By Alexandra Cohen 

 

 

There are many reasons to travel to New York City, with Broadway musicals heading the list.  Let us recommend two shows, Groundhog Day and Come From Away,

Groundhog Day, the Olivier Award-winning new musical based on the iconic film by the same name, continues to delight crowds at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City. Groundhog Day was re-imagined by the award-winning creators of the international hit Matilda The Musical—including director Matthew Warchus and songwriter Tim Minchin—with a book by noted Jewish screenwriter Danny Rubin.  Adam Blanshay, a native Jewish Montrealer of Just For Laughs Theatrical, is one of the show’s producers.

Phil Connors, played by three-time Tony nominee Andy Karl, is an arrogant big-city weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over again in a small town that he loathes. It seems that he can do whatever he pleases with no consequences, but as he gets to know associate TV producer Rita Hanson (played by Barrett Doss), he falls for her as she teaches him to live each day to the fullest.

Before opening on Broadway, the show opened on the West End to critical acclaim, picking up Olivier awards for Best Musical and Best Lead Actor (Karl), amongst others. Andy Karl, to put it simply, is absolutely brilliant in this production. He sells the show from beginning to end, preventing the repetitive nature of the show from becoming boring for even a second with his fresh acting choices. 

Karl made the news by tearing his ACL on stage when the show was still in previews. Exemplifying the expression “the show must go on”, despite having to crawl offstage in tears, he returned just over ten minutes later to sing the final number. Karl officially returned to the show only 72 hours later with a brace on his leg, just in time for opening night, earning glowing reviews and eventually a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination.

In addition to Karl, his romantic opposite, Barrett Doss, also impresses. Doss made her Broadway debut in 2014 as an understudy but has shown that she belongs firmly in the spotlight with her strong voice and magnetic stage presence.

Groundhog Day, the perfect mixture of uproariously funny and incredibly moving, is sure to see audience members leaving with smiles on their faces. One of such audience members recently was none other than Bill Murray, who played Phil Connors in the film. “It’s really something. It’s very powerful”, he said. Murray reportedly was seen sobbing in the audience by the end of the show, and in fact, loved it so much that he returned again the next night for a repeat viewing.

Hurry up and try to catch this wonderful production before it closes on September 17, 2017. If not, you can still catch it on the road, as an 18-month national tour is planned for next year.

 

THE RABBI IN COME FROM AWAY:

Come From Away (www.comefromaway.com), the new Broadway musical by Canadian husband and wife duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein, tells the often-forgotten story of the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001. While the tragedy of 9/11 does not sound like the most uplifting premise for a musical, the show’s creators refer to it instead as a story about 9/12 and the days that followed. Come From Away, to put it simply, is a 100-minute musical celebrating human empathy and kindness.

The small town of Gander nearly doubled its population, turning itself upside down to accommodate the visitors, many of whom spoke different languages and came from different cultural backgrounds. The small town of Gander nearly doubled its population, turning itself upside down to accommodate the visitors, many of whom spoke different languages and came from different cultural backgrounds, including Rabbi Leivi Sudak. He told The New York Jewish Week that during his time in Gander, a town official noticed that he was not eating. “But what can we do for you so that you’ll be able to eat while you’re here?” the rabbi said he was asked.

Both on stage and in real life, he was given access to a room which he converted into a kosher mess and also a meal room for vegetarians and those observing Halal rules. A song in the show celebrates the coming together of many cultures and faiths in this small town “in the middle of nowhere”. 

Come From Away, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, features an outstanding ensemble of actors who work together to tell this deeply moving story. Each performer plays multiple roles, and they transition seamlessly from Newfoundlanders to the people on the planes under the expert direction of Tony Award-winner Christopher Ashley.

Of particular note in the cast is Tony-nominee Jenn Colella, who amongst other roles, plays Captain Beverly Bass. Bass was, as sung by Colella, “the first female American captain in history”, and her plane flying from Paris to Dallas was one of the 38 diverted to Gander. She has been to see Come From Away a whopping 61 times thus far. “I never get tired of it,” Bass told the New York Times, also adding “I can’t believe I’ve seen it that many times – but I’m ready to go back”.

Leaving the theatre following the show, I couldn’t help but feel exceptionally proud to be Canadian. Come From Away is laced with inside jokes meant just for us, like references to Tim Hortons and Molson beer, along with stereotypical jokes like a moose standing in the middle of the road and the communal disappointment felt when hockey is cancelled. 

While history largely forgot about the incredible people of Gander, that cannot be said anymore. In June, it was announced that for their hospitality and kindness, the town of Gander will be honored as the first municipality to win an international humanitarian award from the Values-In-Action Foundation.

Run, don’t walk, to see this incredible Broadway production. Come From Away will also launch a North American tour across the United States and Canada at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in October 2018, and a third production has been announced to play Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre beginning on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. Entrance at 53rd Street.
© 2006Timothy Hursley

 

MOMA : When in New York City, we strongly recommend a visit to the fabulous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) , dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world.

The honourary chairman is Ronald Lauder , the youngest son of makeup maven Estee Lauder,   Lauder is chairman of Clinique Laboratories, but spends most of his time advocating for Jewish causes. It started when he encountered antisemitism as the American Ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987. There are several noted members of the Jewish community on the board .

Central to MoMA’s mission is the encouragement of an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary art by the diverse local, national, and international audiences that it serves. It opened in 1929 in the Heckscher Building located at 730 Fifth Avenue.  Over the course of the next 10 years, the Museum moved three times into progressively larger temporary quarters, and in 1939 finally opened the doors of the building it still occupies in midtown Manhattan. Subsequent expansions took place during the 1950s and 1960s planned by the architect Philip Johnson, who also designed The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. In 1984, a major renovation designed by Cesar Pelli doubled the Museum’s gallery space and enhanced visitor facilities.

In 2001, the Museum began a major renovation and expansion of its midtown location designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. MoMA closed its doors in midtown in May 2002 and opened in its temporary quarters MoMA QNS in Long Island City, Queens, in June 2002. Design by Michael Maltzan and Cooper, Robertson & Partners, MoMA QNS functioned as the Museum’s temporary exhibition space until September 2004.

MoMA reopened its midtown location on November 20, 2004, to coincide with the Museum’s 75th anniversary. The 630,000-square-foot Museum is nearly twice the size of the former facility, offering dramatically expanded and redesigned spaces for exhibitions, public programming, educational outreach, and scholarly research. The Museum now features 125,000 square feet in gallery space. Kohn Pederson Fox served as executive architect on the project. The total cost of construction was $425 million.

Completed in November 2006, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building marked the culmination of the Taniguchi project, providing significantly increased space for MoMA’s wide-ranging educational and research activities.

The six-story    David and Peggy Rockefeller Building  Gallery Building houses galleries for the collection and temporary exhibitions. Architecturally distinctive galleries designed specifically for the type and scale of works displayed provide an ideal showcase for MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern and contemporary art. Spacious galleries for contemporary art are located on the second floor, demonstrating the Museum’s commitment to the art of our time. There are galleries for Media (second floor), Prints and Illustrated Books (second floor,) Architecture and Design (third floor), Drawings (third floor), and Painting and Sculpture (fourth and fifth floors).  Expansive, skylit galleries for temporary exhibitions are located on the sixth floor, and additional galleries for temporary exhibitions are also located on the second and third floors. The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, which soars 110 feet above street level, also functions as a gallery for various departments

 One of the stars of the museum’s collection  is Vincent Van Gogh’s – The Starry Night.  It depicts a turbulent sky over Saint Remy, where Van Gogh was confined to a mental asylum during his final days. The roiling energy of the sky, intense color and exploding stars are thought to evoke Van Gogh’s emotional state. He once said, “Looking at the stars always make me dream.”

 Make sure to check out the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, restored to Philip Johnson’s original 1953 design by Yoshio Taniguchi in 2004. Taniguchi enlarged the garden to 21,400 square feet and re-established the southern terrace, which is now an elegant outdoor patio for The Modern Restaurant. Yearly exhibitions are presented in the garden, and it has been the home of Summergarden since 1971. Views of the Garden are available from numerous vantage points throughout the Museum.

Across the Sculpture Garden and opposite The David and Peggy Rockefeller Building is MoMA’s eight-story Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, a 63,000 square foot space for educational and research activities, as well as offices. The Library and Archives occupy the top floors of the building and include a light-filled reading room and outdoor terrace. The building also features an entrance for school groups, a 125-seat auditorium, an orientation center, workshop space for teacher training programs, classrooms, study centers, and a large lobby with double-height views into the Sculpture Garden. Exhibitions drawn from the Museum’s Library and Archives  are displayed for the public throughout the year on the mezzanine level of the building.

MoMA is open seven days a week at 11 West 53 Street. For more details and to find out about present and upcoming exhibitions log on to www.moma.org.

 

WHERE TO STAY:  

Is there really any better place to stay in New York City  than the historic Algonquin Hotel (www.algonquinhotel.com). On our most recent trip,   we were fortunate enough to secure reservations again.  Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands the center of 44th Street, just a block and a half away from Times Square. The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details. From near to far, iconic to historic, the result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.   

For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them. The tone they set during their daily meetings set the literary style of the 1920s. After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”

 Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi.  Always one step ahead of everyone else, the hotel was the first to offer accommodations to actors and single women travellers.     

Delighting thirsty revelers when it opened at the demise of the Prohibition in 1933, The Blue Bar has moved – both physically and eruditely – through decades of Times Square hotel bar trends.  There is also The Round Table Restaurant and the casual Lobby Lounge.

As a cat lover we are always excite to see the house cat, Hamlet.    

In the book the Algonquin Kid: Adventures Growing Up In New York’s Legendary Hotel, author Michael Colby tells the story about his grandparents Mary and Ben Bodne built this legendary landmark. Southern Jews, they owned the hotel from 1946 to 1987. As a kid, Colby and siblings visited their grandparents every weekend. Colby took up permanent residence in the hotel at the age of 18 and made his way into the theater world as a librettist, composer and lyricist. His musical, Charlotte Sweet, an all-sung, all-rhymed original musical with libretto by Colby and music by Gerald Jay Markoe, received three Drama Desk Award nominations and was critically lauded as “adorable, strange and delectable” by the New York Times, ”

The Algonquin, its bar and restaurant, have easy access for wheelchairs from the street. There is valet parking. The hotel has six ADA rooms and one ADA suite. There are two elevators. Staff are very helpful and friendly.