I saw "Sunset Boulevard"

What I saw: “Sunset Boulevard,” a musical, on Broadway at the Palace Theater at Broadway and 47th.

What I did beforehand: riding lesson, dog walk, shower; drove to town, walked to train station, waited on the platform outside because the heated waiting area smelled like farts, heard an announcement that the train was running 15 minutes late. Heard a Connected Teen say “Whoa. Like, the next train is at like, Goldens Bridge and like, running 40 minutes late.” 

I texted the Bacon Provider. He encouraged me to like, bail on the train and drive. So I did. It was a relatively quick drive to the city, followed by a slow crawl while I figured out parking. Never trust navigation software about getting places within NYC. They’re all wrong. 

What I wore: yellow Fluevog men-styled oxfords, black mini-cord pants, purple Eileen Fisher sweater, dangly gold earrings. 


Who went with me: my friend S, who also wore purple.

How I got tickets/Why I saw this show: S suggested it, and booked them.

Where I sat: Mezzanine Row E, somewhere in the middle of the row, between S. and a French-speaking woman with a Québécois accent who was writing things down in a notebook during the production, took out her phone and caught a photograph during the first act and failed to suppress her flash. 


Things that were sad: we were scolded, as a group, for having and using phones by an irate usher during intermission. The woman next to me, who was the one who took the flash photo, sat calmly eating from her bag of ROLD GOLD® Tiny Twists Pretzels and made no indication that she heard the usher at all.

Things that were funny: the original movie version of Sunset Boulevard is a Hollywood classic , directed by Billy Wilder. The dark and slightly campy film-noir inspired many zingers and spoofs over the years, and any time a classic line is uttered in this production the audience burst into cheering. 

Things that were not funny: when we left, there were a number of pretzels on the ground next to my seat, broken and ground into crumbs.


Something I ate: meatballs at the Marshal.

What it is: a big, glossy Broadway vehicle for the aging movie star, with soaring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a large, full orchestra, and most of the good lines fans of the original film are looking for. Maybe Glenn Close isn’t quite the singer to deliver the songs as perfectly as they could be sung; certainly it mattered not at all, and maybe was better for her imperfect pitch. 

Who should see it: Glenn Close groupies, film-noir aficionados, Broadway buffs,  admirers of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Billy Wilder boosters, pretzel-loving Quebeckers. 


What I saw on the way home: mounted NYPD, but after that, just the road.

I saw "Dear Evan Hansen"

What I saw: “Dear Evan Hansen,” a new Broadway musical, at the Music Box Theater on West 45th near like, I dunno, 8th Ave.


What I did beforehand: saw this guy worshipping the clothes in a store, and then met up with my friend Bill from the Internet, and we had drinks. It was hard to feel like we weren’t toasting the life of our dead friend, America. RIP, America. We knew you when.


What I wore: two black shirts with jeans, hiking boots, big parka, the earrings before I broke one.


Who went with me: white people.

How I got tickets: just a couple of days before, online, for about $400.


Why I saw this show: I wonder if the world is divided into the bullies and the bullied, with some overlap. 


Where I sat: Row H seat 106, between this guy whose plane from LAX was three hours late making him miss the opening song so he had to sneak in courtesy of an usher with a flashlight and slide past me with his butt in my face after the show had started and, oh, him, and a group of three empty seats on the other side of me that were sold when I checked online. 

Things that were sad: I cried all the mascara off my eyes in the first act.


Things that were funny: people checking their phones at intermission, during a play (partly) about the power of social media.


Things that were not funny: I took off my glasses at intermission (to look at my phone) and they fell off my head and I didn’t notice until the lights dimmed for the second act, so I had to sit there, not able to see perfectly, waiting for the end so I could turn on my flashlight and crawl around. I started looking as soon as people started clapping, but couldn’t find them, and as poeple left the theater a few of the people around me noticed I was looking and pitched in. The person to find them was a house manager. I thanked him, but it felt like it wasn’t enough. 

Something I ate: homemade chips at Joe Allen.

What it is: a fine, energetic musical about a lonely, anxious teen. With moments of great truth about trying not to suck as a parent and featuring a cast that seems to embody their roles, every one of them. Highly recommended. 

Who should see it: liars, teens, parents, people who cannot imagine that social media has a positive impact on the world. People who can’t imagine what a middle class white kid in America might be anxious about. Fans of American musical theater. 


What I saw on the way home: too many ads, which is to say, nothing. 

I saw “Made in China”


What I saw: “Made in China,” a puppet musical for adults, at the 59 East 59th Street Theater, way off-Broadway, in New York City.


What I did beforehand: riding lesson. Shower. Frenzied packing. Brief dog walk. Train ride, where I had a haunting thought as we pulled out of the stop at White Plains, and chanted silently to myself, “we should have done more to stop him,” the whole way to Harlem. Walked up 5th Avenue, behind block after block of police barricades, as if I needed more of a reminder of the disaster we didn’t prevent. 

What I wore: Fluevog boots, James jeans, two black tops I bought at a boutique in TriBeCa and cut the tags out of, vintage earrings, scarf the Bacon Provider bought me from India, Eileen Fisher summer weight cardigan because it was unseasonably warm, black parka just in case.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.



How I got tickets: I got two of the last seats available about a week ago, online. 

Why I saw this show: a positive review in the New York Times.

Where I sat: Row B, seat 13, on the end, behind my husband. Next to me was a stylish young woman wearing shoes I envied and a menswear hat; she was telling her companion about this powerful and sexually voracious woman at work who sexually harasses everyone, young men and women alike. 


Things that were sad: another play about lonely people.

Things that were funny: naked puppets, cussing puppets, wrestling puppets, puppets on (and in) the toilet, a puppet dog humping another dog, a puppet dog with a real retractible red rocket, puppets having sex, a song about impulse shopping, another song featuring a familiar pussy-grabber’s stump-speech snippets about China, and my laughter making the woman in the hat next to me laugh even louder than I was. 

Also, when we got a beer at the bar before the show, I offered the bartender a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, because I carry a stack of them in my purse. “Oh, yeah, I might need that,” he said. 
I got mine from the ACLU.

Things that were not funny: references to human rights abuses and our reliance on cheaply made Chinese goods.

Something I ate: a whole roasted branzino at the nearby Rotisserie Georgette, where four other tables were celebrating birthdays.


What it is: a funny and weirdly fantastic musical about loneliness, human rights, consumerism, and getting along with our neighbors. lasting about an hour and a half, with no intermission.

Who should see it: people who watch TV naked, fans of Avenue Q, kung fu film buffs, devotees of dragon dancers, toilet humor fanciers, Trump satire freaks, human rights experts, disciples of anti-consumerism.

What I saw on the way home: a Windows Media error message on a number of large monitors in a shop window on 5th Avenue, which made my husband laugh.


I saw “Sweet Charity”

What I saw: “Sweet Charity,” at the Pershing Square Signature Center at 480 West 42nd, between 9th and 10th in Manhattan.

What I did beforehand: took the train into the city, checked into the Library Hotel at Madison Avenue and 41st, had tapas with R.


What I wore: gray wool Ibex cowl-neck top, James jeans, navy cardigan, Chinese-made Australian boots, new black parka, pearl earrings, silver bracelets.


Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.

How I got tickets: online, a few weeks ago when I thought spending a night in the city a few days before Christmas would be fun and productive rather than inconvenient.

Why I saw this show: I impulsively subscribed to the New Group for the season. It makes me wonder about the existence of free will and the power of advertising.

Where I sat: Row D, Seat 10.


Things that were sad: this is another play about loneliness (my cousin recently pointed out elsewhere, “All plays are about being lonely.”). And not all musicals have tidy, happy endings, even ones from the 1960s. 

Things that were funny: knowing so many of the songs but never knowing where they came from, the charming clumsiness of the main character, and realizing that this is the 5th show I’ve seen this year featuring people dancing in their underwear. Here are links to the other four.


Things that were not funny: the coincidence of having unintentionally reserved the New Media room at the Library Hotel was only kept from downright creepiness by the gentle absurdity of many of the books being, with predictions about the coming revolution and dominance of interactive television, just old enough to be hilariously inaccurate. The Bacon Provider wrote a book about digital disruption this year, in fact. 


I am happy to recommend the Library Hotel, just about a block from Grand Central Station and the main branch of the New York Public Library, to book-lovers and anyone seeking a small, quiet boutique hotel in mid-town Manhattan.
Something I ate: butternut squash soup, pimientos, and pan con tomate at the tapas place in Gotham West, over in Hell’s Kitchen. 

What it is: this musical is from 1966, and has been revived a number of times and was made into a movie in 1968. It manages not to serve a heaping helping of the nostalgic charm of a period piece and also not to be easily updated with modern seasonings. It is, nevertheless, a fine romp.


Who should see it: Fellini fans, students of mid-20th century gender studies, people who like to see actors dancing in their underwear.

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What I saw on the way home: I think the pillow on our bed in the hotel room was meant to be fetchingly bookish. It seemed lonely and sad to me.


I saw “Vietgone”


What I saw: “Vietgone,” a play with some songs, dancing and rap at the Manhattan Theater Club City Center Stage 1 on W 55th between 6th and 7th Avenues.

I forgot to get a picture of the cookies. 

What I did beforehand: went to a German Xmas party at the apartment of  French friends where we admired the view, drank glühwein, and exchanged stories about near-accidents involving our children. 


What I wore: Fluevog boots, brown tights, Lilith pinstripe dress that is difficult to zip, my mother’s gold bracelets, my own gold bracelets, my grandmother’s watch, mascara. 

Who went with me: my friend S.


How I got tickets: online, very recently, since this plan was hatched only once I realized that the Bacon Provider would be on yet another international trip where he would lose two weekends–one getting there and the other getting back.

Why I saw this show: I read a review that said this show was an excellent companion piece to Viet Than Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Sympathizer,” which I read on the recommendation of a woman who I sat down next to in a theater earlier this year because she was reading it on her phone and could barely put it down.

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Where I sat: A 108, or thereabouts. A woman next to us orchestrated a three-way trade so she could sit next to her husband, who had a seat in the same row. Everyone was more than happy to re-arrange themselves.



Things that were sad: the show closed 12/4/16.

Things that were funny: a character named “the playwright” starting the show by scolding the white audience for accepting racist portrayals of asians. Jokes about life in a refugee camp. A fight scene with slow-mo punches and ninjas. A dance number about wanting to have sex. More cussing than #ragecook burning dinner. 

Things that were not funny: the two delicious lead actors had more chemistry than all the other couples that were supposed to be in love in all the plays I’ve seen this year put together.

Something I ate: German Xmas cookies.

What it is: a very funny, profane, slightly uneven, but lively and likable show with rap, singing, and some dance, running over two hours with a 15 minute intermission. This show features actors using contemporary slang to depict events in various locations in the U.S.and Saigon in the 1970s.

Who should see it: people who can tolerate not always being perfectly clear about when scenes take place.  Audiences that are prepared to revisit what the Vietnam War means as a metaphor.

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What I saw on the way home: a buck with huge antlers on the shoulder of the Saw Mill Parkway, trotting in the direction of traffic.

Just imagine the deer

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I saw "The Band’s Visit"


What I saw: The Band’s Visit, a production of the Atlantic Theater Company, at the Linda Gross Theater on W 20th Street between 8th and 9th

What I did beforehand: cleaned the dining room, watched the Bacon Provider bottle a batch of beer.


What I wore: black motorcycle boots that I bought at the Ranch & Home in Kennewick, Washington in 2002, rust stretch corduroy James jeans with horrifying and degrading non-functional front pockets, black Tanner belt, black Lululemon tank, black slouchy neck Smartwool top that they don’t make anymore, no makeup 

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Who went with me: the Bacon Provider, who seemed like he would have rather done nothing

How I got tickets/Why I saw this show: I subscribed to the season, online, but oh wait also okay in December of 2011 I ate lunch at a table next to Tony Shalhoub and was very distracted by his voice behind me, animatedly discussing the details of an exciting new project.

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The percussionists had sticks in their bags. And I didn’t know about the “h” then. Or also how soul-crushing New York is.

Where I sat: Row E, Seat 9


Things that were sad: this is not a tear-jerker, but is rather a sad musical about the desolate lives of lonely people 

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Things that were funny: police band uniforms, roller disco, first dates. As we left the theater it seemed the rest of the audience filing out around us had lapsed into  speaking Hebrew.
Things that were not funny: the joy of celebrating the glorious diversity of our world’s different cultures now feels like a dangerous and naive indulgence

Something I ate: fried calamari at a decent Italian restaurant about a block away

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What it is: a new musical adaptation of a movie, performed without intermission, and lasting 90 minutes. 

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Who should see it: people who speak Arabic, people who speak Hebrew, people who are waiting for a phone call, policemen, fans of Tony Shalhoub

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What I saw on the way home: a large and healthy-looking rat peeking its head out of the bushes on a traffic island near West 34th, torrential rain that rendered the surface of the normally dark and narrow Saw Mill Parkway a glassy lake, and a mouse that I did not run over about half a mile from home. It was one of the scariest drives home of my life.

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I saw "Beautiful"

What I saw: “Beautiful,” a biographical Broadway musical about the career of singer/songwriter Carole King, at the Stephen Sondheim Theater on the south side of West 43rd Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway. 

What I wore: Fluevog stacked heel boots, black infantilizing Eileen Fisher pants (no pockets), green floral blouse/dress with a drawstring and long, dangly ties to give it shape, gold and black scarf that I snagged from my mother’s closet before she was even dead, long black Patagonia rain coat that is nicely waterproof but not sophisticated enough in its fit and finish to feel like the right raincoat for New York City, fancy black Coach bag with cross-body strap.


What I did beforehand: riding lesson, shower, train, met a friend under the clock at Grand Central, walked up 5th Avenue in the drizzling rain, took the express elevator to the shoe department on the 8th floor at Saks, talked about my mother’s 41 pairs of size 6 navy blue pumps, sat at the bar and drank a glass of wine at Épicerie Boulud under the Plaza Hotel, had dinner at Sardi’s. 


Who went with me: my old friend A., who I met in a Northern California beach town in 1992. I was introduced to A. by a friend of her sister-in-law with whom I’d struck up a conversation on the beach. “I think you’ll like her,” she said, sizing me up. She was right.

How I got tickets: I attended as A.’s guest. 


Why I saw this show:  when you see about a show a week, and someone wants to join you, you let them choose.



Where I sat: between my friend and a woman who was singing along tunelessly to all the songs toward the end of the show. 

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Things that were sad: Carole King’s first husband was probably even a more self-absorbed man-baby than he is portrayed to be.

Things that were funny: the show relentlessly teases the audience by presenting each of Carole King’s early career hit songs with a crafty joke about its origins. 

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Things that were not funny:  the dangly ties on my shirt dropped into the toilet at Sardi’s, and there was a bathroom attendant, so I couldn’t rinse them in the sink without explaining it to the woman attendant in there turning on the faucets and handing out towels and I couldn’t bear to do it so I left them dangling wetly behind me. I gave her a dollar. She gave me a paper towel.

What it is: an enjoyable and well-constructed show for baby-boomers. Broadway musicals today all have fast-paced musical numbers with churning bodies and amplified singing. Some, like this one, manage to express some genuine human pathos in between the swelling strings and belted ballads. 

Who should see it: anyone born before 1965. Fans of Carole King should not miss this show. Thoughtful Americans who spend too much time thinking about politics will find plot points and themes reminiscent of the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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What I saw on the way home: