Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Capitol of the World

In about 24 hours I will get on a plane and shoot through the night and when morning comes I will be in the most exciting city in the world for me - New York, New York.

A trip to New York means theater to me. My first two visits in the late 70s gave me the unquenchable memories of seeing an unknown young actor named Kevin Kline on stage with a Broadway legend John Cullum and an understudy, Judy Kaye, who would become a substantial presence in her own right. The show was "On the 20th Century," and I still remember the chill that ran through me when the orchestra kicked off the overture. I said to myself "I am seeing a Broadway musical!" Not bad for a hick kid from the sticks with a bad case of the theater bug.

My mental scrapbook from that far-removed time includes recollections of being in the audience for Frank Langella's star turn as "Dracula," Blythe Danner (when she was known for more than being Gwyneth Paltrow's mom) in Pinter's "Betrayal," the original cast of "Deathtrap" in a late-night benefit for Actor's Equity where the crowd was made up mostly of people who didn't get to see the popular shows because they were in one of the popular shows, and, the penultimate experience for me, the original cast of "Sweeney Todd." I saw a little-noticed musical called "Timbuktu", a re-working of "Kismet" directed by Geoffrey Holder, who made a piece of change and became forever stereotyped as the "Cola nut" guy from some silly TV ad, and a musical called "Strider" that seemed really good to my young eyes but played to a half-empty house and closed a few nights later. More recently, the viewing experiences have included "Rent" and "The Producers" performed by the third, fourth, fifth-string casts, and the compelling Pulitzer Prize-winning "August: Osage County." In the next 96 hours I will spectate and absorb three more New York theater experiences, and my life will be a little better for it. When you're a junkie, you just got to have your fix.

And yet New York is so much to so many - so much more than the legitimate stage. There's Lady Liberty, and Central Park, and bialys in the delis, and the Public Library, and St. Patrick's Catherdral, and Bleeker Street, and the Guggenheim, and - well, where to begin, where to stop? An endless feast for all of the senses, 24/7.

You may not have noticed my restraint in writing about Manhattan and not using the phrase "the Big Apple" even once. That's only because that nickname is only one of so many that deserve a mention. Even a simple Googling reveals no less than 98 Nicknames for this wonderful place, a few of which are worth repeating here.

  • Gotham (name given to New York City by Washington Irving in the Salmagundi Papers, 1807)
  • The Bagdad of the Subway
  • The Bagdad on the Hudson
  • The Big Burg
  • The Big City
  • The Big Town
  • The Center of the World
  • The City of Cities
  • The City of Golden Dreams
  • The City of Light
  • The City that Belongs to the World
  • The City that Never Sleeps
  • The Cleanest Big City in the World
  • The Crossroads of the World
  • The Cultural Capital of America
  • The Empire City
  • The Entertainment Capital of the World
  • The Fashion Capital of the World
  • The Fear City
  • The First City of the World
  • The Frog and Toe (?)
  • The Fun City on the Hudson
  • The Hong Kong of the Hudson
  • The Information City
  • The Land of Surprising Contrasts
  • The Melting Pot
  • The Metropolis
  • The Modern Gomorrah
  • The Money Town
  • The Super City
Let the fun begin. I will bring you a T-shirt if you're good while I'm gone.

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