I have spent the last four days in New York City. Only my third trip there, and I was so thrilled to be back. I love it. Yes, it’s crowded and loud and tends to smell absolutely awful (seriously, y’all. the smell.), but there’s just something about it. And I don’t mean in some kind of gooey, sentimental “the city is so magical” way. I think I just really like being in big cities, and since I grew up in a smallish town, it’s such a welcome change.
Well, and New York has Broadway, which was the whole point of the trip. My friend and I saw three shows, so I’ll give a little recap of all of them.
Anyway, I’ve written up some of my thoughts on She Loves Me, Hamilton, and Aladdin.
Night 1: She Loves Me. Now, I admit, I didn’t actually want to see this one initially. My friend (we’ll call her “B”) was really excited about it because Zachary Levi is currently in as the leading actor. I honestly didn’t have a clue who he was. I still really don’t, if I’m being honest here. I mean, I know he was the voice of Flynn Rider in Tangled, but…yeah. That’s about the extent. I know, I’m awful. But I have a picture with him now, so. And Jane Krakowski and Laura Benanti were fantastic.
This was a last-minute ticket purchase, the day we got to the city. We got lucky and the TKTS booth in Times Square had orchestra seats for half price. And the TKTS line looks terrifying, but if you find yourself in NYC and want some marginally cheaper tickets, don’t be scared of it. They keep the line moving, so it goes pretty quick. There are better deals to be had on tickets usually, but if you’ve tried those other options and are still coming up empty, it’s a nice backup plan. Their app also keeps up-to-date on what shows they’ve got tickets available for.
Night 2: Hamilton!
The main attraction, folks. This is why we went to NYC. After my first trip to see the show, I managed to get B a little obsessed with it. One day in February, she texted me and told me she was going to go see it, and I was informed that I needed to go with her because she wasn’t about to go to NYC all alone (even though I did that back in October and survived just fine). So this was an interesting night for me, because I actually had a basis for comparison. I saw the show on October 8th last year, not too terribly long after it opened on Broadway. So as a little bit of background, in October there were a lot of people in the audience who didn’t seem to necessarily care about the show; they had clearly purchased their tickets when they were properly on sale rather than via horrendously priced resale tickets and weren’t all that enthused about being there. Some people sitting by me were downright rude, opening candy wrappers and talking and checking their phones during the show. After the show, the stage door was mildly crowded: maybe 80 or 90 people, and the line at the barricade was only two people deep for the most part. The vast majority of the cast came out and signed playbills and take pictures. I actually went back the next night to catch a couple of cast members I missed, and got to say hello to most of the main cast again. It was more intense than any other stage door I’ve been at, but it wasn’t too bad.
This time, though? This time, everything was different. Starting with when we got to the theater before the show. We arrived an hour before curtain, half an hour before the lobby opened. And despite being fairly early, we were so far back in line, we were nearly at the main door for the Imperial Theatre, next door. Here’s our view from the line:
In October, I was at the theater crazy early–like two hours before showtime–and there was no one lining up until around this time. The line certainly wasn’t this long. I don’t know that the line to get inside ever got this long last time, and this time? By the time they opened the lobby, the line was going around the block.
Our seats were great. We were around 5 rows closer than I was last time, and I thought that my seat last time was pretty damn good. So we sat down, and vaguely wondered if anyone important was in the audience that night. We didn’t believe so; there was no sign that there was, no increased security or anything like that. There was something weird going on in the balcony, though. People started cheering and someone up there was talking or making an announcement of some kind. No clue what was going on there.
The show was, of course, amazing.And the energy in the theater was so much different than last time. As soon as Leslie Odom, Jr. stepped on stage, everyone erupted in applause and cheers. Ditto for when everyone else made their entrances. The audience’s energy was so high. And when Lin entered? Everyone lost it. The cast and orchestra had to hold for a good minute an a half before the song could continue. There were some applause at that moment last time, of course, but nowhere near that much. If you’ve watched the cast’s Grammy performance, it was like that. Just crazy.
And speaking of crazy, let’s discuss the stage door a little bit. I mentioned how it was crowded, but manageable last time, and most of the cast came out both nights? This time, there were easily 300 people crowding around. It was almost frightening. And there were people across the street and all the way down the block. Only two cast members came out this time: Rory O’Malley (aka King George the Third the Fourth) and Christopher Jackson (aka George Washington). B and I got autographs from both, and I got a picture with Christopher Jackson (I could’ve gotten one with Rory, no problem,it’s not like he was unwilling or anything. I just didn’t ask for one). Christopher in particular was great, taking his time down the line and chatting with people. I congratulated him on his Tony nomination and he talked a little about how he was feeling about that and about how it’s been preparing for the Tony performance. It was a great night, and I was so happy to have had the chance to get back to NYC and see most of the original cast perform again. Special shout-out to Daveed Diggs, who managed to steal the hell out of every scene he’s in. And Leslie Odom, Jr., for managing to make people care way more than they want to about Aaron Burr and absolutely killing it. But really, the entire cast is phenomenal and all of the accolades and attention Hamilton has been getting are completely earned and deserved. I wish the whole cast luck on their assorted Tony nominations.
Night 3: Aladdin. Aladdin was the last show of our trip, and it was a refreshing change after the chaos that was Hamilton. It was much less crowded before and after the show, even though the show was, in fact, sold out. It was a much simpler process to get in and get seated. Although the ushers did seat a couple who came in late–like after the first two songs late–and were seated in the middle of a row. That was really obnoxious, because the whole row had to stand up to let them in, which obstructed everyone else’s view for a minute. It was a little odd that they went ahead and seated that couple (and some other patrons) late; the ushers at Disney productions tend to be pretty harsh (I mean, they almost always have the requisite Disney Cast Member smiles firmly in place, but the moment you’re doing something against the rules or irritating to your fellow patrons, they’re in your face with a reprimand and a flashlight) and I would’ve thought they would have been following one of the typical “if you’re late, you don’t get seated until intermission” policies. Disrupting an entire section (the whole mezzanine) during the performance to seat individuals who arrived late really isn’t acceptable. Especially not in a Broadway theater.
The show itself was great, and Aladdin was one of my favorite Disney movies when I was a kid, so I was really excited to see it. The Genie (James Monroe Inglehart) stole the show, of course. He’s just spectacular, and he had so much energy, it was infectious. The main cast (minus Jonathan Freeman, who plays Jafar) came out after the show to sign autographs, and since there were only maybe 10 people left by the time James Monroe Inglehart came out, he stuck around and chatted with us a while. We learned that it takes about a week solid of not performing before he stops finding glitter all over the place (there’s gold glitter all over his head for the show). Good to know.
Overall, it was an awesome time. Also, it was Fleet Week, so that made for some extra fun; we chilled out at Starbucks one afternoon talking to a couple of Marines. But I will say that three shows in three nights, with days full of hiking around NYC and pretty hot weather ends up being just a little exhausting. By which I mean that by the time we flew back to Chicago, my friend and I were so tired, we cut off the rest of our trip short (we were planning to spend the next two days hanging out in Chicago) and went home instead. 😛