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Nerd's Eye View – Latest NYC visit encompasses various arts (April 15, 2015 issue)

Michael and I took the first of what I hope will be several trips to New York City this year during the final weekend of February.
As it had done when we traveled to NYC in February 2014, snow forced us to alter this trip. Thanks to the snow we had to delay our trip by one day and had to sit in the airport for more than six hours to fly home. Even so, we had another great visit!
In writing about our trips in the past, I have done a play-by-play of what we did, but I’m not going to do that this time. Those of you who have read my previous columns don’t want to read the same details again. So, I’m just going to give you the highlights.
My favorite part of the trip was getting to see Helen Mirren star as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience” at the Schoenfeld Theatre.
What an amazing show! I was in awe for much of the performance of both Mirren and much of the cast. We were lucky enough to purchase seats in the front row at the center of the stage. We were so close to the actors I could have reached out and touched them.
In this production, Mirren once again dons the crown of one of England’s longest serving monarchs. Mirren previously played Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 film “The Queen.” She won an Academy Award for that performance. I would be shocked if she doesn’t win a Tony Award for her performance in “The Audience.”
Unlike “The Queen,” this play, which was written by Peter Morgan, the same man who wrote the screenplay for “The Queen,” takes place throughout Elizabeth’s 60-plus years on the throne. The film is limited to the weeks after the death of Princess Diana, so Mirren only plays an older version of the monarch.
In “The Audience” Mirren transforms from the queen in her early years, her coronation, through middle age and into her later years – all with seeming ease. These changes in time are not linear. Instead, the play moves through the queen’s reign thematically. It is a brilliant piece of storytelling.
The focus of the play is the monarch’s weekly audiences with most of the prime ministers who have served England during her reign, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, the current prime minister. All of these interactions are fictional. No records are kept of these private conversations between the queen and prime minister. It is said that the prime ministers are not allowed to share what they discuss with the queen with their spouses.
These dramatizations show the queen to be kind, clever, humorous and compassionate – a side of her the public rarely gets to see. “The Audience” presents a very humanizing image of Queen Elizabeth, one that Michael and I both enjoyed.
If you’re going to NYC in the near future and plan to go to the theatre, I recommend you see this show.
After the show, I got a chance to meet Judith Ivey who played Margaret Thatcher. Fans of the television show “Designing Women” will know Ivey as the brashy character B.J. Poteet. I have always been a huge fan of that show, so getting to meet Ivey was a bonus to the trip. Plus, she was very nice and signed my Playbill.
The next evening, Michael and I went to the Jacobs Theatre to see the revival of “It’s Only a Play.” I have to admit, I chose this show for the cast, which included Martin Short, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Katie Finneran and newcomer Micah Stock. (Since we saw the show, Nathan Lane has taken over Short’s role.)
This show is set at a party following the opening night of a Broadway show written by Broderick’s character. Short plays Broderick’s actor friend who passed on the play, Finneran the producer of the show, Abraham a harsh theatre critic, Channing a washed up movie star who returned to Broadway to perform in the play and Stock a wannabe actor who is working coat check at the party.
“It’s Only a Play” is often laugh-out-loud funny and getting to see those actors live was a treat, but it is not great theatre. It is definitely entertaining and fun theatre, but not great.
The play is driven by the anxious evening the characters find themselves in as they await a review of the show and their reactions to the review. The show offers an insider’s look at theater, show business and celebrities, which are often the focus of jokes scattered throughout the show.
I would recommend this show if you have seen much of what else is offered on Broadway when you visit NYC. I am certainly glad I saw it, but if I had to choose between “It’s Only a Play” or “The Audience,” I choose “The Audience” – who could turn down a visit with acting royalty playing actual royalty.
We also saw the Knicks play the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden. Even though my Knicks have had a season I would just as soon forget, I always enjoy seeing a game at MSG, which is one of the great sporting venues in the country.
We did a lot of shopping during this trip, including stops at several new shops, such as Tea & Sympathy – a British shop in Greenwich Village that specializes in a variety of teas and other treats from across the pond.
Another highlight of the trip was a visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a must see for visitors to NYC. I usually alternate each trip between visiting The Met, as it is known, and the Museum of Modern Art (another must see). Since I had visited MoMA on my last trip, it was time to return to The Met.
We decided to take a guided tour of the museum’s highlights. These tours are offered at various times throughout the day and are included in the price of admission, which is a recommended donation of $25 per adult. In addition to offering highlight tours, The Met also offers tours focusing on specific collections, such as contemporary art, Impressionism and many more.
I enjoyed the tour, which lasted just over an hour. Our guide led us to several areas of the museum I had never visited and shared the history of the museum with us. Because we visited on a Saturday, the museum was more crowded than I had ever seen it, so having a guide lead us through kept us from wasting time.
If you haven’t been to The Met before, I would recommend doing the highlights tour. It will help familiarize you with the layout of the museum and give you a taste of what an expansive collection is housed there. On my next visit, I plan to do at least a couple of the other tours.
We left The Met and walked through a snowy Central Park, which was beautiful.
That’s about it for the highlights of my latest trip. I hope you enjoyed them and found them somewhat informative. If you have any questions, need travel tips, theatre recommendations or want to share your NYC experiences with me, you can email me at [email protected] You can also find me on Facebook and other social media.
Until next time, have a great week, whether you’re a nerd or not.
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