Trip Report: My "Mega Musical" Weekend in NYC

Old Nov 16th, 2008, 04:51 PM
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Trip Report: My "Mega Musical" Weekend in NYC

Since I received such great advice from the Fodorites here that made my weekend trip to NYC fabulous I wanted to write a brief trip report.

My mom and I decided to make a long weekend of the Veteran's Day holiday and went to NYC the Saturday before Veteran's Day and returned home Tuesday.

We were fortunate to get a good deal on the airfare direct from Savannah, GA to LaGuardia on Delta.

Once the flight was booked I found the Washington Jefferson Hotel on 51st St. for $370 a night and made the room reservation. The hotel could be cancelled up to a day prior to arrival without penalty, which was a good thing.

I had booked the hotel a couple months in advance, but the Wednesday before we were to leave I was checking out hotwire and to my surprise a 4 star hotel in the theater district was listed at $269 per night. I had never used hotwire before, but for $100 savings per night I cancelled the Washington Jefferson and booked the hotwire hotel.

To my astonishment we got the Broadway Millennium Hotel at 145 W. 44th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues. We loved the hotel and we even got a corner room on the 49th floor. We looked one way and saw Times Square the other way the Chrysler Building...we were off to great start!

For months prior to this trip I was continually checking theater ticket discounts on www.playbill.com. That paid off too.

We had tickets for Billy Elliot on Saturday night, Gypsy for the Sunday matinee, Chicago on Sunday evening and Shrek the Musical on Monday evening. All were discounts, and yes, all balcony seats, but no problems seeing the stages.

Saturday evening we had a pre-theater dinner at Vice Versa located at 325 W. 51st St. between 8th & 9th. The meal was excellent. We had the eggplant roll starter. I had the potato gnocchi with proscuitto and porcini mushrooms in cream sauce. Mom had the braised lamb shank with polenta and vegetable gravy. Both were delicious. With 4 glasses of wine and 2 espressos the total for the meal was $115.

Then we were off to see Billy Elliot. This was by far our favorite show of the weekend. The music and dancing were fantastic. I highly recommend this show.

Sunday morning we had brunch at Havana Central and honestly, we were underwhelmed. I picked this place for one reason and that was I could earn 1000 points on OpenTable.com if I made an 11:45am reservation and that's why I chose this place. I had the huevos con frijoles which were ok and mom had the eggs florentine. The food was just luke warm, which is demerit in mom's book because she loves her food "atomic" hot!

After brunch we headed down to Macy's to kill some time before the 3pm matinee of Gypsy.

Let me preface this by saying I adore Patti Lupone and when I was a youngster I had the good fortune to have parents who loved the theater and I saw Patti Lupone in Evita the day after she won the Tony award for that roll, so I am a little biased when it comes to Patti Lupone. I enjoyed Gypsy and Patti Lupone's performance was great, but I did feel a little "flat" leaving the theater. I can't pinpoint why, maybe because I loved Billy Elliot so much the night before, but I just wasn't blown away by Gypsy. I understand that Gypsy will be closing in March, and I am glad I got to see Patti Lupone again.

After Gypsy ended, close to 6pm we had just enough time to go back to the hotel, get our jackets and head up to the Ambassador Theater to see the 7pm performance of Chicago.

I really enjoyed Chicago, this was the 3rd time my mom had seen this show, but she said it was the best performance she had seen of this show. I thought the woman who played Velma Kelly (Brenda Braxton) was great...she has an incredable voice!

The show ended at about 9:30pm and we had a 10pm reservation at Roberto Passon (thank you NeoPatrick!) located at 741 9th Avenue (corner of 50th St.). This was by far our favorite meal of the trip and we would not ever hesitate to go to this restaurant again.

We had the grilled portobello, grilled tomato and sheep's cheese starter and it was "to die for". I would have been happy if that was the only thing we had. But, we each had an entree. I had the salmon topped with carmelized onions on a bed of garlic spinach and vegetables. It was absolutely delicious. Mom had the calf livers with potato cake and spinach. The best calf livers mom had ever had. For dessert I chose to have the tiramisu and it was wonderful, very light, and creamy. With 2 glasses of wine, a kir royal and 2 espressos this meal was $90.

Monday we had breakfast at Maison located at 7th Ave. and 53rd Street. We had been to this restaurant before for breakfast and like it alot. Prices are very reasonable for NYC and the food is good. We really like the orange juice there!

After breakfast we made our way to the corner of 5th Ave and 60th street to meet our tour guide for a guided walk through Central Park.

Our guide was Bob Gelber (walkinny.com). When we were in NYC last spring we had Bob as a guide on the Foods of NY Chelsea Market tour. We thought he was terrific and I found his own website and found that he does a variety of walking tours. He had a planned Central Park walking tour the Monday before we would be in NYC but he was available for a private tour the Monday we were there and booked him.

We really like Bob's style. Very casual, but he is a wealth of information. We met him at 10:30am and spent 3 hours walking through the park, he points out interesting pieces of history about the park and NYC in general. We meandered through the park including the Ramble, Bethesda Fountain and ended at the Belvedeer Castle. At the end of the tour Bob walked with us over to Zabar's to make sure we found our way there.

Yes, it was a private tour, and it did cost $75 for 3 hours, but his scheduled group tours are $15 per person. Unfortunately for us, the group tour didn't work into our schedule, but we were glad he was available for a private tour. I would not hesitate to use his services again for another tour.

This afternoon we were scheduled for the 3:30pm backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera House, so we made our way over to Lincoln Center.

The tour was very interesting and we got to see not only backstage, but also the dressing rooms, and the rehersal studios, costume production and scenic production workshops. The only negative I have to say is that the woman guiding the tour undoubtedly knows alot about opera and the inner workings of the Met, but her delivery of the information for a group of 15 needs a little work. At time is was very difficult to hear here (yes they were setting up for a performance that evening) but also, logistically she had us going up and down in the elevator and back-tracking. I do recommend this tour, I just think it is the luck of the draw on who is leading the tour.

We were done with the tour by 5:20pm and we had a 5:45pm dinner reservation at Sosa Borella at 832 8th Ave (near 50th St., I think). This is an Argentine Italian restaurant and we had another terrific meal here.

The service was outstanding. We had glasses of Argentine wine selected by our server and she did an outstanding job selecting the wines.

For starters mom had the squash soup and I had the carpaccio breasoala (aged beef with Argentine parmesean cheese) on arugala. Both were excellent. For our entres mom had the roasted rosemary chicken with gorgonzola mashed potatoes which were out of this world good. I had the spinach ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lamb ragout, which was very good. For dessert we had the orange flavored bread pudding, which was light and perfection! With 2 espressos to finish things off the total was $135.

We had tickets for the 8pm performance of Shrek the Musical, which had just started previews 2 nights before. As expected there were lots of children in the audience, but like the movie, lots of adult humor in the show. The cast was outstanding and the music was terrific.

Tuesday arrived all to quickly and the car service (Carmel) was there to pick us up right on time Tuesday morning and we were on our way back home.

We had a terrific time and look forward to spending another weekend in NYC next year!
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Old Nov 16th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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OMG, what a great weekend. Glad you had a great time. And isn't that salmon with the carmelized onions at Roberto Passon's great? I keep ordering it.

Your whole review could have been mine (well, except that I DID love Gypsy), and I too have been underwhelmed at Havana Central and oddly enough also went only to get the 1000 Open Table points! We've eaten at all the same places!

Great minds think alike.
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Old Nov 16th, 2008, 06:49 PM
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Patrick...

I admit you are my "go to guy" when planning my NYC trip!

I read your NYC trip report from last June and took copious notes about the restaurants...there are so many great ones and not enough time in a long weekend!

I don't know if you found the thread in the lounge about a Savannah get together some Fodorites are planning, but on one of the posts someone asked if you and Lee might be able to attend. It's planned for January 24th if you could make it we'd love to see you and Lee!
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Old Nov 16th, 2008, 06:51 PM
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opps...

forget to say, that yes, the salmon with carmelized onions was my favorite meal of them all. And if you haven't tried the grilled portobello, tomato and sheeps cheese starter you should. The table next to us ordered it after seeing ours and then we all sat there raving about it!
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Old Nov 16th, 2008, 08:22 PM
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Okay, LCI. Great timing again. I will ONCE AGAIN follow in your (recent) footsteps and visit some of "your" places next week. It worked well for me back in June. Can't wait to do it again.

I've booked some restaurants via OpenTable (thanks to Patrick) but am going to shift some around.

Love your trip report and enjoyed your pics on Facebook. It sounds like it was a fabulous trip - once again!
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Old Nov 16th, 2008, 09:15 PM
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Wow, this is MY kinda trip report!! I loved it....precisely all the practical details. I love knowing all the machinations of how you booked things and changes and surprises. Thanks for posting it. I was a little surprised right off the bat when you said billy elliot was your favorite knowing your lineup because I think Chicago is pretty hard to top. I will definitely try to see BE when I'm in NY next. I saw Shrek and enjoyed it but it's nothin' next to Chicago, such a standard and classic.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 02:32 AM
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Great report...and ditto ncountry.
I too love the salmon @ Roberto's.
And also did the 1000 points at
Havana twice for a very inexp. lunch which was better than brunch.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 03:22 AM
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LowCountry, great trip report! You're lucky to have such a willing traveling companion in your lovely mom! Billy Elliot is on the list for our next trip---very glad to get your recommendation.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 03:31 AM
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Starrs and Kswl...

Seems like we travel in circles around each other. Each of us in NYC just after the other! Hope to see you both at the Savannah GTG in January!

Ncounty...

Do try to see Billy Elliot. There were a few show stopping scenes!
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 04:06 AM
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LowCountryIslander:

You were off to a good start with the savings on your hotel.

Your heading could have read "and foodie report" - very well done. Lots of information and detail.

Thanks for sharing.

Sandy
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 05:23 AM
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Great report LCI - I wonder if seeing four 'big' musicals in such a short period of time is why you weren't blown away by Gypsy - and all four are so different in concept, staging, etc. (kind of like eating in four 4 star restaurants in 4 nights). I, too, loved Patti Lupone in 'Gypsy' and am seeing her in concert in March. And I am so looking forward to seeing BE next month. Do you recall which 'Billy' you saw perform?
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 05:30 AM
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Great report LCI. I have to admit, you are probably the first person I "know" who felt about Gypsy the way I did. I LOVE the show, I LOVE Patti Lupone and I was underwhelmed with this production. Perhaps the similarity is we both saw matinees. I've often wondered if she has to save herself for the night time performance. But I also thought it was a bit dreary (costumes and scenery). I'm looking forward to Billy Eliot..
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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mclaurie - I don't know about the matinee theory - I saw it at night. And yes the sets, etc. are a bit dreary, but it is set during the Vaudeville/Depression era, right? I was underwhelmed with the Bernadette Peters production years ago - thought she was miscast.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 06:22 AM
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CentralParkGirl...(love that screen name BTW!)

We saw Kiril (I can't remember his last name, and probably spelled his first name wrong!) as Billy. He is the one from San Diego, with a mostly ballet background, but according to the playbill he is also a junior ballroom dance champion. I can't comment on the dancing skills of the other boys, but this kid was really fantastic. And the boy who played his friend Micheal had one terrific number that practically stole the show!

mclaurie...

I'm glad to hear my mom and I weren't the only ones feeling like we did about Gypsy. I think one thing that led to this feeling was that years ago my mom saw Ethel Merman play the part...how can you top that? I had heard such great things about this current production that I really wanted see Patti Lupone, and yes the sets were a bit dreary, maybe that was what shaped my opinion.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 06:30 AM
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I also saw Ethel Merman in the original production as a kid. It was a transforming experience. I'd heard Patti was better and I can't agree. There was a joie de vivre about Merman's portrayal that was lacking here imo. But again, maybe it was the fact that it was a matinee or maybe you just can't recreate the magic of childhood memories.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 06:33 AM
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Centralparkgirl, YES, it's during the depression, but this is also a Broadway musical! where all things are possible.
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 10:20 AM
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mclaurie - red ink!!! I can't even find where the emoticons live.

I never saw Ethel Merman, but I've always loved Rosalind Russell's performance in the movie (a very different interpretation than Patti's, imho).
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Below is a tiny url to my Kodak Gallery photo album from this trip (I hope!).

If the link doesn't work post back here and I will figure out how to correct it.

Enjoy!

http://tinyurl.com/5lmcwf

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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 01:36 PM
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Love the photos, LCI! You 2 are gorgeous and certainly look like you had the time of your lives.

CPG, emoticons here
http://www.fodors.com/forums/smileys/
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Old Nov 17th, 2008, 01:44 PM
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I LOVED Billy Elliot when I was in London, I'm glad to hear people are enjoying it stateside too
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