Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - Musicals

Who doesn't love musicals? The feeling you get when you're sitting in your seat and the lights go out and then the curtain lifts and TADA the musical gives me chills just thinking about it. I went to my first musical, Les Miserable, when I was 10-11 years old. Leading up to the big night my dad would play the soundtrack over and over again so that I would know the songs when we went to see the show. It was a magical moment. I've seen Les Mis 6 times since then...2 more times in New York, twice in London, once in Boston and once in Witchita, Kansas just last summer! It is hands down my favorite show, probably because it was my first that I saw, or the first that I knew all the words to, but I never tire of seeing it and I cry every time.

My parents were really great about taking us to see musicals as we grew up. We usually went at least once a year as a family. I wish I had kept track of all the plays that I've seen - I'll try to list them all below at the bottom of this post - I'm sure I'll be missing a few.

Jon and I saw numerous plays when we lived in Boston. We tried to go every year. Living in NYC surrounded by theater it's hard not to go see a show (although the prices make you think long and hard before you go...) I've seen 8 shows since I moved back here just 2 years ago. Most recently Jon and I saw South Pacific on February 13th. It was our big Christmas present from my parents. We loved it (there is nothing like a dame...nothing in the world...)! It's playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center and the theater is set up so that literally there is not a bad seat in the house. The coolest thing about the theater is that the stage moves back so that you can see the Orchestra while they're playing! The show was lighthearted and fun at times and more serious at others - the perfect mix for a good musical.

Next on our agenda: Phantom of the Opera on Friday, March 13th. This is Jon's favorite musical and we've both only seen it once. In December I stumbled upon a buy one get one free ticket promotion for Phantom so we decided to splurge and see it again. I can't wait.

List of Shows I've Seen (not all musicals & seen in various locations including NYC, Boston, Providence, London, Witchita & Oklahoma City)

Les Miserable
Phantom of the Opera
Miss Saigon
The Lion King
Pal Joey
The Drowsy Chaperone
The Producers
Cyrano de Bergerac
Avenue Q
A Chorus Line
South Pacific
Death of a Saleman
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to th eForum
Peter Pan
Mamma Mia!
Damn Yankees
Billy Elliot
Guys and Dolls
Jersey Boys
Bring in the Noise Bring in the Funk
Blue Man Group
Blood Brothers
The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged
A Chorus Line

That's all I can think of off the top of my head! Not too shabby!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - Sara Barielles

It's that time of the week again (sorry that I missed last week - Friday snuck up on me!) This week I'm going to write about my favorite artist of 2008! I'm sure you all know Sara Barielles' poppy hit "Love Song". Well after seeing that song in a commercial I decided to preview her album on iTunes and ended up buying it. It's the best iTunes purchase I have ever made. I could (and do) listen to this cd endlessly, I never get sick of it, I have a hard time deciding my favorite song because as I'm listening to one song I'll be thinking "oh...this is definitely my favorite" and then it ends and the next song begins and I'm thinking "oh...this is definitely my favorite".

The rest of the cd is not as poppy as "Love Song" is - it's a great mix of upbeat music, slow songs, and creative lyrics. "Love Song" is still one of my favorite songs on the CD (in part because I do not listen to the radio so it hasn't been overplayed for me) and in part because I love why it was written. The story goes that her record label asked her to write a love song and her response was the song "Love Song", but if you listen to the lyrics carefully you'll see that she was writing just the opposite. See below:

Head under water
And they tell me to breathe easy for a while
The breathing gets harder, even I know that
You made room for me, but it's too soon to see
If I'm happy in your hands
I'm unusually hard to hold on to
Blank stares at blank pages
No easy way to say this
You mean well, but you make this hard on me
I'm not gonna write you a love song
'Cause you asked for it
'Cause you need one, you see
I'm not gonna write you a love song
'Cause you tell me it's make or breaking this
If you're on your way
I'm not gonna write you to stay
If all you have is leaving
I'mma need a better reason to write you a love song today

If you don't own the CD or haven't listened to any of her other songs here is a sample of my favorites (as best as I could pick them!)

"Fairytale" - the lyrics are so clever in this song - I love it!

Two other songs that I love are: Between the Lines and Many the Miles.

Definitely check her out - you won't regret it - it's a great CD!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Tenement Museum

Jon and I continue to "Staycation" - or rather explore our surroundings in the remarkable city we live in full of wonderful new learning experiences! A couple of weeks ago we visited a museum that we've tried to visit 3 times since we've moved here - The Tenement Museum.

I'm sure you're asking yourself "What do you mean tried to visit mulitple times?" The first time we went we could not find it, literally. The 2nd time we tried to go during the weekend of my grandmother's 75th bday extravaganza but the family lost steam and interest and The Tenement Museum was swapped for shopping and the South Street Seaport.

Thus, on this our 3rd time we were determined to find it and enjoy our experience. We got to the street it is on and once again could not find it. We hopped into a visitor's center for the Lower East Side and they kindly gave us the correct address (our guidebook had it wrong!) We walked back up the street to 108 Orchard Street and found the visitor's center for the Museum. It was jammin' - tons of people deciding which tour to go on.

There are 5 tours in all: Getting By, Piecing It Together, The Moores: An Irish Family in America, Confino Family Living History Program, and the Lower East Side Walking Tour. After researching the different tours and the times we decided that for our first visit to The Tenement Museum we were going to do the Getting By: Immigrants Weathering Hard Times. The description reads as follows:

Discover how immigrants survived economic depressions at 97 Orchard Street between 1863 and 1935. Visit the restored homes of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family, whose patriarch disappeared during the Panic of 1873, and the Italian-Catholic Baldizzi family, who lived through the Great Depression.

We felt that given the economic times in NYC currently this tour would be very interesting. After purchasing our tickets we watched the 2 short films they show in the visitor center. The first film is about The Tenement Museum, the history of the museum, the programs the museum offers, etc. The second film is part of a documentary from the hisorty channel about the history of life in the tennements on the Lower East Side. Both were very interesting and an enjoyable way to pass the time as we waited for our tour.

The Tenement Museum is best saved for a nice weather day. Part of the tour is outside and even the part that is inside is in a very very old building that doesn't have the luxury of central heat. We started out our tour on Orchard Street where our guide (wish I remembered his name because he was great!) gave us a general overview of life in the tenements on the Lower East Side and tried to paint the picture of what it might be like to be an immigrant new to this country back in the 19th Century.

Then we walked over to 97 Orchard Street just across the street where we were able to enter this building built in 1863. It was like stepping back in time. The hallways were narrow and dark and we spent some time initially in the front stairwell talking about what life would be like in the common spaces shared by the 110 occupants in the building. When the building was originally built there were outside privy's (no indoor plumbing in the building then!)

After our discussion in the stairwell we walked up one flight of stairs and entered the Gumpertz Apartment. What's so fascinating about The Tenement Museum is that the stories of the families that they share with you are true. They've actually found living family members who know the outcomes of what happened to these people and they research any documents they can find in any kind of public records. This makes the experience so much more interesting because you stand their imagining a real family in this tiny 300+ square foot apartment and what it must have been like for them.

Once we heard the story of the Gumpertz Family we moved down the hall to another re-furbished apartment of the Baldizzi family. Here we even got to hear a tape of an interview with the daughter of the family that actually lived in the apartment. The tour was informative, and everyone on our tour was full of questions and were great participators making the whole experience interactive and engaging.

Jon and I had such a great day visiting The Tenement Museum and we cannot wait to come back and take the other 4 tours that are available. It's definitely worth the visit - it's a very different museum experience in NYC. As we left we stopped at Gus' pickles where they have barrels of pickles out on the sidewalk like the old times - we got two sour dill pickles for $1. Rare that you can get anything for $1 nowadays - they were delicious!

After our tour we sauntered over to McSorley's Old Ale House for an afternoon pint sticking with our theme of "transporting" ourselves back in time. You certainly feel transported as you walk into McSorley's filled with people lining up at the bar and sharing old round wooden tables, sawdust on the floor and waiters carrying upwards of 10 half pints in each hand! It was a fun way to relax and take some time to talk about our experience at the museum and what it must have been like to live in the tenements back in the days and for that matter what it's like to live in the tenements in the Lower East Side today.

All in all it was another great day exploring NYC!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - The Chrysler Building

I'm going to bring back the short lived "Favorite Things Friday" because I love sharing with people my favorite things but also becasue it gives me the opportunity to look around me and appreciate things in my everyday life.

So to start I'm honoring my favorite building in New York City - The Chrysler building. We have a special bond (or as special a bond as you can have with a building!) When we first moved here I read this book called, Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City by Neal Bascomb. The book is about the building of 40 Wall Street and The Chrysler building as well as The Empire State Building. It was a really fascinating book to read and it gave me a new appreciate for the New York Skyline.

There is just something about this building.... We are south of the Chrysler Building and whenever I go to the grocery store I have to cross Lexington Avenue. For whatever reason I always get stopped at Lexington Avenue. So everytime I go to the grocery store I spend a couple of minutes looking up at this beautiful building enveloped in all different kinds of light.

One of the greatest things about New York City is the way the light reflects off of all the different buildings. My favorite time of day in NYC is dusk, when you look out your window or down a wide avenue and it's not quiet still daytime but not quiet yet dark. The light at that time is amazing and the way it hugs the buildings - nothing could be more beautiful.

So next time you're in NYC take a few minutes to look more closely at The Chrysler Building - you will not be disappointed.
What's your favorite building wherever you live?