By Lauren Yarger
It's that time of year when so many of you write to ask what you should see when you visit New York City for the holidays. Well, in the city that never sleeps, there are endless choices of things to do and see, but I will list a few TOP PICKS here to help you decide where to spend your entertainment dollar (click on the title to read the full review).
A Christmas Story the Musical.
If you love the movie about Ralphie and his overwhelming need for a BB gun one Christmas back in 1940, you will love this terrific musical based on the Jean Shepherd classic. The music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are catchy. Dan Lauria stars as Shepherd. At the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St. where it runs through Dec. 30. Tickets: 800-745-3000, 877-250-2929; http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/tickets.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Murder most foul -- and most funny takes place with a different ending every performance as determined by audience vote. Chita Rivera is among the suspects in Roundabout Theatre Club's revival of this Tony-Award winning musical by Rupert Holmes with choreography by Warren Carlyle. Extended through March 20 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St. Tickets: 212-719-1300; www.roundabouttheatre.org.
Nice Work if You Can Get it
Starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara with songs by George and Ira Gershwin and a fun book by Joe DiPietro (Memphis). You can't help but smile. At the Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th St. Tickets: 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250.
Peter and the Starcatcher
The prequel to Peter Pan, this imaginative and witty play by Rick Elice is staged with fabulous sets and costumes to take us on a voyage we wish will never end. At the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St. Tickets: 800-745-3000.
Last year's winner of the Tony for Best Musical, it's wonderful theater experience based on the movie of the same name. Composing team Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Academy Award for the song "Falling Slowly." Guy meets girl who helps him with his music career in Ireland (the set is designed to feel like a pub). At the Bernard B. Jacobs theatre, 242 West 45th St. Tickets: 212-239-6200 or 800- 432-7250.
One of the most gripping, emotional theatrical experiences you can have. Based on the children's book by Michael Morpurgo about a boy and the horse he loves at the time of World War I in England, this Tony Award winning production features artistry by the Handspring Puppet Company that will have you convinced there are real horses grazing and galloping on stage. Gallop over to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center , 150 West 65th St, where it runs through Jan. 6.
Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre is one of the best things I have seen in a long time. Funny, funny funny. It's a a light-hearted tribute to Chekhov starring David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver as siblings. Through Jan. 13 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, 150 West 65th St. http://lct.org.
Tribes extended through Jan. 20 at the Barrow Street Theatre. Strong performances in a story about a deaf man and his relationships with his hearing family and a woman who introduces him to the world of sign language. While the play is very good, I could recommend it solely because it is directed by David Cromer. If you are in the city and something he has directed is playing, go see it. At the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., off 7th Avenue South in the Village. http://tribestheplay.com/
Water By The Spoonful last year's surprise Pulitzer prize winner by Quiara Alegría Hudes is now in previews at Second Stage for a run Jan. 8-27. I was one of the lucky one who got to see it in Connecticut where it had its world premiere at Hartford Stage (the review link is for that production). I won't see it at Second Stage (they don't invite Drama Desk critics to review), but the play is good enough that I feel confident recommending it. Second Stage Theatre is at 305 West 43rd St. http://www.2st.com/.
The Great God Pan The world premiere of Amy Herzog's play about the unleashing of unpleasant childhood memories. Jeremy Strong's compelling portrayal is reason enough to see this show, but I can recommend just about everything at Playwrights, my favorite Off-Broadway theater. Any time you are in the city, check out what is on their stage. Best value for your buck and ask them about their babysitting service. Extended through Jan. 13 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. http://www.playwrightshorizons.org.
For the Kids:
OK, I realize that most of the selections above are probably not exciting (or appropriate)entertainment for kids -- they are just the TOP PICKS in my opinion. Here are links to reviews for some shows your kids, depending on their ages, might want to see. As always, Reflections in the Light is the only place you can find a review with information about language and content from a Christian perspective (added at the end).
Bring it On
Elf (this review is from the previous incarnation on Broadway)
Rock of Ages
Spider-man Turn Off the Dark
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (at Madison Square Garden) and Wicked -- these opened on Broadway before we started reviewing. If you want information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other stuff to do:
There are the obvious tourist attractions like Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes kicking up their popular Christmas Spectacular, the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the World Trade Center site, etc. Here are two unique offerings that will help you understand the city and entertain you at the same time:
Margaret Copeland and Kevin James Doyle. Photo Courtesy of Jim Randolph.
How to Be a A New Yorker
This dinner theater presentation features comedians Margaret Copeland and Kevin James Doyle, both also certified tour guides, in their lively and tongue-in-cheek look at how tourists can learn to be real New Yorkers.
Directed by Robert Ross Parker, Copeland and Doyle guide us through the history of New York in three parts, surrounded by skits involving video (set and projection design by Nick Francone), quick character and costume changes (Janel Clingenpeel, costume design) games like "Is it Safe?" and audience participation -- all in just about an hour. A buffet lunch or dinner of salad, pasta and chicken cacciatore is provided starting about half an hour before show time.
The presentation, downstairs at Sophia's, 221 West 46th St. is so popular, that it has been extended through March 30. Performances are Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 with matinees Saturday at 2 pm. Matinee tickets are $45 (which includes lunch) and evening performances are $55 (including dinner), and are available by calling 212-352-3101 or through www.How2BaNewYorker.com.
Christtins might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
The Ride -- an electronically interactive tour of New York City on motor coaches has announced holiday schedules and pricing.
The Ride, on five motor coaches, has played months of sold-out, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art tours of the Midtown Area and more than 70,000 customers have enjoyed the 4.2-mile journey that has been termed “a Passport to New York City.”
The buses are specifically designed theatrical vehicles; the tallest allowed by federal law, fitted with stadium-style seating that orients the 49 participants sideways looking through the massive windows that deliver New York as the most successful Broadway show on earth.
The coaches are equipped with surround sound, 3,000 LED lights and 40 video screens. They are, in essence, rolling state-of-the-art theatres. External speakers and lighting allow riders and on-board performers to interact with street performers as well as anyone else they pass on the street.
I took a friend, in New York for the first time, on one of the tours. We laughed a lot as we cruised around Times Square seeing attractions like Carnegie Hall, Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. Two tour guides bantered back and forth and gave points to participants for their city knowledge while giving odd bits of information about the sights and interacting with "New Yorkers" along the route. There was a guy already staking out his position in Times Square for New Years, a break-dancing package delivery guy, singing commuters and an actress lost on her way to an audition (the performers, surprisingly, are very talented.)
While I wouldn't recommend this bus ride for someone looking for a serious, informational tour of the city, it is a lot of fun for groups of friends or families in between shows or shopping and provides a unique vantage point of the city (and a place to sit for about an hour and 15 minutes). Special holiday versions of The Ride also are available through Dec. 30.
Tickets are $50 -$74 and are available by calling 866-299-9682 or at the Box Office located at Madame Tussauds (immediately to your left in the lobby), 234 West 42nd Street in Times Square. Groups: 212-244-2551 (x155). Buses leave from the corner of West 42nd Street and 8th Avenue (or somewhere fairly close to that). Seating is not assigned.