life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Radio City and Chinatown

What a difference ten days can make!

When we came into the city on April 8, it felt like February. Cold and wet and windy.

On April 18, you would have sworn it was June. Daytime high of 77. We both brought jackets, thinking it would be chillier at night. Never needed them.

A lovely walk from Penn Station to Rockefeller Center. We stopped at Bryant Park for hot dogs -- mine with ketchup and onions, Drew's with mustard and sauerkraut.

We arrived at Radio City Music Hall way too early, so I ran into Duane Reade for a couple of bottles of water.

Radio City Music Hall, the Art Deco palace with seating for 6,000, designed by Edward Durell Stone, home of the famed Rockettes. In the glory days, you could come here for a movie and a stage show. These days, it's mostly concerts and stage shows, including the Christmas Spectacular, which we loved.

This year, the Rockettes did a spring show. Actually it was planned for 2014, but cancelled at the last minute because management felt it needed to be revised and improved. We had tickets for the cancelled show and were very disappointed. Bought tickets as soon as the current show was announced, long before we knew Derek Hough and Laura Benanti would be starring in it.

Our seats were in the first mezzanine, front row center. We chose that location because you can see the dancers' formations, the patterns of the choreography. It's also an interesting vantage point for watching the orchestra seats, and all the cell phones in use before the performance began.

The show? It uses the same formula as the Christmas show, a thin plot that links each song and dance together. The story involves a NYC tour guide named Bernie, a business woman named Jenna (Benanti) who wants to replace Bernie with a virtual reality tour, and an angel named Jack (Hough) whose mission is to save Bernie's job. So of course we get a tour of the city -- Grand Central Station, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Broadway/Times Square, Fashion Week, the sports world of Madison Square Garden/ MetLife Stadium/Yankee Stadium, the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, and (of course) Radio City Music Hall.

It's a multimedia tour. There's a full orchestra, singers, dancers, even a couple of aerialists. Special effects on stage: for example, statues (Central Park's Alice in Wonderland, Patience and Fortitude at the Library, The Statue of Liberty) come to life. And lots of film: clips from old movies about NYC, as well as a 3D animated short made for this production, and more than a few celebrity cameos. In addition to our 3D glasses (the old fashioned paper kind!), each of us was given a wrist band, which lit up at various times during the show.

Despite all of this, I thought the show was merely "ok". It was interesting to see the Rockettes dancing with hockey sticks and basketballs. But their best numbers were more traditional dances -- "Singin' in the Rain" (in yellow raincoats, boots and striped umbrellas) and "New York, New York" (top hats and tails, of course).

Afterwards we took the subway to Canal Street -- Chinatown. Our favorite hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, Wo Hop, at 17 Mott Street. There was a line to get in, of course -- an interesting mix of tourists and locals who've been coming to this restaurant for decades. Alas, this time around, the couple who were on line ahead of us were seated at "our" table. We shared an order of steamed dumplings. Drew had his usual -- wonton egg drop soup and 4D lo mein. I had hot and sour soup and chicken in garlic sauce -- broke my own rule about sticking to the Cantonese dishes, but I was very pleased with my order. As always, we brought home lots of leftovers.

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