitter.

For this particular show there was a cover charge plus we were required to eat dinner there. For the 8:45 show there were seatings at 6:30, 7:00, or 7:30. The cover charge varies depending on where you sit with the few bar seats (about 10-12 people) cheaper than tables and tables closer to the front commanding a premium price. The room is fairly small though so even though we were back against the wall there were really only 2-3 tables between us and stage depending on what angle you want to count by. Some of the bar seats would definitely have a restricted view though due to some pillars, so if you want to save some money by sitting at the bar keep that in mind.

Our reservation was for 7:00, but due to building in unneeded extra time to hail a cab and deal with any potential traffic we arrived just after 6:30. They had no problems seating us as soon as we got there though. The tables are all super close to each other such that you’re pretty much dining with the people sitting on either side of you. Most of the crowd was older. Aside from one other table of people who were probably younger than we were and the teenage kids in the one family there we were by far the youngest in the room. It’s not that surprising I guess given the cost of the evening. It was definitely the most money I’ve ever spent on a single night. It was totally worth it though.

Given the close proximity of the other tables we made friends with the older ladies sitting on our right who were sisters. They reminded me of my grandma and my great-aunt about 30 years ago. To our left was an older gay couple who were quite amusing. Apparently I look like one their nieces and one of the guys decided he should take a picture of me. They were doing a whirlwind theater weekend having seen Pippen on Friday night, this show on Saturday, and then were scheduled to see a matinee of Cinderella on Sunday. I was happy to hear their glowing review of Pippen since that is what I have in mind to see when we are back in NYC for Thanksgiving. Though I am sad to have missed Andrea Martin in her Tony award-winning role in that show.

It was also amusing to hear how well or not people actually knew who Sutton Foster was. The gay couple next to unsurprisingly had seen her in a number of shows. The couple sitting on the opposite side of them said they actually only knew her because they had seen an episode of Sesame Street that she was on. I found that amusing. At one point in the show Sutton Foster was talking about having moved to Los Angeles and I heard the ladies next to us questioning why she would have moved there. In my head I was thinking Bunheads! (RIP Bunheads.)

Every review of the Cafe Carlyle I read before we went indicated the food is underwhelming particularly for the prices you are paying. I knew that going in though so was prepared to pay a lot of money for food that was only so-so. You’re really paying for the experience of being at the show and getting to see whatever performer you are there to see in such an intimate venue. It would be nice if the food was better, but if you plan to go there just know that it isn’t. I ordered the coq au vin. It’s not something I see on very many restaurant menus, and it was one of my favorite meals that my mom used to make when I was a kid. My mom’s was better. I also ordered a side of creamed spinach, which again was fine but nothing I would be terribly excited to eat again. There was nothing on the menu that was vegetarian friendly, but my husband asked and they easily accommodated his request offering him either roasted vegetables or a vegetable pasta. He opted for the roasted vegetables, the price of which was outrageous given what it was, but again to be expected I guess. For dessert I had the chocolate mousse and Paul had the cheesecake. I liked his cheesecake better, but the mousse was good too.

The service was decent, but not outstanding as I would normally expect when I’m paying that much for dinner. If I’m eating somewhere that fancy I want the service to blow me away. Really they’re just trying to get everyone in and fed before the show starts though so there are little things that go unnoticed. For instance we didn’t order any wine with dinner and yet our wine glasses were not removed until they were trying to make room on our table for our entrees. I also noticed that dessert forks and spoons were delivered to the ladies next to us even though they declined to order any dessert. Again it was just little things, but things that did stand out to me in this kind of setting that wouldn’t have bothered me if I was eating a more casual place.

The show itself was fantastic, and it’s lucky that we saw it when we did because I saw yesterday that Sutton Foster had to cancel the remainder of her shows after the day we saw her due to a family emergency. I read mixed reviews of the show in other outlets most of the criticism being that there didn’t seem to be a focus and there was too great of a range of songs. I liked it though. I don’t have entire set list especially since I wasn’t familiar with a number of the songs she sang, but they ranged from funny to sweet and romantic to sad. She of course sang some of the songs that made her famous on the Broadway stage. She did a medley of songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie, and Little Women all of which she starred in. She also sang “I Get a Kick Out of You” from Anything Goes, a show for which she won a Tony. The other Broadway song I recognized was “Being Alive” from Company. She also sang some non-Broadway songs. There was a funny song called “Air Conditioner” whose origins I don’t know but that was featured on her album Wish. She brought up Megan McGinnis who starred with her in Little Women on Broadway to sing two songs, one of which was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends”. She also sang a couple of other folk songs which her voice is suited perfectly for. I really loved them and wouldn’t mind if she ever decided to do an album of folk song covers. The first was “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver. She closed with James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes”, which was beautiful. It was a lovely evening, and I’m very glad we went. Even Paul said he enjoyed himself despite his grumpiness about going. It may have been expensive, but to me it was worth every penny.

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