Wednesday night the biggest show on Broadway premiered in Nashville. Surely, you have all heard of the Book of Mormon. It’s huge, it’s crazy popular, award-winning and very controversial. Before I review the show we saw in Nashville, I think I need to give you a brief synopsis.The biggest question I’ve gotten from people pertaining to the show is “Is it offensive?” And, honestly, the answer just depends on how sensitive you are.
Let me explain, The Book of Mormon is a musical that follows two brand new Mormon missionaries who are unexpectedly paired together and sent to Uganda. They imagine living on the set of Lion King while spreading the word of God and baptizing dozens of Africans into their religion. However, Uganda turns out to be the scariest place they’ve ever imagined and is riddled with disease, crime, death and people who don’t exactly trust that any God will fix all their troubles. The story that ensues is the most ridiculous, hilarious and brilliant show that’s hit Broadway (as far as I’ve seen). It sounds like a serious story, but it’s full of tap dancing, an electric guitar playing Satan, science fiction character cameos and some of the worst language you have ever heard.
So, back to that question…is it offensive? Well, if blasphemy, cursing, gay jokes, mocking of religion or suggestive moves and language offends you, then yes. This shows will probably be the most offensive form of entertainment you have ever seen. You have to remember that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park) are 2 of the 3 creators of the Book of Mormon. These two men may be crude, but they are wickedly smart and talented. The show is filthy, but it’s also full of heart. The two main characters are truly trying to better the world, and you can’t help but love and root for them. Vogue magazine explains it best…
the filthiest, most offensive, and—surprise—sweetest thing you’ll see on Broadway this year, and quite possibly the funniest musical ever.
We saw the show for the first time in New York and were lucky enough to see it performed by the original cast, including Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad.I can only imagine that seeing these two perform the roles they originated is equivalent to seeing Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth perform Wicked. No one can compare. Then there’s the songs. We LOVE the soundtrack to the Book of Mormon, and my favorite song is by far “I Believe”. I know every inflection and get goosebumps every time at the end, so hearing someone else sing it even slightly differently isn’t easy.
The two starts of the Book of Mormon tour group are no Andrew Rannells or Josh Gad, but they do an incredible job filling such big and talented shoes. Although, the standout star was by far, Denee Benton. She plays the lead female role, Nabulungi, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Remember her name, I am certain she is going to be huge one day.
Compared to the version we saw in NY, the tour is very close to being just as amazing. The final notes of “I believe” aren’t earth shattering, but the singing, the comedic timing, the dancing and acting are phenomenal, maybe even the best Broadway tour I’ve seen. The show has stuck with me and I have had the songs in my head all day. Actually, I have a feeling the show stuck with most people.
My favorite part about seeing the show last night was hearing the shock in the crowd as each joke got cruder, every line more offensive and song more crass. You could literally hear the room gasp and then roar with laughter. The audience definitely seemed surprised at the amount of profanity in a Broadway musical, but still appreciated the well intended story and the clever lines. I didn’t hear one negative comment as we exited the theatre.
If you ever hear of Book of Mormon coming anywhere near you, you better get online and purchase tickets the minute they’re available. Those puppies sale like hotcakes and you are going to be very sad if you miss this show. Check out their tour dates here. And, of course, remember to look at TPAC’s upcoming schedule. They’ve got some good shows coming up!
It isn’t until last night that I realized just how much King Arthur has been a part of my life. There was The Sword in the Stonethat I watched numerous times as a child. Then, there was Monty Python and the Holy Grailthat we all loved in high school. I was lucky enough to see Spamalot in my early twenties, and then last night I saw the musical, Camelot for the first time. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know this musical existed until recently, but thrilled to say that I have now been able to experience it.
After a very busy day of errands and baby duty yesterday, I was relieved to get away for a few hours and head downtown all dressed up to see another Broadway show at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This place is starting to feel like a second home, and I am not complaining. Between the Broadway shows, the ballets and the myriad of other events I am making the drive to this theatre very often. Nashville is lucky to have such a nice theatre and the opportunity to see so many shows.
Anyways, I’ve gone off track now. Back to Camelot! Camelot the musical is based off of T. H. White‘s novel The Once and Future King. It tells the story of Arthur, how he becomes king, falls in love with the beautiful Guenevere, learns from Merlin, attempts world peace and is eventually betrayed by everyone he loves. It’s actually fairly heartbreaking. It has just enough laughs to keep it somewhat light-hearted and fun, but I left feeling sad for Arthur. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and say “there, there, it will all be alright”.
That isn’t to say, I did not enjoy the show. I loved it. While it’s slightly old fashion (Hello! Julie Andrews and Richard Burton originated the roles!), it remains classic. War & peace, men in tights, magic tricks, love triangles, bloodshed and dysfunctional families never get old. Adam Grabau, who plays King Arthur, is phenomenal! He began the show with a passionate and almost frightening speech, but quickly transformed to a clueless funny young King. I couldn’t get enough of his character. I’d say he stole the show, but the local boy at the end, who played Tom of Warwick, was pretty impressive.
The show brought back many fond memories of the various other forms of King Arthur’s tale that I grew up loving. Now, I have one more version of Camelot to enjoy!
Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting up with the cast fromMillion Dollar Quartetand interviewing them at the Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville. The talented foursome gave me a some insight into prepping for their roles and filling some very big shoes, but before I share our little chat I should give you a quick rundown of the Broadway show and the true story of this very famous foursome.
The actual event happened on December 4, 1956 in at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Carl Perkins went to the studio to recorded some new music. Jerry Lee Lewis (very new artist at the time) was brought into the studio to play piano for Perkins. Then, Elvis just happened to stop by the studio for a visit. Finally, Johnny Cash shows up and the fours of them hit it off and have an impromptu jam session. They recorded several tracks and the local paper published an article about the whole accidental get-together under the title “Million Dollar Quartet”. 50 some odd years later this phenomenal jam sesh was turned into a hit-musical. The musical takes the audience back in time and gives them a “fly on the wall” perspective to the once in a lifetime gathering.
Me: Since you are currently performing in Tennessee have you been able to get out, sight-see, visit some of the historical sights of the very characters you are playing?
Scott (Johnny Cash): Yesterday, I took James here on a little “Johnny Cash pilgrimage” We paid our respects at Johnny and June’s grave sights. We went to Johnny Cash’s house, the Ryman auditorium and are now at the Johnny Cash Museum.
John (Jerry Lee Lewis): I took my wife to the Country Music Hall of Fame where they actually had a little “Million Dollar Quartet” section. While I was looking at it, a man came up to me and said,”You ought to go see the show. It’s here right now!” and I was like “funny you should say that…”
Me: How did you prepare for these roles?
James (Carl Perkins): There’s a wealth of information on YouTube these days, as well as books and everything else.
Scott: I’m kind of an obsessive fan. (insert sarcastic looks of shock from his cast members) It’s not just one thing for me. It’s everything. Every song, book or whatever is available. I’ve read everything.
Cody (Elvis): (sarcastically) I’ve had a lot of plastic surgery.
Me: Do you get that a lot? (He looks EXACTLY like Elvis.)
Cody: Oh yeah, and I always give them different answers.
Me. What makes this show such a success?
James: You get a glimpse at the real people behind the icons.
Cody: If you love music, any music, then you’re going to love this how. This unplanned gathering is non-c0mparable. Nothing like this can ever happen again, not without a plan and publicist.
Scott: It tells a story that most people don’t know. You may know Elvis, you may know Johnny Cash, but you probably don’t know the story of the Million Dollar Quartet.
After all this time, I think it’s clear that I am a fan of Wicked. I mean…why else would I see it 6 times in 3 different cities? I love it so much that I am finding it difficult to write a fair an unbiased review. Since, Thursday night I have been brainstorming and trying to come up with some critical remarks. The best I’ve got is “the actress playing Glinda isn’t my favorite…still incredibly talented, but not my favorite.” And that’s it! So, instead of telling you the good and the bad parts of this show, I’m just going to tell you 10 Reasons Why You Should Definitely See Wicked on Tour.
10. The Costumes. The costumes in Wicked are nothing short of great. They munchkins look short and funny. The Emerald City citizens look crazy and whimsical. Glinda looks spectacular while Elphaba manages to look simultaneously nerdy, homely, studious and wicked. I’ve seen these costumes backstage on Broadway and the detail is fantastic. These are the types of wardrobes you will want to touch, try on and ooh and aww over.
9. The Set. The Wicked Tour is extra special because the set (which is insane) is basically identical to the one on Broadway. The producers of the show want you to get your moneys worth. They are determined to give you nothing short of what you would see in NYC. It’s incredible to walk into the theatre and realize they have transformed the stage into this incredible place that has flying witches, bubbles, a giant dragon, bridges, castles and enormous moving gears and clocks. I was there to see them put the set together and still don’t know how they do it!
8. The History. Wicked has broken numerous box office records, won a crazy amount of rewards and has been seen by literally millions of people worldwide. This show is a piece of artistic and theatrical history. It’s songs are performed time and time again, it’s referenced in TV shows and movies and Idina Menzeland Kristen Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda. This musical will be talked about for years to come, don’t you want to participate in those conversations?
7. The Lessons. I touched a lot on this in Thursday’s blog. We learn about accepting ourselves, being brave and standing up for ourselves and others from Elphaba. From Glinda, we learn to accept others and the cost of getting what we wish for… it’s not always what it seems.
6. The Backstory. In case you haven’t heard, Wicked is the untold story of the witches of Oz. You will learn how one became good, one became Wicked and even where the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the East, they flying monkeys and the Wizard came from. It’s interesting.
5. The Culture. Face it, most of us are not getting enough culture in our lives. We don’t go to museums enough, read enough, listen to great music or see enough theatre. We need to feed our souls with more talent and art! Do your soul a favor and buy a ticket to Wicked. Get the Broadway experience in your home town and watch some truly talented actors perform their hearts out.
4. A Night Out. Seeing Wicked on tour will give you and your better half a chance to have a fancy date night. You can dress up, have dinner, see the show and grab some cocktails. OR, make it a family night out. Wicked is kid-friendly which means you can all go and check it off as family outing and an artsy night for the kids. Perfect.
3. Defying Gravity (and all the music). I am still obsessed with the entire soundtrack from Wicked. Husband and I know every word to every song and sing it a little too often on road trips. The obvious standout is “Defying Gravity”. Even if you’ve never seen Wicked, you have most likely heard this song on various occasions. It’s been on Glee and New Girl and it’s been performed by dozens of others. I get goosebumps every time I hear someone hit that high f at the end. I also get goosebumps every time I hear Idina sing.
2. The Comedy. Wicked isn’t known for it’s hilarity, but there are many LOL moments. Glinda’s character is hilarious. No matter how many times I’ve seen the show I can’t help but laugh at her ditzy nieve self.
1. The Magic. I guess one reason I love Wicked so much is the same reason I love Disney so much…it’s magical. I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes as I watch. The sets change so seamlessly, characters disappear, costumes change, wizardry is performed and you will constantly wonder “How did they do that?”
Convinced? Good! Now check out their tour schedule and order those tickets. Or, if you are in Middle Tennessee get your tickets here. Have fun and let me know what you think of the show!
If you read Saturday’s post you know I was lucky enough to review the traveling production of I Love Lucy: Live on Stage, and probably more excited about it than most. Pretty much anything with Lucy on it excites me. I once ran across a theme park, losing my friends, in order to take a picture with a Lucy impersonator. Knowing this, I’ll try my best to give a fair review.
The show is set-up to make the audience feel like we are at an actual taping of the famous sitcom. There are scenes from Lucy and Ricky’s house as well as Ricky’s club set up, a director, a host to keep the crowd entertained and even performers to entertain (and advertise) between takes. It’s all set in the 1950’s and they don’t step out of this setting for even a moment. In fact we were never asked to turn off our cell phones, but we were reminded that those fancy pants 35mm cameras.
The play showed 2 episodes from I Love Lucy and a few outtakes between the scenes. Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta (Lucy and Ricky) are the stars of the show and truly do an amazing job embodying these classic characters. Their comedic timing is perfect, Ricky’s frustration is real and Lucy’s cries, crazy faces and antics are all there. Then, there’s Fred and Ethel, played by Kevin Remington and Joanna Daniels, they are equally as funny. Fred does little jigs and moves his big belly around the stage with no shame. Ethel is perhaps the most realistic of all the characters. Joanna manages to sound, look and act exactly like the Mrs. Mertz I grew up watching. It has everything you’d expect when watching any I Love Lucy episode.
It was a little odd to watch other actors perform such iconic roles and scenes. It was kind of like when some random American Idol contestant belts out your all-time favorite song, it just isn’t right. But, after about 15 minutes, I managed to be sucked in enough to feel like I was watching old episodes being played out in front of me. Since, I’m a sucker for cheesy comedies from the 50’s I really ate up the performances between the takes. They had the “Crystaltone Singers” dance and sing jingles for us to fill the commercial time. They sang about alka seltzer, shampoo and a myriad of other ridiculous products. It was cute, very funny and exactly what I imagine people enjoyed watching 50 years ago.
Overall, the show was great. Being a true I Love Lucy fan (or fanatic), made the experience very nostalgic and even a little magical. It was a very special experience. Husband is not an I Love Lucy fan. He never watched the show growing up and I’ve yet to convince him to watch the series, even though I have the entire collection on DVD in my nightstand. However, on the way home from the play he not only admitted to enjoying the show, but said he wants to go back and watch some of the episodes now.
I was glad we both loved the show, but I have to say that our entire experience was not exactly perfect, and it has nothing to do with the show itself. We have never ever in our entire lives sat around such rude and inappropriate people in an audience, and we have been to A LOT of shows. There was the “I’m with the media!” woman who insisted it was necessary to take crappy photos on her iPhone throughout the show. Then there was the drunk “I need to explain every joke and finish each line with the actors” girl, who actually began moving and dancing along with the actors. Husband was lucky enough to sit next to weezy-laughy-woohoo loudly through the entire show lady. And, in front of us was the “I can talk over the actors as much as I want because I apparently think I’m in my living room” old woman. At on point the girl next to me actually explained to me that when Ricky said “wild duck chase” it was funny because he means “wild goose chase”, get it? Clearly, these people have never been out of their house. It was so bad, that Husband and I couldn’t even stay irritated, we ended up just laughing at the whole ridiculous situation. We only wished we had a flask to turn it into a drinking game…if I could drink of course.
Anyways, you should definitely check out the show if you’re in Nashville, and if you aren’t the check out their touring calendar. Fans will adore it and even non-fans will enjoy it. Just try to sit by people who have at least a Kindergartner’s knowledge of proper theatre etiquette. If not, then pack a flask.
I was a HUGE dork growing up. One prime example of this fact is that I loved everything on Nick on Nite. Every night I put my TV on TV Land in hopes of catching TV classics like Mr. Ed, Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Patty Duke Show, the Munsters and Laverne and Shirley. I adored these classic comedies, but the show I looked forward to most and watched religiously was I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball was the most hilarious person I had ever seen and my Mom and I spent many nights watching marathons of old episodes and laughing the night away.
When I was about ten years old I came across some old I Love Lucy paraphernalia while on vacation and had to have it. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a purchase in my life! It was two tin lunch boxes with scenes from my favorite show and they quickly became my most prized possessions. As the years passed, Lucy collectibles became more and more popular and soon everyone I knew was buying me “Lucy” stuff for every holiday. By the time I was 16, my entire room was decked out in I Love Lucy collectibles (told you…huge dork).
During my first year of college I actually entered a Halloween costume contest dressed as Lucy from the famous “Vitameatavegamin” episode. I had my own bottle of vitameatavegamin and reenacted the entire scene…seriously, can’t make this stuff up.
I am admitting these humiliating details of my life so when I tell you how excited I was about not only going to see the traveling production of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage“, but getting to interview the stars of the show dressed in their full costume and make-up, you understand that I was truly over the moon with this opportunity.
“I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is currently showing at TPAC (the Tennessee Performing Arts Center) in Nashville until February 2nd. Opening week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sirena Irwin (Lucy Ricardo) and Bill Mendieta (Ricky Ricardo). I met with the two stars of the show on their lunch break and got to know a bit about their life, background in theatre and Lucy experience with a couple other local reporters. (BTW: they were very chatty.)
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background before becoming Lucy and Ricky?
Sirena: Let’s see, I have been involved in comedy out in L.A. for a while and have done lots of work in cartoons. I was lucky enough to be cast on Spongebob Squarepants. I’m still on that show, thankfully, I play Spongebob’s Mom, Mr. Crab’s Mom and basically any random women on the show. From that, I started doing many other shows…Batman, the Brave and the Bold, HollyHobby, etc, etc. Besides that, I always did theatre in L.A., which for me is just a place that I love. I always did at least one, maybe two productions a year. I’ve done sketch comedy and improv and even worked with Rick Sparks, our director of I Love Lucy, a few times. He actually called me up and asked if I wanted to audition for the role and I said “of course”! I went in and prepared “Vitameatavegamin”, a song, and was prepared for some improv. I came at a real deficit because I didn’t have a deep understanding of I Love Lucy. I didn’t even grow up with a television. It wasn’t until I was in an acting class when a woman asked if I’d seen much I Love Lucy. I told her I hadn’t, but realized I really should. She then invited me to her home to borrow her own collection. Her name was Paula Stewart and she had played Lucille Ball’s younger sister in the Broadway play Wildcat. She told me a lot about her relationship with Lucille and showed me letters Lucy had written her and other personal artifacts. That is basically my journey up until this show.
Bill: My journey…I did a lot of theatre, I grew up in San Francisco with a family that is all involved in the arts, so performing is always something that we just did for each other. I did all types of theatre, but when I moved down to L.A. I got more involved in the TV and film business, but was still doing theatre. Before I did this, I did a production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and that was really fun. I’ve done some directing over the years too and directed some comedies which has definitely helped with this project. When this came around and I saw a notice for the auditions I knew it was going to be a great script because it’s I Love Lucy. Of course Ricky has great material, and he gets to sing, and he gets to lead a band…this is going to be a really fun project. Originally, this was going to be a three-week project and I thought okay, cool, not much of a commitment, and now…
Me: 4 years later…here you are!
Bill: Right?! The show was first tested in Los Angeles where it did really well. We then moved to Chicago, where it was a great success, and bringing on a National tour seemed to be the next logical step. The cast has changed a little from place to place, but we have also become a family. It’s been such a great experience.
Sirena: He’s right. Playing this role for so many years and for so many audiences has been a real lesson in comedy. Just getting to know the show, the characters and stepping into these roles has been like a degree in comedy. Doing this live we get instant feedback and we know if we hit it just right or if we are a beat off. We never tire of it because every show and every audience is different.
Me (to Bill): So, were you a Lucy fan at all growing up?
Bill: We watched the show as a family like we watched lots of classic comedies, but as a child I felt so frustrated with Lucy! I always thought “Why did she do that? They could be rich! They could do this or that, she is ruining everything!”
Me: And, now that’s your job!
Bill: I know! And, that’s the point of situational comedy. But, I did always think that Ricky Ricardo was very cool.
Other Reporter: What was the process after getting these two roles?
Sirena: After I received the call from Rick Sparks, saying I got the part, I tried to talk him out of it. “Are you sure you don’t want an impersonator or someone who has lived with this longer than me?” I felt like I was coming at such a deficit. Ultimately, they wanted to give ma shot, and I had a lot of work to do, but I really owe a lot to do them to have given me this opportunity and trusted me to do the work and learn this role. I’ve read, and am still reading, Lucy books every evening.
Another reporter: And can you tell us a little about the show?
Sirena: Rick Sparks really wanted this to be a Valentine to I Love Lucy, but also a love letter to the beginning of the television era. He wants the audience to come in and understand what it’s like to watch the show being shot live in front of them.
Bill: They shot the show with three cameras in front of a live audience, and it was the first time anything like had been done. It was ground-breaking at the time. So, now, in our show the audience will see cameras and little scenes between the shots, like they’re really watching a sitcom being filmed.
Me: So, did you watch and study lots of old episodes to prepare for your roles?
Sirena: I’m sure the two of us have each seen every episode, and many multiple times. They never lose their comedy. For me, the one where she tells Ricky she’s pregnant is so moving! That’s what keeps us coming back; it’s so honest, connected, truthful and yet funny. For me, that ticks all of the boxes.
Bill: The fact that they were also actually married, makes it a very unique blend of reality and fantasy.
Another reporter: Why do you think I Love Lucy: Live on Stage is so successful and resonates with so many people?
Sirena: One thing we hear from the audience is that they actually feel like they’ve been taken back in time and are able to see the filming of this show.
Bill: That’s what theatre does, it gives you that suspension of disbelief and allows you to step into that world for 2 hours. It offers two different experiences: If you are fans of the show it allows you to imagine what it may have been like to experience the filming or if you are just getting to know it, you get a little bit of history of TV and I Love Lucy. It’s also just a great love story between Lucy and Ricky, you the see the complexities and the comedy in their relationship which is why it’s still a success even on TV today.
We ended our interview shortly after this statement. The two stars needed lunch and we were escorted to the stage to find our spot before a special mini-performance. There was a gala going on inside the theatre and Lucy and Ricky were going to surprise the guests with a 10-minute skit.
Ricky entered the stage first singing the lyrics to their famous theme song and Lucy soon joined him, singing off-key and trying to find her way into the spotlight. They performed a hilarious skit that included bits and pieces from a famous episode, as well as the Live on Stage performance. It was great and it really was like watching Lucy and Ricky perform together. Bill and Sirena have such chemistry and have managed to completely transform into their characters.
If you are interested in seeing the show then check out the times and ticket prices here and learn even more about the show here. Can’t wait to get my review of the show up!
Since we began dating in 2005, Husband and I have been to nine Cirque Du Soleil shows. We are BIG fans. The last Cirque show I went to was the traveling Michael Jackson show, phenomenal BTW, but almost a year ago! I was beyond thrilled when I got the opportunity last week to review the latest traveling Cirque show to land in NYC…Totem!
In the midst of my flu, Husband and I trudged to the outskirts of Queens to the parking lot of the Mets stadium. I was a little surprised to see actual circus tents set up in the parking lot… Every single Cirque show I have been to has been inside it’s own building or a very large convention center. I was a little concerned that the quality would be less than par, but also felt a little like I was walking onto the set of Worlds Away.
Inside the tents was like…well, it was like a circus. There were hundreds of people buying snacks and sodas, bars, souvenirs, photographers and big screen TV’s.
Most everything was great, everything but the bathrooms. The bathrooms were completely outside, teeny tiny and boys and girls had to share them. These itsy bitsy freezing stalls were obviously created by a man who has never had to sit or handle a tampon.
We had the best seats, but honestly most seats looked like great seats. When the show began we were overwhelmed with the set and the stage. The stage transforms to oceans, the sky, swamps, outer space and a volcanic island. It was phenomenal and the most realistic Cirque setting I have ever seen. The water was projected onto the stage, but rippled and waved when the characters stepped. It was all so magical.
The theme of Totem is “The evolution of man” and begins with amphibians and ends with people in flight. With acrobats, dancers, singers and clowns we got to follow a story that seemed to connect mankind with nature, dreams and wild and crazy talents. The entire show was astonishing and kept us thinking “Holy Crap! That is NOT possible! No way Jose!”
There were a couple of skaters (who I’m convinced are in love) that did such insane tricks everyone around us couldn’t hold back their “ooh’s”, “aww’s” and “OMG’s”. The girl in front of me was covering her eyes and holding her breath. She was convinced the girl skater was not going to come out of her stunt in one piece.
Like every Cirque show I’ve seen I got the overwhelming feeling to workout and start honing my talents. If these people can juggle upside with one foot while carrying their friend on the other foot I can at least start jogging in the morning!
The most impressive part of the show is the musicians. The entire show is done with live musicians who play and sing as the performers perform. If the acrobats are early or late or right on time the musicians have to keep their tempo exactly in time with them. I don’t know how they do it, but it all seemed flawless.
Totem is in NYC until May 12th and I promise you it’s a show you do NOT want to miss! Get your tickets here (and go to the bathroom beforehand!)If you live too far to see the show in the city then check the schedule here to see when it will be near you.
Due to all of our free time lately (Yay Summer!), Husband and I have been taking advantage of the warm weather and extra daylight by taking lots walks around the city. We LOVE getting to know Manhattan better, learning about the history of NYC, and going to places for the first time. My 24 Great Walks in New York book may be completed by the time Autumn gets here.
Yesterday we took the “Harlem and Hamilton Heights” walk, in Harlem…if that wasn’t obvious.
The only time we venture into Harlem is when we are desperate to go to Target. You’d think that would happen pretty often, but having to take a train there and taxi back (due to the many purchases) is surprisingly discouraging. To be frank, I am a little frightened of Harlem. I wish I wasn’t, but it has such a bad rep. It doesn’t feel dangerous as I walk the four blocks from the train to Target, it just feels different.
Let’s face it, Husband and I are spoiled to growing up in majority white, majority middle-class suburban-America. Yeah, we may travel quite a bit, and have moved away from our childhood homes, but we still live in a predominately white, now predominately upper-class fancy-pants neighborhood. I HATE to admit it, but a little color and a little culture makes us a little uncomfortable. It isn’t right, or fair, or decent, or okay in any way. It’s just something engrained in us from childhood through media and narrow-mindedness, and it’s a challenge to erase.
So, to counter what most of you probably hear in the media…Harlem is NOT what it seems. Harlem is so full of history, culture, and some of the most beautiful homes and churches you will ever find in New York.
During our walk we learned about some really interesting and beautiful places in Harlem. The most unusual was Alexander Hamilton’s “country retreat”. Apparently, he used to travel 2 hours by stagecoach to Wall St, and built this house as an escape from the city. Crazy to think that Harlem used to be an escape from the city. It was really strange to see this old and very large home right in the middle of Manhattan.
City College, very old, originally opened for the children of immigrants. It was built with the debris from subway tunneling, and has a medieval architectural theme throughout the campus. It grew to become a pretty radical school and was nicknamed “Harvard of the Proletariat”. We really liked walking through this campus, it was gorgeous, and another odd structure to be found in Manhattan.
Right next to the college is St. Nicholas Park. This park was designed by the same creators of Central Park, but on a MUCH smaller scale. Belle did not seem to notice the size difference. She was just thrilled to rub her back in the grass and get the recent bath-smell off of her.
We saw lots of enormous old churches on our walking tour, but the most impressive was the Abyssinian Baptist Church. It was built in 1808 as a protest against racial segregation. In the 1930’s it was the world’s largest protestant church, and one of its pastors was Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He was a member of the US House of Representatives, and was a powerful force in anti-segregation movements in NYC.
The YMCA in Harlem is famous for allowing African-Americans to stay there when they were refused service in most white-run hotels in the city. Several famous artists and musicians once stayed at this YMCA.
Our last stop on the tour was the very famous Apollo Theatre, which actually opened in 1914 as a burlesque house. It’s probably most famous for amateur night where amazing talents like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder all made appearances.
We really enjoyed our time in Harlem. It’s still too far from our favorite places for us to consider moving there, but its worth a walking tour, a trip to Target, and from what I’ve heard, there are some really good restaurants. So add Harlem to your NYC itineraries!
Yay! I am officially married!!!! Well not as I write this, but if you are reading it then I am definitely married! Woohoo! To celebrate via blog I would like to FINALLY share my bridal portraits with you.
I had the most wonderful photographer, Jeff Guy, take my photos. We took them where I grew up (small town Texas) because I really wanted a little bit of home involved in my wedding, especially since the wedding is so far from home. Fiance and I came up with the idea to take the pictures in some really casual, fun, hometown places. We loved the contrast between a fancy wedding dress, and something old, and maybe even a little dirty! I pitched this idea to Jeff, who loved it, and he gave us some even better ideas.
The weekend I went home to take the pictures was the same weekend as my lingerie shower, bachelorette party, and dress fitting. Needless to say, it was a crazy hectic weekend. We actually had to get up at the crack of dawn to have time to take pictures. So thank you thank you thank you to the very nice girl who did my hair (and was very pregnant!), and a special thank you to Jeff*. You are truly talented. I mean seriously…you make me look good!
I love them, and I am so excited to finally share them! Yay me!
*Jeff is actually my cousin, but even if we weren’t related, he would be my first choice. Can’t wait to have another reason to take pics, Jeff!