What A Wonderful Town!

As soon as I saw the ad for Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig And The Angry Inch, I knew we’d be making a trip to New York. After all, it’s NPH, in Hedwig And The Angry Inch! Pete and I saw the movie (based on the off-Broadway one man show) years ago, we both liked it so much we bought the video, and who can resist NPH? Luckily AmEx card holders got an early purchase deal, so we got great seats at a reasonable price. It just happened to be on Pete’s birthday!

So here we were, a few months later, with our friend Deborah, making our way to New York for a long weekend. Since we were going to be here anyway, we decided we should see another show as well. Pete has been trying to get us tickets of the touring version of Book Of Mormon for years, but the tickets have been outrageous, so seeing it for a decent price in NY was another bonus!

We left Sacramento on a Thursday red-eye. Deborah grew up in Brooklyn, and visits Broadway, and her family in New Jersey, often enough to make a fabulous city guide. One of the only hiccups we had in our four day adventure was the fact that Pete accidentally made us TWO hotel reservations for Saturday, and NONE for Thursday (oops). Luckily, the wonderful concierge at The Jewel, whose name I never got, not only fixed the problem, but let us check in at 10 AM so we could nap after our flight!  The first thing we did after recuperating a bit was a pedi-cab tour of central Park.

The last time Pete and I were in New York we took a grey Line bus tour. We do it in every city now, but since we had already done one here, we chose the Central Park tour this time. It was THE perfect way to see the park, and the 73 degree, partly cloudy spring weather made it that much better. We first headed to the Astro Restaurant for a quintessential New York diner breakfast, then on to our tour.

We heard a constant refrain of, “I had no idea!” from Deborah. She has been to the park numerous times over the years, but had never seen the lakes, many of the statues, nor the tunnel with imported French tile ceiling. Our tour guide Yigit (a fairly recent Turkish immigrant) was amazing. He knew what to show us, what buildings near the edges of the park were significant, and when and where to park and let us walk. Two hours passed in a heartbeat, and I feel lucky to have seen so much of the park in such a relaxing way having just gotten off the plane a few hours earlier.

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Our indomitable tour guide Yigit.

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We headed back to the hotel for a nap, then on to dinner at Da Marcella, which, coincidentally, just happened to be directly next door to our hotel (okay, it wasn’t a coincident, we didn’t feel like straying far). Excellent choice! The drinks were soothing, the meal was top-notch, and the service couldn’t have been better. Pete and I shared Carpaccio di Rape con Feta Greca (Red and Golden Beets Carpaccio, Greek Feta Cheese, Endive, Arugula), I had a lovely Gnocchi con Gamberi e Pomodoro (Homemade Potato Gnocchi, Gulf Shrimp, Fresh Tomato), Pete had Petto di Pollo Organico Arrosto (Organic Chicken Breast, Herbed Breadcrumbs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon, Pinot Grigio), and our travel companion Deborah had Costa di Manzo Brasata al Barolo (Braised Short Rib of Beef, Barolo, Polenta). If you happen to be in the neighborhood, I give it 4 stars.

We also had perfect weather for our four block stroll to the Eugene O’Neil Theater, and our date with the truly laugh out loud, and toe tap-ingly entertaining Book of Mormon. I know it sounds trite, but it’s also accurate! From the irreverent look at religion, to the soulful take on “first world problems”, it was as good as we could have hoped. Pete says it’s his all time favorite.

We headed back to our hotel, where we asked the concierge for a bar recommendation, hopefully with a view. We ended up walking about four blocks to a bar that was apparently hosting some sort of large graduation party. We took the (OMG packed) elevator to the 22nd floor, walked into the bar, immediately walked back out, down to the street, and walked to the god-awful Bill’s Bar and Burger for bad onion rings and a terrible Irish Coffee shake, then to bed.

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Walking TO the bar, same view on the way back.

We had to check out of our hotel the next morning since we were spending the evening (and night) visiting with Deborah’s family. So to kill time before we took the bus to New Jersey, we decided to try our luck again with a brunch cruise on the Hudson River. Score!

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AMAZING! We were starving, and the buffet, menu reworked by Chopped Champion Eric LeVine, was excellent, the view as we left the docks while finishing our meal was great, and the tour itself was unbelievable!

We had the perfect temperature for standing on the observation deck while snapping pictures of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, the New Jersey and Brooklyn skyline, the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, Governor’s Island, and the new World Trade Center “Freedom” tower.

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We then hurried back to our hotel to grab our bags and a ‘gypsy cab’ (even Pete in his sport jacket and silver mane couldn’t manage a real cab at this point for some reason), to take us to the bus terminal for a traffic clogged trip to Joisy. Luckily Deborah’s sister Paulette pampered us until her two son’s, their lovely wives, and charming children arrived for a late dinner, conversation, and by 1 or 2 AM, comfy beds.

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I think I was googling a show or something for the next days entertainment…

 

The next morning had us riding the train (instead of the bus) back to the city. A thoroughly miserable ride thanks to the horrible parenting of the ear numbingly loud  8 year old girls excitedly making a trip into the city with their moms.

Next up, after checking back into the hotel (which I HIGHLY recommend for the location, accommodations, and five-star service!) and another bit of napping, was a unfortunately forgettable lunch at some Japanese restaurant near us just off of Time Square. I can’t even remember the name, and I don’t feel like googling it. Then a performance of the always hysterical off broadway show called Forbidden Broadway. It’s a four person cabaret with one piano, and it’s constantly updated to skewer all the current hot shows. Very funny.

This time we headed back to the hotel to rest, shower, and fancy ourselves up for Pete’s birthday dinner at Clement’s, at the Peninsula Hotel, located at 55th Street and 5th Avenue.

What a find! We were immediately seated (after the bellman told us he didn’t believe they were serving that night :-/ ), and ordered drinks. I had a gin and tonic, because they’re safe. Pete had his favorite, a Sidecar, which can be a very dangerous cocktail to order. They can be bitter and unpleasant if made by somebody that doesn’t really know how. The waiter said it was their specialty, and my heart sank. I was starting to regret my safe decision. When it arrived, it was better than any we’ve ever had. Light and frothy, with the perfect amount of tart, not bitter, lemon juice, and a sugared rim. A detail that is often missed.

We shared a Taste of Spring (green market fruits and vegetables with a hazelnut vinaigrette) and a Tuna (wasabi, picked daikon, and white soy), both spectacular. Pete had Lobster (stone ground grits and white asparagus), I had Beef Tenderloin (nettles, sweet potato, huckleberry), and Deborah had Scallops (apple and yuzu kosho). All among the best meals we could remember, no food-gasms, but well worth the ticket price.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the 10 PM showing of Hedwig, so we made a stop at the outdoor bar at Rockefeller Center for drinks and dessert. Nothing special, I had an Irish Coffee (much better than the horrible shake at Bill’s), Pete had a banana split, and Deborah had a caramel pineapple upside down cake. All yummy, and a beautiful night to hang out under the clear New York sky.

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Finally, the reason for the entire trip to NY! Hedwig And The Angry Inch, with the most truly fabulous Neil Patrick Harris!

We walked the few blocks through Time Square, to the Belasco Theater. The line was surprisingly long when we arrived, but it started moving almost as soon as we arrived. As the lights lowered, I have to admit to being more excited about a show than I ever have, and I’ve seen Wicked three times!

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The beautiful Belasco Theater

The show started with a four piece rock band tuning up on stage, and suddenly NPH lowered from the rafters in an insane jumpsuit that he unzipped, stepped out of, and didn’t stop mesmerizing the audience for the next 90 minutes. No intermission. I was blown away. He and his costar Lena Hall won Tonys (and no matter how many times I watch that clip I’m stunned) for their performances exactly one week later, and I never doubted they would. The show cannot be over praised. I could easily have sat through it again (and again).

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NPH as the fabulous Hedwig!

After the show finished we made our way to the exit, trying to figure out how we would get back stage to meet up with Lena Hall, NPH’s costar who plays Hedwig’s husband in the show. Pete just happens to know her mother, and she had arranged a tour for us! We felt like groupies. We went around the barricades holding back the crowds waiting for the stars to exit, and got buzzed in (because our names WERE on the list, luckily). We entered with Mr Harris’ husband David Burtka! (Insert little girl squeal here) and made our way into the tiny back stage area. Hedwig, being a very small ensemble show, has a very small stage, which translates to small back of the house as well. After waiting a little less than 5 minutes we were greeted by the adorable Lena Hall, who seemed to genuinely appreciate our adoration (did I point out she won a TONY for this role!?!). If you watched her accept her Tony this year, you saw the real thing. I’m convinced she didn’t expect to win, even though we had no doubt she would.

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Stephen Trask and Lena Hall

She was gracious enough to chat with us, even though she must have been dead on her feet after two performances that day, and while we chatted NPH came out of his dressing room (insert more fangirl screams here!). He was SURROUNDED by people, and looked utterly exhausted, but was gamely chatting with fans. Lena, who was by this point draped with an absolutely smashed (music writer and original cast member) Stephen Trask was gamely chatting with us about a mutual friend who had choreographed the doomed musical Dracula. We of course snapped a picture of the two of them, after which Lena said she would introduce us to Neil! (Yes, more fangirl squeals) he talked with us for a few minutes, about what I have no recollection, and then we asked if we could get a picture with him. Lena tried to take Pete’s phone (as if we didn’t want her in the picture, ha) and we insisted some other random person back stage do it. At this point I TOUCHED NPH (fangirl squeal number…oh who gives a s#!$), and, as he walked back to the groupies waiting to talk with him, he told me my hair was awesome!

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Lena Hall, Deborah, Me, NPH (smiling), Pete (eyes closed)

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Lena Hall, Deborah, Me, NPH (looking exhausted), and Pete (eyes open)

We then headed back to our hotel for the night. Yup, that’s the extent you get to be a fangirl on broadway.

The next morning we woke, checked out of our hotel, stored our luggage, and headed to the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. That is a sucky bus ride I’ll tell you right now. Yes, the food was spectacular, and even though we knew one of our favorite celebrity chefs, owner Marcus Samuelson

In case you don’t know who Marcus Samuelson is!

most likely wouldn’t be there, we felt it was worth the trip. Another interesting site was the infamous Atlah Harlem Church.

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My drink, however, made the whole trip worth it…

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It’s called a PYT, which I assume means pretty young thing. It was yummy…

From there we met up with another friend to spend an hour in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

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Our Brooklyn friend Laurie, Deborah, Pete, and Me at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

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and met up with Deborah’s sister to head to the airport. Oh yes, we also got a tour of East New York. And all I can say about that is, WE SURVIVED!!

 

 

 

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