Saturday, January 17, 2015

All Aboard The Last Ship

It’s always the shows that I don’t expect much from that always surprise me.  Yesterday, I could say that about at least two musicals. Today, I could say that about three. “The Last Ship.” 

The show .... whose lyrics and music is written by Sting .... is closing January 24th. In all honesty I had no plans to see this musical. For some reason it just didn’t peak my interest. However, last weekend something in my gut told me, “Go see this show.” So, I bought a ticket. 

I had no expectations when I walked into the Neil Simon Theatre.  The theatre was packed, and I was happy to see that. Like myself, some of the people around me didn’t know much about the musical ... but came for the music and ... in part ... to see Sting on Broadway. 

I honestly can stay I didn’t go see the musical to see Sting. I came to hear his music. From the first song to the last ... it was the music that spoke the most to me and the people around me. The show is full of songs ... each with a different story to tell and each so different. Every song was so beautifully written and told by the actors on stage. I could hear people comment after certains songs, “Wow!” “That was great!” “Beautiful!” They were just whispering out loud what I was saying in my head! 

I left the theatre feeling shocked and impressed with Sting. Yes. He’s a humanitarian. Yes. He’s a Grammy winner. Yes. He’s a rock star. Now, he can add Broadway to his list of achievements.

I can’t say how Sting must have felt when he began The Last Ship’s journey. I know how I would have felt. I would have felt scared but excited. Nervous and unsure. Confident but anxious. Whatever Sting felt on this voyage he didn’t let it stop him. Sting saw this project through. He didn’t give up on it and he tried something new. He took a chance. For that ... I applaud him and thank him. Without him ... and the many others who jumped on board ... “The Last Ship” would have never set sail.

Don’t let this musical sail away without seeing it. Heck! The gal who said she didn’t want to see it might go see it one more time before bidding it bon voyage.

“If my ship sails from sight, it doesn’t mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends.” -Enoch Powell

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Message

It’s Thanksgiving!  My favorite holiday of the year. I love this time of year… though this year seems to have come and gone in a blink of an eye! Maybe it’s living in New York City. The city is so fast paced. Maybe that’s what makes each year go by faster and faster.  

Goodbyes to a year are always difficult.  Autumn turns the air chillier, pales out the sun, and warms the colors of the leaves. You start evaluating your life as Autumn leaves. A sort of New Year’s resolutions in reverse. I look back to who I’ve lost along the way and who I gained. People may decide to move on or drift away, but Autumn is something I can count on. It always returns … and so does Thanksgiving.  

I am thankful for a lot this year. It hasn’t been an easy year. My small group of friends and family are what have gotten me through it. During hard times you learn more about yourself. You also learn more about those you choose to surround yourself with. So this year I am thankful most of all for my family and friends. They are the people who have made my year special and survivable.

So before you go Autumn… and your colder sister Winter sneaks in … I’d just like to say “thank you.” Thank you to all those who have warmed my heart on cold days and put a smile on my face other days. I hope I have done the same for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The World Will Know

Stop the Presses! Newsies is closing Sunday. I’ve blogged about this show before. It’s one of my favorites. I will miss it on Broadway. While Fansies won’t be Carrying The Banner in New York City much longer ... you can definitely see the cast is Seizing each Day.

I came to today’s matinee to pay tribute to the show. It was my 11th and final time seeing Newsies. It’s always a little sad to see a show close on Broadway. You could tell the audience knew there was something different about this Wednesday matinee. That it was the last Wednesday. They were definitely Watching what was Happening on stage a bit more intently. The looks the cast shared ... the tears during parts of the show that weren’t there in the past ... the appreciation oozing from the seats around them. The applause was longer than usual after each number ... and you could see it. You could see it in each cast members eyes. They were soaking it in.

While these talented Newsies will relinquish their King of New York titles ... The Bottom Line is that this part of their lives will end in a few days. The show will close. The tour will begin (No. It’s not stopping in Santa Fe). The World Will Know. The torch will be passed. The roar from audiences across the country will rise. The world will feel the fire and finally know what Fansies know .... that this show ... It’s Rich. It’s rich in dance. It’s rich in talent. It’s rich in life lessons. It’s rich in love.

So Newsies ...thank you for giving us Something To Believe in ... for even a day. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Part Of Something

It’s that time of year again. Tony Time! It’s the time of year where Broadway is buzzing with anticipation, hope and pride. It’s also the time of year I try my hardest to squeeze in the shows I’d like to see before the awards. I have to admit “The Bridges of Madison County” was not on my “to see” list. Like many shows adapted to Broadway, I didn’t know the story. I hadn’t read the book or watched the movie either. However, one day I came across the uber talented, Tony-nominated, Kelli O’Hara singing “Almost Real” on YouTube. She took my breath away. I knew by that one single performance I had to see the show. It’s funny how social media can do that. So, when my friend Kim asked if I wanted to go I said, “Yes!” 

I had worked a long day and my allergies were driving my nuts, but I was excited to see this show and on a week night. It was a full house. My seat from the second row allowed me the opportunity to get ... well ... let’s say an intimate look at the actors. People next to me giggled, cried and sighed when Steven Pasquale would (as Susan Blackwell stated during an interview), open his mouth and let that, “rainbow of sound come out.” The mix of amazing vocals combined with an unbuttoned shirt is something I could watch and listen to every day. It’s like an ice cream sundae with whipped cream!As for Kelli O’Hara. Kelli is like the hot fudge and cherry that drips over the ice cream. I have no words because she is just that perfect. Anyway, now that we are all craving ice cream ... back to the show. The lights dim, the orchestra plays ... and we leave bustling New York City for a quiet farming community in Iowa. Two plus hours later the people sitting next to me turn to me and ask something many people are asking, “Why is this show closing again?” “I don’t know,” I tell them. I shake me head in disbelief. I look them each in the eye and say, “It’s a work of art.”

I know all Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are pieces of art. However, for me, this was a work of art. From the beautifully choreographed changes of scenery, to the lighting, the lyrics and orchestration. It was perfection. It has everything a show should have ... especially the most important element. That element is the ability to connect with the audience. I could see myself in nearly every single character. Most important though are the themes that are so beautifully woven into the fabric of the story. The first is the idea of living a different life ... the choices we make. What if we hadn’t opened that door. What if I hadn’t have said, “yes.” What if I’d said, “no.” The second: community. Community is talked about in the songs“You’re Never Alone” and “To Build A Life.” In New York City you’re never alone, but at the same time you can feel alone. That’s where community comes in. Community is important. Whether it’s the community of friends you make or the community in which you live. It’s what makes living in such a hard place like New York sustainable. You try to build a life. You try to build a home. Your home and life are all based on choices you’ve made, chances you took and opportunities you passed on. It’s also about living in the moment and being part of something ... being connected.  

I think that’s what makes Broadway so special. The connection. The connection made between actors. The connection made between the actors and the audience.The connection amongst those watching a show ... together.  Broadway is about community too though. It’s a giving community, a hard working community, a community that comes together every year to recognize and celebrate their achievements. The Tony Awards. I don’t know why “The Bridges of Madison County” wasn’t nominated for Best Musical. I do know that the cast and creative team doesn’t need an award to know that this show has touched the hearts of many who have seen it. I know it has mine. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

"These Miles" --- One Person's Dream A Reality

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
    - Walt Disney

There is something to say about a person who goes after their dreams. Even if they fail they at least tried. My dream to return to New York was realized after a long journey. I still have dreams I’m chasing and I have friends that are, right now, taking steps to make their dreams come true.

I am always happy when someone achieves a lifelong dream --- no matter how big or small. This isn’t about me though. It’s about the person who has inspired this blog post. Jonathan Estabrooks. I haven’t met (yet) this Canadian with the spirited messages and voice smooth as gold. However, when I learned about his Kickstarter campaign to help fund his album I ... and many, many others ... jumped at the chance to help make his dream a reality. Jonathan was kind enough to update us on his exciting journey as he put together the pieces to create his album, “These Miles.”  

In my opinion, it’s the perfect album. I mean who doesn’t like a little opera, a little musical theatre and some great tunes like “She” and “Fly Away.” To say I’ve been obsessed with the album would be an understatement. It de-stresses me at work and has lifted my spirits in the wake of the recent passing of my grandmother. “These Miles” just makes me happy. (Insert Pharrell Williams singing “Happy” here)

I could not be prouder of Jonathan. You can tell he put a lot of effort, thought and detail into each track. His album is proof that dreams do come true. They come true every day ... all over the world. It could be a little dream or a big dream. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes you can achieve your dream alone. Somtimes you need some help to achieve that dream. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Yoko Ono once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” So to all you dreamers out there ... you can do it. 

**** “These Miles” drops April 8th and can be pre-ordered on Amazon and iTunes. However, I was super excited when my copy arrived in the mail last week.  Below is a YouTube link that gives you a little more insight and a preview of Jonathan’s album

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

To My Grandma

“Take a look at yourself in the mirror.
Who do you see looking back?
Is it the person you want to be?
Or is there someone else you were meant to be … the person you should have been, but fell short.
Is someone telling you can’t or you won’t. Because you can.
Believe that love is out there.
Believe that dreams come true every day. Because they do.”
I once heard those words being spoken. They are also some of what my grandma taught me.
She inspired me to follow my every dream.
She told me that I was a star, even when I felt I was falling from the sky.
Why? Because that’s what grandmas do.
They let you call Santa’s hotline when your parents won’t.
Grandmas love you unconditionally … even when you steal candy from the wood box in the living room, or play dress up with their clip on earrings as they’re in the tv room with grandpa.
Grandmas are always busy, but they stop to tell everyone about you so everyone knows your name.
Grandmas keep everything --- like the mug that sat in her window at work and that everyone walking by could see.
They’ll travel hundreds of miles to see you get your college diploma and see you in the California desert.
Grandmas leave footprints in your heart and in the sand.
My grandma did every winter she spent in Florida.
Even when a footprint disappears in the tide, it’s taking the sand and bringing it elsewhere. Maybe the sand mixes with a new beach or with new footprints left by new people walking along the beach.
Right now grandma is walking on a beach … drinking one of her favorite Baileys drinks … or maybe a pomegranate martini … or maybe a glass of Piesporter … leaving footprints in the sand with the family and friends she has rejoined … all whom have left footprints across our hearts.

My Beloved Grandma: Madeline Ross Schwechter
January 14, 1923-March 11, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Trip Home

I’m home! Those of you on Facebook noticed my comment about my love/hate relationship with having Mondays off. I love it because ... well ... that means I have at least one weekend day off. I also love it because while everyone is complaining about Monday I’m not at work complaining about the fact that my weekend is over.

Things that are not so great. Most of my friends are working. I’m all for jobs! Jobs are good! That means you can afford to live in this amazing city of New York. However, Mondays are tricky for me. There are no speed dating events. They're always Thursday or Wednesday nights, when I’m at work. Most of Broadway is dark. Friends that do work normal hours just wanna go home, or have plans. I get that. I get off of work at 1am and just want to get the heck home. Traveling the subway at 1am is a wee bit different then in the evening. The train is crowded, but you can sit. Most of us are sleeping or reading and just want to get home. When you take the “rush hour” train home from Times Square to wherever you live ... different story. I think I began to notice this last week. I was working some rare day shifts and was leaving at a pretty normal time for someone in the news business (between 6pm and 6:30pm). Now, I usually am just starting my shift. I typically get to work between 4:30pm and 5pm and the trains are pretty chill. I mean it’s usually full of school kids, nannies or wacky shift people like me.  I never notice that the subways are simmering, getting ready for the rush of people leaving work to go home ... that the subways are about to boil over.

That brings us to today. I had a nice day. I went grocery shopping. I went to pilates. I got my nails done. Then, I got stuck.  I typically get stuck on what to do on Monday nights. I always feel I should be doing something on my nights off because I don’t get nights off. Mondays are weird. Sundays I have friends that are off. If I stay in on Sunday night I watch my Alaska shows. Mondays are odd. Well, tonight, nobody was available to do anything. Nobody was like “You must see this Broadway or off-Broadway show.” Monday’s are weird on Broadway. I’ve seen most of the shows that do have a performance Monday night. Mamma Mia ... I was leaning towards. I still haven’t seen that show! However, for some reason my gut told me to skip it tonight. I am on the fence with Rocky. It’s in previews and some have told me the show has some kinks to work out ... that it is great ... but to wait till the show is frozen and it’s open. I do want to see “Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man.” However, I want someone to go with me and nobody wants to go! People! It’s a funny show! I promise we will sit in the back and won’t have to participate! It’s also 2-for-1 Off Broadway time! I digress. So seeing a show was out tonight. Plan B. Happy Hour. Nobody was able to meet up for drinks either. So this was my afternoon. I ate some queso, read a book, and had a whisky sour and drank gallon of water. Then I went to Latitude Bar & Grill for a $5 martini before I was like “Jess. Cut your losses.” I look at my watch and it’s like 6:20ish. I give up and decide it's time to go. It’s time to go home and enjoy some “General Hospital” and other shows I DVR. I am a homebody. I love being at home. Getting there ... however, is another thing. As I approached the Times Square station at 6:30 ... I braced myself for crowds of people wanting to get home too. 

Those of you who have stepped on the already full 2 or 3 train at Times Square at this hour already know it’s not going to be the most comfortable ride. If you are going two or three stops ... not so bad. People get off at Penn Station, but even more pile on. It’s a sardine situation either way. You just know you are smashed up against someone who has either an iPad in their hands, a book in their hands, or multiple bags in their hands. These people are all fine. It’s the person with the three grocery bags that always drives me nuts! I get it. Everyone needs to go grocery shopping. Heck! I’m finishing up a box of Glutino Bagel Chips and a tub of cream cheese as I type this (OINK!). However, for you to shove your three grocery bags onto this sardine-packed train ... then plop them down on someone’s feet because there is no room and then get pissy about it.... well, you get an eye roll from me. I mean acknowledge you are already invading someone already consumed space with your bags and apologize! I mean, I was smashed against a door the entire time! I accept this is a fact of riding the subway in New York City at rush hour. I got off when the doors open to let people off. I got back on and got back smashed against the door again. I’m fine with that. I mean, I don’t love it, but ... it’s okay. #1. Don’t live in NYC if you can’t hand this occasional occurrence on trains. #2 It’s okay. We all want to go home! Just acknowledge that you know you are in someone's space. It’s okay. I get it. No worries! The train rolls on. We hit 14th Street. Another hot stop on the train ride home at rush hour. Why? Well, there are bars galore and lots of people live in the Chelsea-area. However, despite the number of people who spill off the train, you are still packed like a sardine. So ... I do a “happy dance” in my head when we hit Clark Street in Brooklyn. Why? Because a lot more people get off the train. Being that Clark Street is the first stop in Brooklyn on the 2/3 train ... a lot of people live there ... and get off. Then ... the train hits Atlantic Avenue. I jump off the train and let folks on as dozens more people pile off. Atlantic Terminal is known as the Grand Central Station of Brooklyn. The train rumbles on. Two stops later I get off. I climb the stairs and breathe in the Brooklyn air. I love my neighborhood. I get off and it’s quiet. There is nobody rushing around. There are no yellow taxis honking. It’s just quiet. I walk home and turn the key. I open the door and say to myself “Welcome home. It’s good to back.” 

People ask me all the time what I love about New York. They question why I would leave so many good jobs and family to ride in a sardine-packed subway. I've blogged about this before, but taxi driver Eugene Salomon has another perspective I love.

I think Mr. Salomon said it right in his book (I just finished) called, “Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver.”

“New York is a terrible place. New York is a wondrous place. It’s filled with awfully rude people and it’s filled with the nicest people you’ve ever met. Its joy will infect you, its misery will haunt you; there are saints, sinners and a church or bar on nearly every block; it’s where you go to soar, it’s where you go to nose-diver from a bridge. Every variation of the human condition is not only represented, but well represented, here. New York is the human race. New York is the world.” --Eugene Salomon

It's also home.