Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunset Boulevard and More: Leading Ladies to See on Broadway Now



It's countdown time to the Tony's.  This year it’s a diva dash and you can still catch most of the leading ladies who have graced the Broadway stages this season, albeit most in limited runs.
(All photos -- credit: Joan Marcus)

First, the play ladies. Sally Field has been nominated as Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Amanda Wingfield in the highly touted re-imagining of The Glass Menagerie. Sadly, the show’s lack of overall nominations forced a closing six weeks earlier than planned.  You’ll have to wait for the next revival of this Tennessee Williams classic or, perhaps, for a future tour with Sally (we can only hope).

Sally Fields

Not to worry. There’s still much female power that shouldn’t be missed. Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon are the chameleon actresses in The Little Foxes exchanging roles every other night. In an interesting twist, Ms. Linney has been nominated as Leading Actress for her turn as Regina, while Ms. Nixon received the nod for Featured Actress as Birdie. The Lillian Hellman play, nominated for Best Revival of a Play, closes on July 2. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street , 212-239-6200.

Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon

The big diva story, however, lies with the musicals. 

Bette Midler is an instant hit, and a Leading Lady nominee, as meddling matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levy in the Tony-nominated revival of Jerry Herman’s and Michael Stewart’s masterpiece Hello Dolly! (Sam S. Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th Street, 212-239-6200). Pitted against each other, Patti Lupine and Christine Ebersole create a bravura War Paint dance at the Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street, 877-250-2929) as cosmetics industry titans, with both ladies nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole

It’s a shame we don’t have the opportunity to award Glenn Close another Tony – she isn’t eligible for her reprise as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard because she’s already won a Tony for that role. It’s also a shame that the category of musical revivals was reduced to only three contenders this year, thus also closing out the show from another potential award.

Glenn Close

Nonetheless, Sunset Boulevard is a musical that you should not miss, and don’t let a non-appearance on the Tony Awards roster nor on the stage of Radio City Music Hall on June 11 deter you. Ms. Desmond's non-acceptance of her relevance as an aging silent-screen actress spiraling out of control is a powerful story that evokes admiration and pity. Think Follies meets Grey Gardens. It's a privilege to watch Glenn Close take on the same role she played 20 years ago in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tour de force, this time with a maturity and presence even more in keeping with the story line. The songs strike with pathos and stay with you long after the curtain falls. Grab any ticket you can; the end date is June 25. You can even buy a keepsake to remind you of this glorious musical evening, a beautiful replica of Norma Desmond's jewelry specially curated for the show.  Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway at 47th St., 877-250-2929. 

NYC Has a Sexy New Cabaret Spot (Drinks and Dinner, Too)

I have a new favorite place to watch cabaret, Broadway tunes, and all manner of musical entertainment. And it's all in an intimate yet spacious setting in a hotel, at the edge of the Theater District. The GreenRoom 42 has given New York City a new option when it comes to great entertainment and dining in a cool setting. Brought to you by Broadway lovers who have analyzed how to create a better burger (you’ll see what I mean later), and, in this case, a better cabaret venue, the Green Room 42 shines with a purple glow with a stage and acoustics just right for a night of song. 

The Green Room 42 - Photo: Meryl Pearlstein 
On any given night the headliner might be Alice Ripley of Next to Normal and Sideshow fame singing her favorite ballads, or Lillias White of Fela!, The Life, Dreamgirls.  Or maybe it's the entire cast of Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 led by Josh Groban, singing their favorite Broadway and non-Broadway chansons. 

Josh Groban @The Green Room 42 - Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

Lillias White - Photo: Victoria Mora-Purroy

Sunday’s bottomless brunch has been host to the Skivvies, the duo who saucily perform a tuneful medley wearing nothing but their lingerie and tighty whities. The menu for both tunes and food is equally evocative.  Think “Out of the Boxers,” a falafel waffle with poached egg, tahini and bacon; and “The Package,” with pita-baked beef, egg salad, tomato coulis and pickles.

But here's the best part. Well, maybe the second best part. There's actually no food and beverage minimum at The Green Room 42. Come for the show, grab a drink, have a bite. Do it all or do none of it. This is your evening to enjoy a show as you see fit. Show tickets are reasonable, as well, starting at $15.

On the docket are a Tony’s viewing party on June 11, with open bar, passed hors oeuvres and entertainment; the music of Nine on May 29; “At This Performance,” a show with Broadway understudies and standbys taking the lead on July 10, and “The New Peggy,” a new musical in concert on July 16 among others. Check the schedule for additions.

 
Photo: Emilio Madrid-Kuser
But if had my druthers, I’d always come to dine as well.  The Green Room 42 serves dinner nightly (in addition to brunch), helmed by Green Fig’s Chef Gabriel Israel (who is also responsible for the cool graffiti art adorning the walls at the banquettes). Try their offbeat schnitzel burger, with a fried chicken cutlet in place of a traditional hamburger patty, slathered with homemade BBQ sauce and topped with a tangy cranberry-Brussel sprout slaw (now you know what I mean by “a better burger”), shareable items like greenroom mushrooms, falafel bites and tuna tartare; or larger plates including steak frites and Tajin baked beef kebab. A creative cocktail menu is offered along with beer and wine.

You can reserve your tickets at http://www.greenfignyc.com/thegreenroom42 , 570 10th Avenue, 4th floor, Yotel hotel, 646-449-7792.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Cagney The Musical -- Last Chance to Buy Tickets, Closing May 28

You might have forgotten that James Cagney started off in Vaudeville as a song-and-dance man. It was later in life that he developed his “tough guy” persona, becoming one of the Hollywood’s top actors. And you might not even remember some of the songs that made him famous like pretty much everything that George M. Cohan wrote.

 (All Photos: Carol Rosegg)

You have one more month to see Cagney, the off-Broadway musical that’s as much a powerhouse as James Cagney was.  Played by Robert Creighton, a Cagney lookalike with matching bravado and appearance, James Cagney dominates the stage as he takes on role after role starting as a chorus girl and rising to the top of the Broadway Vaudeville and Hollywood film scenes. Everyone tap dances in this show, not surprisingly, and it’s wondrous to see this dance form on the stage. 



You know the songs: “Give My Regards to Broadway, ““You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”  Now you’ll also learn about how this spunky kid from New York City’s Lower East Side won the hearts of the stage and film world too.  The show which chronicles James Cagney's involvement with Warner Brothers over the years includes both the classic Cohan tunes as well as original music.  Westside Theatre (upstairs), 407 West 43rd Street, Manhattan. For tickets, cagneythemusical.com, 212-239-6200. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

1000 Cars and More at the New York International Auto Show



Schedule your time this weekend to spend at least a few hours of the 2017 version of the New York International Auto Show.  With cars and SUVs set up on the first floor, and trucks and a few SUVs on the lower level, you’ll have a lot of exploring ahead of you. Electric cars, hybrids, new SUV models, concept cars and luxury vehicles are all on display. From now through April 23, this show is a must for any car lover. Show hours: Friday and Saturday, 10am-10pm. Sunday, 10am-7pm.

Among the trends that are apparent this year:

SUVs are big news. Big ones, small ones, crossovers. Everyone seems to have a variety of versions in popular colors like blue and red. Of particular note, Alfa Romeo has joined in with the stylish Stelvio. Who knew that you could up the raciness quotient started by Porsche’s Cayenne with an Alfa Romeo? The Stelvio is quite striking and will be available in the US in 2018.


(Credit: all photos by Meryl Pearlstein)
 

Smaller cars are getting a visible style makeover. Just take a look at the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic, and you’ll see what I mean. Add leather, trim, and some stylized exterior appointments and bright colors, and, poof, you have an affordable alternative to higher-priced BMW 3 series of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Well, almost.  






Speaking of BMW, the all-new 5 Series has a dedicated area so you can decide for yourself whether the changes are significant or not. The styling doesn’t seem all that radically different, but under-the-hood shows the improvements.


Hyundai’s high-end division, Genesis, displays their attractive sedans, soon to be introduced in the US.

The new Lincoln Continental is luxurious as ever but markedly different from the Continental of yore, with sleek door handles and lines.

If you’re not in the market for a new car, or if you have kids in tow, there are plenty of other fun activities as well. Try out the Hyundai racing challenge stimulator or the Nissan interactive GTR Driving Experience.

Virtual reality stations are offered by Jaguar, Ford and Acura.

And, of course, there’s the ever-popular outdoor Camp Jeep off-roading experience. Line up early and put your driving gloves on!

Hungry? Check out Clyde Frazier, Walt Frazier’s massive basketball and sports restaurant around the corner. Cocktails are named after some of Frazier’s signature basketball quotes: “Loosey Goosey,” “Stumbling and Bumbling” and “moving and Grooving.” Main courses span the US with mac and cheese, burgers, and blackened Scottish salmon, and add Asian accents with Thai lobster curry with jasmine rice. While you wait, you can duck into the half court at the end of the bar and shoot hoops in this tribute to one of the Knicks’ greatest players. 485 Tenth Ave.

Where to go:  Jacob Javits Center, 11th Avenue between 34th and 40th streets, New York City.  Hours:  10am-7pm. http://www.autoshowny.com/.   Tickets are $17 for adults and $7 for children under 12, and can be purchased online or at the show. 












Thursday, March 30, 2017

Healthy and Not-so-Healthy Restaurants That Should Be on Your Radar if You’re Visiting Manhattan

Hawaiian poke is a newish trend in New York City – it’s healthy, fresh, and relatively inexpensive.  Try Pokeworks on 37th and 6th, next to a restaurant that’s anything but healthy, Chick-fil-a. You start by picking your fish – tuna, salmon, shrimp (or even chicken), add toppings like seaweed, pineapple, and garlic flakes, and create a personalized bowl that’s far superior to those quinoa or salad bar things.

Sushi Nakazawa and O-Ya – two splurge-y restaurants for sushi and fish.  You can request no meat dishes and have an outrageous omakase (chef’s choice) meal.  Sushi Nakazawa is on Barrow Street in the Village.  O-Ya is in Murray Hill. Both feature superstar food talents, Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, a protégé of Japan’s acclaimed Jiro Ono and the O-Ya team from Boston,  Tim and Nancy Cushman.


Chicken is high on everyone’s list for healthy foods.  Le Coq Rico in the Flatiron District is Antoine Westermann’s tribute to the bird.  He brings his French-Alsatian expertise from Paris to NYC with chicken sourced from the farms of New York.  Roasted, it’s a healthy alternative to that breaded or fried version. I’d save my calories for Chef’s wonderful Ile Flôtante. For pure, unadulterated rotisserie chicken in a luxe setting, visit Rotisserie  Georgette on East 60th Street, where the owner's many years of experience working with Daniel Boulud is in play at this sophisticated midtown restaurant.

When I'm craving something decadent, I love ordering fried chicken. It's not something I do every day, and I realize that's it's less-than-healthy, but it's always wonderful. My go-to is the tiny, quirky Birds and Bubbles on the Lower East Side. You go down a narrow metal stairway to a very narrow restaurant where Southern food is the star. Sarah Simmons, most recently of City Grit fame, has brought her North Carolina upbringing to NYC and paired her amazing dry-brined, fried chicken with Champagne. Who would have thought? It's pure brilliance.


I always like finding the small bistros that really make you feel at home.  Little Frog sits quietly on busy East 86th Street, an authentic French bistro from people you should know from their time at Balthazar, and also from Minetta Tavern.  Order all seafood – try their amazing oysters -- or splurge on the fab coq au vin, and you’ll have a wonderful cozy meal. It’s a quick walk from the new Second Avenue subway stop, too.

Indian cuisine has always been notable for offering wondrous vegetarian dishes, and NYC has a Michelin-starred one that takes Indian cooking to a new level.  Tulsi, on East 46th Street, brings cooking from Goa, mixes it up with street food, resulting in a showcase of unusual takes on somewhat familiar dishes.  Here, it’s worth saving room (and calories) for dessert as well. The creations from Chef Eric McCarthy (yes, that’s really his name and he IS from Goa) are anything but ordinary.

Finding a good restaurant after going to Carnegie Hall just got a little bit easier with the return of Jams to New York City. The original California cuisine restaurant of the 80s, Jonathan Waxman's Jams is now on the West Side walkable from the Theater District as well as Carnegie Hall. The airy room is a great choice for sampling their signature Jams chicken and pancakes with caviar and smoked salmon, both from the menu of the original restaurant.

For that special-occasion, serene but sensational dinner, book a table at Gabriel Kreuther.  The former chef at The Modern, Chef Kreuther serves up a meticulous menu of Alsatian dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. If you don’t want to have the full set menu every night, there’s a separate bar with its own menu where you can order the tarte flambée, a pizza-like creation with sweet onions, smoked bacon and fromage blanc that put this chef on the map.  The restaurant is an oasis across from Bryant Park and has an extraordinary wine list, too. Walk next door to the amazing new handcrafted chocolate shop.

And speaking about wine, how about a wine bar and a tapas bar that’s so small that you’re advised to arrive by 5:30?  Desnuda on the Lower East Side on East 7th Street will thrill you with its tiny space and its chef’s prowess and creativity. Tea-smoked oysters are sensational -- it looks like they’re being cooked in a bong -- as are the ceviches.

If a scene is more your speed, head to the back of the NoMad, to the NoMad Bar in the city’s newly coined NoMad district (north of Madison Park), where the bar is lively and the menu is pure comfort.  In cold weather, the perfectly indulgent chicken pot pie with foie gras and truffles is a knockout, as is Chef Daniel Humm’s Humm dog, a hot dog unlike any you’ve had before. Trying to eat healthy?  The carrot tartare, originally on the menu at sister restaurant Eleven Madison Park, is an exceptional vegetarian dish, with the consistency and ingredients of its meat-based counterparts sans the meat.  Add a touch of caraway seeds, horseradish, apples and … because we’re talking about carrots after all.  It’s pretty and delicious.
And, finally, one of the newest “hot” restaurants on the Manhattan scene is in Midtown, just behind Bryant Park. Coffeemania is NOT a coffee shop.  Rather it’s a Euro-Russian-American eatery that’s chic and has unusual choices in both beverages and food. The menu is so creative that you can eat healthy (or not, as you wish).  I love the hamachi tartare (very healthy) but also the bone marrow (definitely not healthy) and the warm borscht. Teas from around the world are as creatively curated as the wine list.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Newport, Rhode Island Getaway: Cooking amid Class, History and Seaside Elegance

The Breakers - Courtesy of Discover Newport

Newport, Rhode Island looms large in the lore of 19th-century society. It was where the wealthy vacationed, where they built their summer “cottages,” and where they entertained on a grand scale. The mansions lining Bellevue Avenue offer a taste of the Gilded Age, and they welcome you year-round to explore and imagine life as it was in what has been dubbed “America’s First Resort.”  

The Music Room at The Breakers - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein

For those of us who live more modestly, Newport holds much appeal beyond this fantasy life of the rich and famous of the 1880s. It’s also the playground of the sailing and yachting set and known for the America’s Cup. Newport is a walkable town with quaint New England shops, beautiful flowers, stunning buildings, and oodles and oodles of history. It also remains a beacon to what is possible: having a port that early on rivaled that of New York and Boston, and serving as a haven for religious freedom from as early as 1639. And if the fresh ocean air doesn’t capture you with its salty perfume, the friendliness of the locals certainly will. Newport will always be a place to visit again and again. https://www.discovernewport.org/
Bellevue Avenue - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein



I have returned to Newport many times, in different 
seasons and have had a wonderfully enriching getaway each visit. The regatta and racing season may not begin until June, but spring is equally delightful in this elegant seaside town. Walking past the historic and architecturally significant International Tennis Hall of Fame or stopping at the quirky Audrain Automobile Museum for more dreaming and drooling -- this all adds to the appeal of the city. 

Audrain Automobile Museum - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein
Audrain Automobile Museum - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Newport is the home of the oldest synagogue in the United States.The 1763 Touro Synagogue welcomes visitors on a guided tour where you learn about the beginnings of the Sephardic community in the United States and George Washington’s inspirational letter to the Jews of Newport. The letter, written in 1790, is read annually to the congregation and visitors. The synagogue sits on Newport’s Historic Hill with the neighboring Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House dating from 1730 and the 1835 Levi Gale House. 

Touro Synagogue - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein
Head back towards Bellevue Avenue for a look at the sprawling campus of Salve Regina College with its magnificent Gilded Age buildings and climb along the paths and rocks of the Cliff Walk for a privileged and intimate look at the back yards of the many mansions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Preservation Society of Newport will provide a list of the openings of the various cottages so you can also explore indoors, generally on a self-guided audio tour. The Breakers, Rosecliff, Château sur Mer, The Elms and Marble House are the only cottages currently open, but all will be allowing tours by the end of May. (Insider’s note: the gift shops at the cottages offer some amazing “period” souvenirs that you may decide to keep for yourselves.)  http://www.newportmansions.org/  

The Breakers - Credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Driving along historic Ocean Drive, one of the country’s most distinguished and beautiful residential roads, leads you to the premier destination for a Newport getaway, The Castle Hill Inn. Built in 1874 as a summer house, the landmark Victorian mansion delivers an experience that conjures up a stay among the society folks of the Gilded Age. With its sloping lawn and Adirondack chairs strategically placed for optimal bay breezes as well as views of neighboring Rose Island and Pell Bridge, Castle Hill Inn regally welcomes you for a classy, peaceful stay. The resort itself has many areas: the main inn rooms and their adjacent Harbor House and chalet accommodations; a main dining room, private dining area; two bars; a spa; a living room; and a line-up of individual beach cottages and houses where you walk across the sand to arrive at your own private house with fireplace and indoor and outdoor sitting areas. 

Castle Hill Inn -- both photos, credit: Meryl Pearlstein

For beach lovers, no matter the season, the Atlantic Ocean-facing cottages should be your choice of accommodation. The morning air and unblemished sand invite you to stroll along the shore while you search for sea glass that frequently washes up here. It’s a short drive up the hill to the main house where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the oceanview dining room, and where a reservation for Sunday’s jazz brunch is de rigueur. If you would prefer to stay in the main inn, the bi-level turret suite with its sweeping views of Narragansett Bay is pure Victorian bliss.

Beach Cottages at Castle Hill Inn - both photos credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Last spring, I participated in the resort’s cooking school, let by Executive Chef Lou Rossi and Executive Pasty Chef Matthew Petersen. In the Inn’s lawn kitchen which serves guests outdoors during the warmer months, we learned how to make exquisite bakery items. My favorite was twirling the dough around my finger to create a somewhat round bagel. Others were more adept than I, but that was part of the fun. I had never tried anything like that before, and I loved it. I also loved making savory quiches and fruity crepes along with croissants with their many layers and  pounds of butter. As we got more inventive, we made mini versions that replicated the larger croissants, just to see if we could.


Castle Hill Inn Spring Cooking School - all photos credit: Meryl Pearlstein
After a day of rolling, pounding, and filling doughy, carb-filled creations, it was important to celebrate our successes with a Champagne toast and some wondrous cocktails. Beverage Director Anthony Boi showed us a number of variations on the Bloody Mary, to perfectly complement our brunch menu. The Inn’s specialty, and a riff on a New England standby, uses tomato-flavored vodka and adds clam juice to add a bit of salt-air intrigue.


Castle Hill Inn

Castle Hill Inn is a shingle-style Relais & Châteaux situated on 40 acres just at the entrance of Narragansett Bay. The original 19th-century Agassiz Mansion has seven guest rooms and suites with stunning views. Outside of the main mansion, you’ll find 26 private, waterfront accommodations in the Harbor House, Chalet, Beach Houses and Beach Cottages. Activities at the inn vary by season, but there are always outdoor exploring, wellness and cooking weekends, spa treatments, champagne brunches, stargazing, bonfires, and beachcombing. The resort has hosted many famous guests over its long history, with perhaps the most celebrated being Grace Kelly who stayed while filming High Society in 1956. The resort’s secluded seaside cove bears her name. 590 Ocean Drive, Newport, RI 02840, 401-849-3800, or 888-466-1355.


Executive Chef Lou oversees the curved oceanview dining room and crafts a changing menu of farm (or sea) to table international and regional choices. The Inn’s Sunday jazz brunch is popular among locals as well as guests and should be booked well in advance. Don’t miss the decadent lobster hash topped with poached eggs as well as any of the baked goods from Pasty Chef Petersen. In addition to offering the perfected Bloody Mary, the bar features a selection of more than 800 wines, acclaimed by Wine Spectator with the “Best of Award of Excellence” for the past 10 years.

Castle Hill Inn brunch - all photos credit: Meryl Pearlstein

To end winter, treat yourself to a “Retreat to Romance” weekend, with the indulgence of a couple’s massage at the Spa and Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Skincare products along with the healthfulness of farm-to-table dining. Stay for two nights and toast the vernal equinox with a bottle of Champagne in your room adorned with flowers. The Inn’s decadently refined Afternoon Tea adds to the romance and rejuvenation. 

The Retreat (spa) at Castle Hill Inn - credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Families aren’t forgotten either. Castle Hill’s popular Easter Weekend kicks off on Saturday morning April 15 with the annual Easter Egg Hunt on The Lawn and throughout the gardens. Proceeds from this event benefit the Child & Family of Newport County fund. Brunch on Easter Sunday celebrates the bounty of spring in the hotel’s oceanview dining room. For reservations, call 401-840-3800.

I highly recommend the springtime Castle Hill Cooking Class which reprises this year from May 5-7. Executive Chef Lou Rossi and Executive Pastry Chef Matthew Petersen will again lead guests through two days of culinary craftsmanship. Also part of this year’s Cooking Class, wine education sessions will be overseen by Beverage Director Anthony Boi. The theme may be different from last year’s brunch focus, but it’s sure to fill your head as well as your stomach with delicious treats. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and learn the secrets of great culinary cuisine. For reservations, call 888-466-1335. http://castlehillinn.com/about-castle-hill-inn-social-datebook.



More Events

If you can tear yourself away from the calm and indulgent setting of Castle Hill Inn, Newport beckons with a lively dining scene.  From March 27-April 7, it’s Newport’s Spring Restaurant Week, a great time to sample local dining at great prices. More than 50 restaurants will be offering a three-course prix fixe lunch for $16 or a three-course prix fixe dinner for only $35. 

Scales and Shells - courtesy of Discover Newport

Two of my favorites are among those participating this year. The bi-level Midtown Oyster Bar is always hopping with its sailing crowd (even in the off-season) and live music at the bar. The crudos, ceviches and oysters from the raw bar are top-notch. Scales and Shells Restaurant and Raw Bar just down the street is another Newport favorite, an all-seafood experience in a comfortable setting. Be sure to order their New England clambake – there’s nothing like a grilled New England lobster, except perhaps a steamed or hot boiled one. The restaurant has an extensive oyster selection that changes daily and great artisanal beers. 

  
Scales and Shells - both photos credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Grab a yellow daffodil pin and join the locals and visitors who celebrate the end of winter and the birth of spring with The Newport Daffodil Days Festival from April 15-23. This 10-day event coincides with the emergence of half a million daffodils throughout the city. A calendar of events shows parades, bike tours to view daffodil fields, garden visits, and a back-in-time lawn party at the historic Bellevue House.

Newport Daffodil Days Festival - credit: Meryl Pearlstein

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