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Prepared for August 30, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
Off-Broadway for Labor Day
Labor Day Weekend, a.k.a. the last gasp of summer,
has arrived all too soon. Let’s wave goodbye to all the thousands
of the New York City dwellers that are leaving their apartments and
heading for a final fling at fun in the sun. Let the masses head for
the shore, mountains, rivers, lakes and forests. Be an individualist,
a culture maven, or an entertainment seeker and help fill the void
in the Big Apple. There is something special about the more relaxed
pulse of the city when it has been conspicuously thinned of its
residents. Of course, you will feel the rush of adrenaline as you
secure your space in the center of the universe. One Labor Day weekend
in New York and you will surely begin to make it a tradition.
For years, the best kept secret in town has been the easy availability
of show tickets on Broadway and Off-Broadway, getting a table on short
notice at the best restaurants, and taking advantage of bargain rates
at top-rated hotels. Whether you opt for going directly to the box
office or choose to get in line for discounted tickets at the TKTS
box-office in Duffy Square, or at TKTS downtown at No. 2 World Trade
Center, you will be surprised how friendly and affordable the city
becomes on this holiday weekend. Because Broadway shows are generally
given a higher profile, I have elected to recommend a select group
of Off-Broadway shows that are worthy of your attention, and may be
only around for a short time. But first, where to stay?
Finding lodgings for a one, two or even a three-night stay that won’t
deplete your savings is easier than you think. Forget about spending
the usual $250 to $350 a night in three or four star centrally located
hotels. I’ve found seven super hotels that have rooms for under $200.
3 West 51st Street Club at 51st & 5th ($159.95); The Broadway Plaza,
at 27th & Broadway ($159.95, $189.95); Howard Johnson’s at 34th Street
& 8th Avenue ($145.95); Milford Plaza at 45th & 8th Avenue ($169.95);
Paramount at Times Square ($174.95, $189.95); Ramada at 34th & 8th
Avenue ($189.95); and the gorgeous newly renovated Regency, at 61st
& Park Avenue ($199.95, and breaking the barrier slightly at $205.95).
The Regency will also accommodate your pet. For more hotels, plus
easy-to-make Internet reservations go to CitySearch.com. Fill in New
York, and click on hotels.
For complete restaurant information, including reviews, menus, and
reservations, you can always rely on Zagat.com, although you do need
to register first. It’s free and worth it. Also Playbill.com has neat
restaurant reviews, plus you can click below the review and get a
If you happen to stay at the Regency, take the opportunity to see
"Mind Games and All That Jazz." This unusual show is the
of Marc Salem, a mentalist and thought-reader without parallel. If
you love to be baffled and amazed and included in the fun, you will
love every minute of this audience-participation show. You only have
through September 9 to see Salem at Feinstein’s At The Regency. Not
only can you enjoy dinner at one of the best hotel restaurants in
town, but you can also see attend the show without leaving the hotel.
Except for some musical augmentation, "Mind Games" is the
same show that already had a successful run Off-Broadway. Now there
is the added pleasure of the Vibrations, a jazz trio comprising
of Diva, the all-girl band. I promise you that Salem will have you
gasping at his astounding ability to tell you what’s on your mind,
as well as have you laughing at his dry and wry sense of humor. One
segment that I find astonishing is when he asks someone in the
to think of a song, and then mentally transmits the name of the song
to the band, which then proceeds to play it. For tickets and club
information call 212-339-4095.
You only have until September 17 to catch George Bernard
Shaw’s "Don Juan in Hell," which, as you know, is the rarely
performed third act dream sequence from "Man and Superman."
Written in 1901, the epilogue is meant as a sequel to Mozart’s
Giovanni." In it, Don Juan, Donna Anna, a woman he compromised,
and her father, a Commander who became an animated statue after Don
Juan killed him, are reunited in Hell. Here they debate with the Devil
on the relationship of men and women, i.e.sex, marriage, morality,
religion, politics, and what have you. It is being presented at the
Irish Repertory Theater at 132 West 22nd Street.
Under the direction of Charlotte Moore, the formally attired cast,
which includes Celeste Holm, Fritz Weaver, Donal Donnelly, and James
A. Stephens, may not be as dreamy as the one that appeared on Broadway
in 1951 and ’52 (Charles Boyer, Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke,
Agnes Moorehead). But the classy, witty text has been assigned to
polished pros, each of whom know how to bring life and luster to
deliciously gabby prose. For tickets call 212-727-2737.
Thinking of a way to celebrate the centenary of composer Kurt Weill’s
birth? Then consider "Berlin To Broadway With Kurt Weill,"
a show-by-show retrospective of one of the 20th century’s most
and important theater composers. This is a snappy and smart re-staging
of the revue that first appeared Off-Broadway in 1973. In two acts,
the revue spans Weill’s career from his pre-war days in Berlin
Opera," "Mahogany"), where he collaborated with Bertolt
Brecht, to his post-war Broadway shows collaborating with such
writers as Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay
Lerner, and Ogden Nash.
If the talented young cast does better with the brighter than the
darker side of Weill’s music, their concerted effort to make this
a memorable commemorative song and singspiel is noted. Of the more
than 30 musical numbers, Bjorn Olsson’s melancholy rendition of
Song," from "Knickerbocker Holiday," Veronica Mittenzwei’s
humorous take of "That’s Him" from "One Touch of
Michael Winther’s plaintive "Lonely House" from "Street
Scene," and Lorinda Lisitza’s lyrical "It Never Was You,"
from "Knickerbocker Holiday" connect artfully and gracefully
with the luscious music and text.
Musical director and arranger Eric Stern provides flawless and bracing
piano accompaniment. And don’t forget you can have a reasonably priced
dinner (arrive before 7 p.m.) and drinks before and during the show
at the Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street. For tickets ($45, not
including dinner) call 212-279-4200.
Don’t forget that TKTS has discount tickets for
as well as Broadway shows. The following are highly recommended
shows. Notice how many are in the Broadway zone. Bargain-hunters
try for tickets for these shows first at TKTS before you pay full
box-office price, or order tickets by phone. There are, of course,
many more shows that I would recommend, but this is a starter.
comeback, as well as being the inaugural attraction, at the new B.B.
King Blues Club at 243 West 42nd Street. This is the revue that we
first saw at New Brunswick’s Crossroads Theater before it moved to
Broadway. The six dynamic singers, including three from the original
Broadway company plus a band will have you stomping along through
this bracing 90-minute musical journey that traces the history of
its run at Crossroads Theater is "Jitney."
early play by the even-then brilliant August Wilson about a group
of gypsy cab drivers in Pittsburgh in 1977, who struggle though
and collective problems as a way of life is threatened. The ensemble
acting, under the direction of Marion McClinton, is dazzling, as is
the rich, ear-pricking dialogue. You can hail this "Jitney"
at the Second Stage, 307 West 43rd Street (212-246-4422) until
10. It then moves to Union Square Theater, 100 East 17th Street on
September 19 (212-505-0700).
melodrama. Inspired by the true story of the relationship between
19th century art critic John Ruskin, his wife (the countess), and
the painter John Everett Millais, the entertaining, beautifully acted
and directed play seethes with Victorian-scented passion, civility,
and cruelty. It is at the Lamb’s Theater, 130 West 44th Street
With Friends" has found a hospitable home Off-Broadway. Donald
Margulies’s play about two married couples, long-time friends, who,
at a turning point in their lives, begin to evaluate the success and
failure of their marriages and their friendship. Catch this
funny and wise play at the Variety Arts, 110 Third Avenue, at East
13th Street (212-239-6200).
and a brutish stabbing in Central Park? As bargains go, this loud
and bloody production of "Julius Caesar,"
direction of Barry Edelstein, certainly provides more than you
for. Don’t look for psychological subtleties in the performances of
David McCallum, in the title role, Jeffrey Wright, as Mark Antony,
or Jamey Sheridan, as Brutus. But the histrionic historical play,
here set in some timeless placeless zone, remains a topical and
drama of political chicanery. Percussionist Bill Ruyle excitingly
underscores the Bard’s oratory. Tickets (only two per person) can
be picked up on performance days at the Delecorte Theater, 81st Street
and Central Park West, or at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street,
starting at 1 p.m. For more information call 212-539 8655.
— Simon Saltzman
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