I headed up to New York City this past weekend to meet up with some friends. Sarah is one of the many librarian friends I have made over Twitter, though we have subsequently met in person at library conferences. At some point a few months ago I mentioned on Twitter that there were so many shows I wanted to see on Broadway and she responded and said I’m going to be in NYC (she’s from Minnesota) for New York Comic Con in October you should come up and see a show with me while I’m there. I checked my calendar and I was free and since I could crash in her hotel room I decided I was going to go.
At around the same time another Twitter pal who lives in New York said that next time I was going to be there I should let her know so we could get together. So we made plans to meet up after I got to the city on Saturday afternoon. Sadly she got horribly sick and we didn’t actually wind up getting to meet up in person this trip, but she made some excellent plans for us that I wound up doing by myself.
My transit karma on Saturday was impeccable. I was a little worried when the bus driver started to pull out of the stop in Baltimore with the luggage bays open. I was sitting next to the window and noticed that they were still up, so I yelled at him to stop and fix it before we really got going. The rest of the trip went without incidence though, and he was even nice enough to make two stops once we got into New York letting people who wanted off at Penn Station. Their new pick up and drop off location is over near the Javits Center, which is a bit of a trek from central Manhattan so I was really happy to not have to spend the time walking back over to Penn Station to pick up the subway. Instead I got dropped off right in front of the entrance I needed and walked right onto a waiting 1 train. Coming back down I walked from 112 to 96 to get in some exercise and managed to walk right onto a train there right as it was about to leave as well. The 1, 2, and 3 all leave from that station, but I knew it didn’t matter which one I got on, so I hopped it even though I didn’t know what train it was. Turns out it was a 2, which the express train so double bonus for me!
Anyway, I was up at 112 for an architectural tour of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine put on by Open House New York as part of their annual open house weekend. Jess had snagged us tickets. It’s too bad she didn’t get to go because it was really interesting. First though thanks to my great transit karma I had just enough time to grab lunch before the tour. I found this cute little place that serves all kinds of delicious things likes crepes, Belgian waffles, paninis, and gelato. I got myself a 3 cheese crepe that came with a really fresh and delicious side salad. For their weekend brunch you also get a drink with your meal so I got a chai, which was nice on a rainy afternoon.
I wasn’t familiar with the cathedral at all before this tour, but I guess it’s a fairly famous New York landmark as there were tons of sightseeing tour buses outside. It’s an Episcopal cathedral, which is currently and most likely forever unfinished. What does exist is still a pretty amazing building, which I learned was built in three stages as money allowed over various time periods. Essentially the apse and the nave were built by completely different architects and in completely different architectural styles. I’m always so impressed by buildings like that because there is no way anyone would build something like that today. It would cost way too much money, and just even how they managed to put all that heavy stone and stuff together without modern equipment is a little mind blowing. The tour guide had a story about the 8 columns in the apse that took months just to move up the hill from where they were delivered on the boat, which would only be a few miles away. After the official tour I spent some time walking around the cathedral on my own. It was kind of gross outside though, so I didn’t really walk around the gardens outside at all.
There were also a couple of interesting art installations going on there. They had these two phoenix sculptures hanging from the ceiling that were made by a Chinese artist named Xu Bing. They were apparently made all from reclaimed materials found at building sites yet they looked really ornate. They weigh about 6 tons each, so it’s kind of crazy that they’re even able to be suspended from the ceiling. There was also an installation that they were still working on setting up that just came from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. called AMEN: A Prayer for the World. It’s all these figures with the same face but in 4 different prayer poses. Each one was decorated by a different artist, 30 from Egypt and 18 from the Western world. You can enjoy some of my crappy cell phone pictures of the art and the cathedral that in no way capture the glory of this space.
I met up with Sarah at the hotel after that. We just hung out for awhile and then grabbed dinner before going to see Aladdin. I have a long history with wanting to see Aladdin on Broadway. Perhaps even longer than Disney itself’s thoughts on the matter. My friends and I were obsessed with Aladdin when it was in theatres. I was a freshman in high school at the time and a guy I briefly dated along with some of his fellow theatre friends plotted out how they would make Aladdin into a Broadway show long before Disney essentially trying to create Broadway shows out of all it’s movies. I immediately thought of that when I heard that it was coming. I knew I was going to want to see it no matter what, but I was really happy when the first reviews came out and they were all uniformly positive. Then James Monroe Iglehart won a Tony for his performance as the Genie and it made me want to see it even more.
Since we always get season tickets to the touring Broadway shows for when they come through Baltimore I usually try and pick stuff to see in New York that won’t really be the same if it tours. I pick shows that either won’t tour, shows that have a specific actor in them that I want to see, or shows that will have to be scaled way back to work as a touring production. I initially didn’t think Aladdin fit any of those criteria until I started to get really excited about seeing Iglehart after seeing him perform on TV various places. I am so glad I went to see it in New York because I was totally wrong in my assessment. It’s a show that will definitely tour, but obviously not with Iglehart in the Genie role. Also, I had not realized that Jonathan Freeman who voiced Jafar in the movie was also playing the role on Broadway, so that was pretty cool. There was also a lot of production stuff particularly surrounding the Genie that I expect will have to be scaled way back for the tour, so I am glad I got to see it staged in New York.
It was a really fun and entertaining show and James Monroe Iglehart did not disappoint at all. He was phenomenal. The applause after his performance of “Friend Like Me” went on forever. I think they even beat the applause that Joshua Henry got after “Let It Sing” when we saw Violet in the spring, which up until this point were the most show stopping applause I had ever experienced. I’m also trying to think if I’ve ever been to the a show where an actor had people get up and give him or her a standing ovation in the middle of a show and I couldn’t think of one. He definitely had that happen last night though. Whoever takes over that role either on Broadway or for the tour is going to have some very big shoes to fill. I’m really glad Aladdin was the show I decided to see this trip.
My only complaint was the theatre itself. The New Amsterdam Theatre while beautifully ornate must have been designed for people who don’t actually have legs, at least the balcony section. The orchestra looked like it had a glorious amount of leg room. We peons on the other hand essentially had nowhere to put our legs once the seat was down. I’m a shorty so I can’t even imagine how tall people managed to sit in those seats. It’s crazy steep up in that balcony too. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a balcony that was so steep. I definitely saw some people with height issues having some problems getting to their seats because of it.
Sunday morning, Sarah and I had just enough time to grab breakfast this morning before I had to walk over and catch my bus. It was really great to get to hang out with her again in real life, and I really enjoyed all of the fun activities I got to do on this trip. Now I’m looking forward to my next trip there over Thanksgiving when I’ll be seeing Emma Stone in Cabaret.