New York City

Rockefeller Center Statue at Rockefeller Center ice rink

A heck of a town

With a free ticket on JetBlue set to expire at the end of October, I made a quick trip to New York city to see some shows and do a little sightseeing. As is often the case at this time of the year, the weather ranged from sunny and balmy to rainy and wretched.

Tarzan

I've avoided all other Disney broadway productions, and I wish I had avoided Tarzan as well. To be sure, there were some amazing bits of stagecraft to be appreciated. The opening sequence used lights projected on the scrim to depict the shipwreck that marooned baby Tarzan and his parents in Africa. The bit showing them struggling underwater to make their way to the surface was outstanding. To my disappointment, I would learn that that was the best part of the show.

Tarzan

As for the rest, the show couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to be Cirque du Soleil or a National Geographic special. The music by Phil Collins at times seemed like Andrew Lloyd Weber channeling Georgie Girl. To be fair, there were a lot of people around me who seemed transported and delighted, but it just didn't work for me.

I did find rather amusing the juxtaposition of Trazan on one side of the street opposite Beauty and the Beast on the other side of the street. Even with seats in the rear mezzanine (aka nosebleed section) priced over $100, I was astonished to see how many people came with small children in tow. Now I know those tickets weren't cheaper than getting a babysitter.

Drowsy Chaperone Bob Martin

On the other hand, the Drowsy Chaperone was an absolute delight. The premise is that a narrator — known only as The Man in the Chair — is feeling a bit blue so he decides to play the sound track recording of an old musical to cheer himself up, and as he listens and tells us about the musical, the musical materializes in his living room. It is very witty, and I chuckled through most of the performance, interrupted by an occasional belly laugh.

Drumstruck

As my last show, I chose Drumstruck, a musical performance by a troupe of South African drummers. I was intrigued by learning that all the audience members would be given a drum so they could participate, not just listen and watch. In the past I've enjoyed two other percussive shows — Stomp and Tap Dogs — so I thought it was worth a shot. Plus, the ticket was absurdly cheap, thanks to a membership in the Theatre Development Fund, and it was one of the few Saturday matinees that interested me.

Drumstruck Drumstruck

Drumstruck was an absolute treat! I had a front-row center seat, which caused me some initial apprehension, being entirely rhythm challenged. To my surprise, I really got into it. Someone from the cast always acted as "conductor" for the audience, keeping the beat and miming how we were to drum. Generally, the audience played a rather simple rhythm while the cast members did elaborate variations on the theme. There was a lot of dancing and singing, and at one point the audience was made to learn an African song. Okay, so it only had about five words, but they were repeated in various ways. I would definitely go back to see this show in an instant.

Bodies

On Friday, when I had planned to do most of my sightseeing, it turned drizzly, windy, and frigid, so I did indoor things. When the Brunch Bunch had visited New York earlier in the year, I had seen posters for something called Bodies...The Exhibition, that I thought might be interesting but at least some of the Bunch thought might be ghoulish, so we didn't go. This time, I went.

Bodies - thinker

The exhibit consists of many real bodies dissected to show the various systems of the human body in all its complexity. There were sections for the skeleton and muscle systems, internal organs, digestive system, nervous system, reproductive systems, circulatory system, fetal development, and so on. It was simply awesome. People were walking around mesmerized by what they were seeing.

Bodies - back side Bodies - organs

It was very educational. For example, the chap shown in the picture at right, had his piriformis muscles displayed through the square opening in his right butt cheek. Years ago, while I was training for the Vancouver marathon, my orthopedist attributed the severe and persistent pain in my butt to "piriformis syndrome" but I could never quite picture what the problem was. Thanks to this chap, I now get it completely; no wonder I had a pain in the butt!

It seems that there are installations of the exhibit in other cities as well. I highly recommend it.

I also found that an exhibit of Annie Liebowitz's more recent photographs was opening Friday at the Brooklyn Museum, so I went to see that as well. You've probably seen her photographs before. For example, the Vanity Fair cover picture a few years back of a naked and very pregnant Demi Moore is a Liebowitz photo.

Saturday was another nice day, but frigid, being only 45°F when I got up. After breakfast, I decided to walk to the Drumstruck performance by way of Fifth Avenue, all the way from Chelsea to Central Park. It's a hike, and my hip was giving me trouble (that nasty piriformis again), so I went into a Starbucks to get a coffee and give it a rest. After I had been served my coffee and a sweet treat (my blood sugar was low, too), the young woman behind the counter said, "Our computers are down and we can't ring it up — have a nice day!" Now that's a New York moment. After I finished my coffee, I dropped the amount that would have been my purchase into the tip jar, explaining that an employee acting so sensibly deserved a reward.

For some more pictures, check out the slideshow. These are a real olla podrida — just assorted things I thought to snap.