Boy, do I feel so lucky to have visited New York City the second week of December. With COVID, Nor’easters and winter storms in Denver, my recent attempts to visit NYC over the past few years were thwarted. Fortunately, we timed this visit, with an intent to see several Broadway shows, perfectly.
We got to see five shows with their full cast before the Omicron version of COVID arrived in the city which has caused many cancellations through Christmas and some shows to close permanently.
While we visited, we saw Jagged Little Pill, Come From Away, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, and Hamilton. Of course, we enjoyed some excellent pre-theatre dining and also walked miles while taking in the holiday spirit, but this post is about the Broadway shows.
Given dining and supporting Broadway are my two favorite things to do in New York City, I was thrilled that my friend Tina wanted to engulf herself in as many shows as I did.
Jagged Little Pill
We arrived on Tuesday, check in at The Belvedere, and took in our first show that evening, Jagged Little Pill. I don’t know if it was the unknown, the excitement of being back in New York, or some standouts in the spectacular cast, but this was one of our favorite shows, and I am saddened to say it closed permanently due to Omicron.
Jagged Little Pill uses music from the Alanis Morissette Album with the same name. Some of these songs are dark, so we expected the show to be deep, but beyond that, we knew little about the performance.
It basically showcased a family that face a variety of current day issues. Some were slightly politicized which I disliked as I get enough of that on the news, but two of the female actresses had superb voices. Heidi Blick played the mother and Lauren Patten played Jo, a teenage friend of the family’s daughter. I thought they were so good that we googled them. I learned Patten won the Tony for her role!
To Kill a Mockingbird
The following day, we pulled a double! I don’t know that I’d do that again, but for as many years as I missed getting to New York City, I felt like I had to make up for lost time. We saw a matinee show of To Kill a Mockingbird and later that night saw Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.
To Kill a Mockingbird was the usual. A good play, though I had high expectations for Jeff Daniels, and he was the hardest actor to hear. Most of the time it was fine, but occasionally he mumbled. As a result, it was a bit disappointing. The young man who played Dill, the neighbor kid, stole the show. But overall, the play was a little underwhelming compared to the musicals with which it competes. That may be why it is closing too!
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, however, was a different story. The only time I knew of Tina Turner was in the late 80’s when she was famous for big hair and shimmying across the stage as she belted out number one hits. Little did I know of her disheartening upbringing and life with Ike.
She was poor and her mom took her sister and left her with the abusive dad. Tina wasn’t even her name. It was Anna Mae. Ike gave her that name for the Tina and Ike Show. Not only was he abusive to her, but he didn’t pay her any money from their hit show.
As a result, she left him with only $0.36 to her name! Then he sued her for copyright infringement on all the songs that she sang. As a result, she couldn’t get back into the industry. She got one last shot from an Australian in England, and finally reached a happy life and stardom on her own at 40+ years of age.
Since the show included all this, some of the musical was dark and depressing, but WOW, was the end energizing!! You leave the theater with a pep in your step for sure! Not only is the energy amazing, both the “old” and the young Tina were excellent.
The “old” Tina, who is played by two different actresses depending on the night, perfected the shuffle and shake. For Wednesday night, Kaylon Davion filled the role, and she had a spectacular voice. The young Tina, played by Skye Turner from Dallas, was so good, that after everyone took their bow, they brought her back on stage to bow with the “old” Tina.
She was only 12, and boy does she have a career in front of her. Her voice was remarkable!! So good and mature, at first, I wondered if she was lip sinking. After googling her, I learned she just starred as the young Aretha Franklin in RESPECT! I’ll be watching that movie next. This musical was definitely one of the best we saw.
Come From Away
For Thursday night, we went to Come From Away. I knew the story was about the small Canadian town, Gander, which hosted multiple diverted aircraft during the 9/11 attack, but there was so much that I didn’t think about.
The show was realistic and uplifting. It brought to light problems like needing a translator, the distrust of Islamic passengers, pets left on board aircraft, as well as luggage that was not allowed off the plane. As a result, passengers needed clothing, medical attention, and of course all the necessities like food, water and toiletries.
Each actor/actress played multiple characters as both towns people or passengers from the plane. The show represented everyday people, thus there wasn’t a standout cast member. Instead, it felt like it could have been any one of us up there, and in a way it could have been.
It was eye opening to see how much just grounded planes affected the whole world and what passengers felt without knowing what was happening. Just getting a phone call to go through was a task. The bonds that were formed during the three days in Gander were so special that many passengers returned to Gander for a ten-year reunion.
Though uplifting and funny, it still left me choked up at times and sent chills through my body. Even as I write this, I am getting goosebumps. Come From Away is a very special Broadway show, and I highly recommend seeing it.
We saved Hamilton for last. Or at least I did. Tina headed to New Jersey to see her family as she has tickets for the production in Albuquerque in February.
Despite all the hype, I didn’t have a high desire to see the show. Consequently, I had hoped I kept my expectations low enough to enjoy it. Honestly, I liked most the other shows we saw better. The music was upbeat, the acting was good, and I enjoyed learning history in a fun way rather than through a drab schoolbook.
That said, I wasn’t blown away like so many people say. In Hamilton’s defense, it was my fifth musical of the week, and I was a little tired. Additionally, the crowd on Friday night was far more obnoxious that earlier in the week. People were late, they left before intermission, they were late after intermission and more.
I think my biggest struggle was the fast-paced rap was a little difficult to understand. As a result, I listened to the music twice prior to attending the show. This took the surprise element away, but also I still had to focus on the actor’s mouth to follow along with the words. If they were turned sideways, or if I wanted to glance at the production as a whole, I could not decipher what they were saying. This challenge took away from the otherwise good show which also did not have a real standout.
I’m glad I checked the box, but I would not go out of my way to see Hamilton a second time.
Of course, I don’t think you can see better Broadway than in New York City, so overall, I loved this quick trip in early December. I feel so fortunate that we got to dine out, see the shows, admire the Christmas lights, visit the Whitney, and take many walks both in Central Park and the High Line before Omicron hit.
I’m sad for both New Yorkers and tourists who are again facing restrictions or missing shows completely that closed down through Christmas. For those with plans to visit, here is a helpful link to Broadway show updates. ETB