Gnawing At The Big Apple

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By Briane Nasimok

(TORONTO, ON) – First things first, as some of you may have noticed, I have not been very productive lately when it comes to producing efforts for the Square; although there has not been a groundswell of comments from the reading public regarding my absence.

Your lack of response could be due to any number of reasons; the inability to express your dismay at not having any new material from me, your total focus being on the exploits of the mayor of Toronto, or you just don’t care.

Being that as it may, and needing to fulfil my parole requirements, the following is a brief look at my recent trip to the World’s Greatest City; New York, New York.

Other than Hamilton, this is the hub that I have visited most, outside of Fordtown, and as the coffee mugs state, I Love New York.

I have been there through all its phases; during the time people were frightened to walk the streets (silly me, in those days trekking through Harlem, alone), the seedy days of Broadway (which has now turned into Disney on Ice in the winter), to the banning of smoking, large soda drinks, and full frontal nudity.

The main reason for this trip was to see the Broadway show  Big Fish that was closing. Its based on a movie that actually made me cry (because it was touching – not due to the fact that it was a Nicholas Cage movie – which this wasn’t).

Through Telecharge and Broadway Box, two on-line discount websites, I had bought my Thursday night ticket to Big Fish and another show on Wednesday, The Last Two People on Earth, at a savings of between 40% and 50% (which still ran me between $80 and $90 each).

The flight was cost effective due to my friends at Porter, who seem to offer once-in-a-lifetime deals every few months. Maybe the lifetime they are using is one that belongs to a grub. This meant the trip set me back somewhere around $300. And with an invite to stay at a friend’s apartment for free, how could I miss?

As the plane approached our destination, we were informed that because of our earlier delay there was no available gate and that we would be forced to circle for a while; some 45 minutes. And as an added bonus, because of the fog, it might be a little “rough”. This kind of revelation can lead one to rediscovering a faith in a higher being; or more free wine.

We finally landed at beautiful Newark International Airport and Game Reserve and, after shuffling through American Immigration, it was off to the train for Penn Station.

I opted for a subway pass ($30) for the week even though I was only in the Big Apple for 74 hours. At $2.50 a trip, the pass was worth the investment.

When I do NYC, it is non-stop.

There’s a new wrinkle in the transit system. They charge an extra dollar for the reusable pass, which then expires a few months later. A friend supplied me with one of her old passes; a dollar saved.

After taking the subway to 125th Street, to drop off my bag, and climbing the two flights to a typical NYC apartment (please wear slippers as the floors can give you splinters), it was back out into the world, pass in hand, to visit TKTS, home of the half-price Broadway tickets.

The line up for tickets starts early in the afternoon, so arriving at TKTS after 6:00 pm I knew that there would be the dregs of the leftovers and for Rock of Ages. But, I was amazed to see I could get a seat to a number of big shows including one of my favourites, Pippin, so I went to the ticket window.

Even at half-price, plus service charge, the cost would be $75.50 (US) and this was without Tony award-winner and personal friend Andrea Martin (I’m such a name dropper) in the cast. So, I went back to the listings to find a more cost effective alternative.

Two very charming young men were asking if people needed some help so I asked. Bad move. They suggested the, “award winning Newsical the Musical”, with each touting its brilliance. I should’ve asked what award it might have won. Best show on 57th between 7th and 8th?

Newsical had been running two years and boasted to be, “a musical version of the Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I hadn’t heard of it, which should’ve been a red flag. But silly frugal me, at only $50, how could I lose?

I did. But, only 70 minutes of my life.

The show is at a small complex and the best thing about the experience was free Wi-Fi. I exaggerate, as there were a few good moments in the production. The revue of “current” events wasn’t really that topical, yet included the requisite Rob Ford joke (third laugh).

I think my frustration was that there were very funny songs and then sketches that really missed the mark; something akin to a Kathleen Wynn press conference.

That would be my review of the revue.

Wednesday morning included a visit to the Mecca of food shopping; Zabars. Here I bought bagels that were huge enough to satisfy the aforementioned mayor of Toronto’s appetite. At 95 cents each they were one of the better bargains.

There is a debate over which city offers the better bagel. Montreal and their thin, wood-oven baked goods or NYC’s less-flat fare? I will sit on the fence munching either.

The afternoon was spent with a truly funny Canadian comedian who is currently trying to make his way in the US, Nathan MacIntosh. Here is to hoping that he gains Russell Peters status as he is very talented and I will be able to say that I told you about him first.

That evening I attended the post apocalyptic two-person vaudeville show, also 70 minutes long, starring one of my favourites, Mandy Potemkin. If the name sounds familiar, his credits range from the musicals Evita, to Sunday in the Park with George, to television’s Chicago Hope and Homeland.

I am a big fan and this is the third time I had seen Mandy live (but never actually in a musical) and this “try-out” production was directed by theatrical megastar, Susan Stroman.

The Last Two People on Earth An Apocalyptic Vaudeville was entertaining but might be considered an acquired taste.

Thursday was jam-packed, beginning with a get together with Mark Lukasiewicz, a man I directed in a college musical and who was now an award-winning Executive Producer at NBC news. He had taken a train back that morning from a Washington Correspondents dinner with Barak (name dropper) for our get-together.

Then a lunch meeting with a television distributor (note to Canada Revenue: this made the trip a legit business expense), and two musicals.

The first Fun Home had not even been on my radar until the powers that be texted me about the show. Not only were the reviews exceptional, there was a Thursday matinee at 3:00 pm, and rush tickets.

It was the best $20 I spent not for bagels, and I believe the show, which was playing at The Public, will make its way to Broadway at a much more hefty ticket price; and a long run.

My final outing was to see Big Fish, another Stroman. This visually spectacular musical was closing earlier than the cast and investors had hoped.

Let me say that I could see why the show may not have had the “legs” to run for years, but it was much better than many Broadway productions I have seen, and which lasted longer. Norbert Leo Butz was amazing in the lead role, which should at least garner him a Tony nomination.

Friday morning it was back on the subway to a train to Porter’s exclusive lounge where after a cup of tea, a package of cookies, a bottle of water, and an hour delay a plane delivered me to Toronto and a ferry ride, another bus trip, and a subway excursion returning me to my Fortress of Solitude; and no chance of a splinter.

As soon as I can arrange another “business meeting”, it’ll be back to the Big Apple for another bite.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.
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