Rediscovering Broadway

This past weekend Jeanne and I went to New York City and had such an amazing time. We saw two Broadway shows (Book of Mormon and Dear Evan Hanson), we took a cruise around Manhattan, we ate at restaurants that didn’t have kids’ menus, and we remembered what it is like to be adults without children. Our girls are away at summer camp for two weeks, so we had a free weekend to ourselves. After discussing various options, we left the dog with friends and headed to New York City for the weekend.

Decades ago we used to make regular (annual-ish) trips to New York (we found the days between Christmas and New Years to be an especially fun time when the city was festive but not crazy). We have brought the kids in the past, but strollers and crowds were never fun, and museums and shows aren’t really meant for little kids. As the girls got older, we tried again, but we had forgotten how much the sights, sounds, smells, and people can be overwhelming, especially to Caroline who is more sensitive to stimuli. The past two years were not the time to seek out crowds so it’s been a long time since we had been, and we had forgotten what a special place it can be.

I have a theory that that there are 4 world-class, important cities in this country: New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Each has been instrumental in exporting “American” products and ideas (finance, politics, Hollywood, and technology). These cities are vital to the product of America and are the top destinations to visit from other countries. In the same way that London, Paris, Rome, Dubai, Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc are world-class cities either for their history or their modernity (or both) and are top destinations for tourists to those parts of the world. There are plenty of other important cities in America (Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Boston, Miami, etc) but in my mind New York, Washington, LA, and San Fran are the top. And living only a few hours from one of these leaves no excuse for not visiting regularly.

I don’t try to pretend I know New York well or try to find hidden gems. I don’t claim to be trendy or hip (“swaggy” as my kids would say) and I have no problem playing the role of a tourist. So we drove our minivan to a hotel in mid-town Manhattan and signed on for a touristy weekend. (We looked into the train, but the Amtrak Acela is annoyingly expensive – hopefully next time we’ll plan ahead and get a better deal to avoid driving.)

The weather on Saturday was perfect, sunny with temperatures in the 80s, we couldn’t have had a better summer day. We used Citi Bikes to get to the pier and took a Circle Line cruise that circumnavigated Manhattan. Seeing the city from the water is spectacular and going all the way around the island gives a sense of its size and variety. It was a fabulous way to start the day and we would highly recommend it.

Initially we were just going to go to a Saturday evening show but decided to get matinee tickets as well. And both shows we saw were exceptional. The Book of Mormon was the funniest musical I’ve ever seen. Written by the same guys who created South Park, it was raunchy and inappropriate and hilarious. And then Dear Evan Hanson was so intense and serious and funny in such a powerful way. I spent the first show crying from laughing and the second crying from the emotional intensity, it was such a great reminder of the power of live performance. Both had won “Best Musical” the years they came out and it was a reminder of how good the best shows can be.

I recently read something about theaters (movie or live action) that “epics were not meant to have a pause button”. At home, even if you don’t actually pause, the fact that you know you have the option affects the watching. If you miss something, you can rewind. If you want to get up, you can stop the show. If you can’t hear the dialog, you can turn on closed captions. That flexibility is great, but it takes away from the experience. Being in a theater with hundreds of other people is part of the experience. We laugh and cry and applaud together. We take breaks at intermission together. We keep our phones away and focus on the performance. Movie theaters have some of it, but live action theaters have so much more. And we absolutely loved it.

Broadway shows have a special place in American entertainment. They have always been the pinnacle of musical theater and it feels like a special pilgrimage to see shows on Broadway. I love that touring companies travel the country (world?) bringing the shows to more people but exiting a Broadway theater into the throngs of nighttime Times Square is, again, part of the experience. So while it may be easier to see shows when they travel to Boston, we’re going to try to make a point of trips to New York in future years. I’m not sure we’ll be able to recapture the amazingness of this weekend, but it’s great reminder that experiences like this can be part of our lives again and we’re going to try to take advantage of it.

Here are some photos from the weekend (and earlier in the month):

And for those who are concerned about Daisy, don’t worry, she had a great time. She stayed with friends who have a Double Doodle puppy and Daisy got to be the bossy older dog for once. And she was exhausted when she got home.

This is Daisy on the right and Nellie on the left (notice Daisy’s paw keeping Nellie in place):

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