Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a strange and wonderful place

Our plane from Dayton to NY was very small - just 48 passengers at full capacity. The flight took a little over an hour. As we descended towards Laguardia airport, I saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then the tall buildings of Manhattan. It felt totally surreal, like we were watching television through the airplane window.

We grabbed a taxi into the city and found our hotel. It is a wonderful, lovely, friendly, gorgeous and (relatively) inexpensive hotel. It was noon, and our room was not yet ready, so we registered and dropped our bags, then headed out to find show tickets.

We checked first at the New World Stages Theatre for rush tickets to Avenue Q but they were already sold out. It was a bit of an unusual Monday for theatre, being Martin Luther King's birthday, so shows that don't usually run Mondays were running, and probably people who don't go see shows were going to see them. We headed over to the TKTS booth in Times Square. It's a place where you line up for mid-afternoon sales of discount tickets to most of the Broadway and Off-Broadway plays and musicals. We were about 5th in line 90 minutes before it opened. It was very cold there, so we were glad we dressed warmly. Fiona went to find hot chocolate for us while I stood in line. We chatted with the people around us - a young man visiting from New Zealand, a lady from Tampa Florida and a retired teacher who lives in New York. About half an hour before the booth opened they announced what shows they had available. We decided to try for Billy Elliot instead of Avenue Q, which we think we can see later in the week. We got half-price tickets in the 4th row. We were headed to our first Broadway show, on our very first day in New York.

My first impression of Times Square (by day) was sensory overload and wacky wonderment. It feels safe here, with so many people just out reveling in the weirdness and commercialism and mix-up mashup of people and purposes. There are police officers all around, smiling at you when you jaywalk or jump the walk signal, and also guys dressed up in pharaoh headgear to promote the King Tut exhibit, and Elmos from Sesame Street. Multiple Elmos on adjacent street corners. I'm not sure why. There are giant billboards many storeys tall on the sides of buildings flashing electronic messages and images and videos. There are big stores and little stores and vendor carts and people standing on the sidewalk trying to get you to go to tapings of TV shows and other attractions.

Our supper was at a nice Thai restaurant on 9th Avenue. It was delicious and not expensive. We were still pinching ourselves that we were in New York. After supper we visited Times Square at night. There were about 3 times as many people there as in the daytime. We went inside the M&Ms store (3 floors of M&Ms and M&Ms paraphenalia) and the giant Toys R Us with a full size ferris wheel inside the store. It was really cold out by now so we got tea at Starbucks and walked around hugging our cups for extra warmth.

Finally it was time to see the show. Billy Elliot is on at the Imperial Theatre. It's really grand inside, with lots of red velvet and gold leaf and giant crystal chandeliers. Our seats were amazing. The show was even better than we had expected. The 11 year old boy who played Billy is an incredible actor and dancer. The show told the story of the 1980s national coal miner's strike in England, and the story of Billy, a young boy growing up in a doomed town, who discovers his talent and passion for ballet. The two stories were woven together beautifully in song and dance. I liked that most of the story was told in the music and movement. The ensemble was great too. The ballet girls were all very good dancers and good actors, portraying awful dancers in most of the dance school scenes. The adult cast and ensemble members looked like good working class people from the 1980s, but then they danced. It's hard to explain how police officers and coal miners tap dancing can authentically convey a sense of time and place and circumstance, but they do. I cried about 6 times through the show, mostly due to the story, but at least once because I realised, "I am in New York, watching a Broadway show."

When we got back to the hotel it was 11pm, but only 8pm at home, so we called home and rattled out everything that had happened in the last 10 hours. It felt incredible that we could already have done and seen so much. We fell asleep tired and happy and excited about the days ahead.

question: what's more believable to you? a tap-dancing coal miner? or a police officer in a tutu?

mompoet - the luckiest mom in the world

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