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Monday, February 17, 2014

Fun in the Big City...

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone.  While it's great to celebrate this holiday with your significant other, shouldn't the feelings and warm sentiments towards your partner last all year round?

This past weekend, my wife and I took advantage of her sister offering to watch our three children in order for us to spend an evening together.  We had been talking about traveling into Manhattan and checking out the TKTS booth in Times Square and seeing a show.  The TKTS booth offers discounted theatre tickets and is a good value for fans of Broadway. 

We had a few ideas about what shows we would like to see and we checked our train schedule for our trip to Penn Station and quick subway ride to Times Square.  When we left our home it had begun to snow but it wasn't too bad.  Our train ride to the city was uneventful and after arriving by subway to Times Square, it seemed we walked a bit to our exit on 42nd street.  When we got on the street, the snow was coming down hard and visibility was poor.  The first order of business was to get to the TKTS booth on 46th street and select our show. 

Due to the snow and tremendous crowd, Aimee and I walked west on 42nd street and made it to 8th avenue.  We then back tracked on 43 and walked up Broadway to 46th Street to the TKTS booth.  The crowd in Times Square was large (so much for thinking the bad weather would lessen the crowds).  We saw at the TKTS booth that our first choice was sold out, the musical ONCE.  Our second choice was still available at a 50% discount.  This was the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie.

With our tickets secured we walked back west to have some drinks and dinner at The House of Brews, 46th Street between 8th and 9th Ave.  The walk was made in the slushy slop of the sleety snow joining the melted puddles from the previous storms we've endured this winter.  We arrived at the House of Brews and quickly got a table and orders for drinks and a look at the menu.  We had plenty of time to eat and drink before our trek to see the show at the Booth Theatre on 45th street.

The House of Brews - 46th Street

The Booth Theatre is near several other theatres including the one housing ONCE, which had a huge crowd standing in front to get in.  We arrived at the Booth and went right inside.  After settling in at our seats, which provided a stellar view of the stage, another spectator came into our row and he found his seat next to my wife.  He was very nice and explained to us that his wife was about 12 seats to his left in the same row and his daughter was on the same level but on the right side section of seats.  He explained to us that he and his wife were visiting from Oklahoma and they had seen their daughter perform at the Met in Price Igor.  The theatre filled up with an additional standing room only just two rows behind us. 

Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock in the rebooted Star Trek films comes out and begins the play, a memory play - one of Williams' most autobiographical works.  Cherry Jones stood out in this production  portraying Amanda Wingfield, the aging matriarch who clings to her past glories as a Southern Belle with visits from her "gentlemen callers" reduced now to selling magazine subscriptions by the telephone.  Now this family, including damaged daughter, Laura yearn for a life different from the one they currently find themselves in.  For Quinto's character Tom, he sees the path of his father who abandoned his family as one he will take.  He seeks escape in the form of trips to the movies or escape in the form of drink.  He wants to be a writer but hides that ambition from most of his co-workers at his shoe warehouse job.  The past glory and future desires collide with the tragic difficulties this family faces in their present in this Depression era St. Louis setting. 

These characters are joined by the "gentleman caller", O'Connor, a former schoolmate of Laura who has also fallen from the heights of his High School days.  However, he has a plan of self-improvement via public speaking courses he is taking. 

I recall having this play as part of my English-Literature class at St. Dominic's High School, either in 9th or 10th grade.  My teacher, Mr. Cambisio really liked presenting classic works of American literature and this play was no exception.  He also used the VCR to present a televised version of this play in conjunction to the text. 

Aimee and I really enjoyed this production.  The lighting and music played added to the stark material and tragedy unfolding in this play.  In addition, the acting was top notch with well choreographed movements on the stage.  This production has been playing since last fall and will close next Sunday, February 23.  If you happen to be in New York City before then get tickets and see it, you will not be disappointed. 

Our fun in the big city concluded with a subway ride back to Penn Station and a LIRR ride back to our home station.  The LIRR ride was hilarious as we had several loudmouths on the train, heckling others as well as a girl who was quite loud who rambled her discourse on what Hispanic group lived in the following towns: Mineola, Westbury, Brentwood, and Islip.  Her mouth was annoying to another rider who sat behind us and he was muttering to himself some actions he wanted to take against this loudmouth but I can't print them here on an all ages blog.  Fortunately the woman with him was able to pull him back from the brink before an action was taken. 

Always fun in the big city...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It was 50 years ago today...

It was 50 years ago today
That The Beatles came to the states to play
They've never gone out of style
and there always sure to bring out a smile
So let me reintroduce to you
A band you've know for all these years
The Beatles, the greatest rock and roll band.

My apologies to those fans of the classic song  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band but today this post celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival across the Atlantic from Britain.  This evening, 50 years ago,  much of the country witnessed the shrieking, boisterous Beatlemania that had taken hold of teens in New York as they viewed the Sunday Evening Ed Sullivan Show.  It certainly marked the end of the quieter portion of the 60's and nothing would ever be the same again. 

Our country just lost its shining, youthful prince only a little over two months previous to the Beatles arrival.  The youth of the country needed something to rally around as an escape, for lack of a better word, from this recent tragedy.  Now, the Beatles arrive in New York, at the airport now named after our slain leader, JFK.  Once again, nothing would ever be the same again. 

What follows is a post I wrote last year with my reflections regarding the Beatles:

What more can be said about the 4 young lads from Liverpool, England who took the world by storm "all those years ago".  My first exposure to the music of the Beatles came several years after their break up.  Capital records produced complilation albums, the famous Red and Blue Albums. 

These two albums were my introduction to the Beatles and looking back on it today, I marvel at the changes in each of the members of the band through those years 1962-1970 (look at the two covers!).  In the late 1970's, Capital released Beatles Love Songs (I believe it's out of print) and all of the Beatle ballads and slower songs were given their rightful spotlight.  I remember an older sister who had that album and I liked many of the songs on that compilation.

As I got older, I clearly remember when John Lennon was assassinated, miles away from my home, on December 8, 1980.  That was quite sad as he was only 40 years old and just coming out of a five year break where he was raising his son Sean having released Double Fantasy with his wife Yoko Ono that October.

I was only 10 years old when John Lennon was killed but at that young age, I began to discover more about the history of the Beatles and the solo careers of each member.  I also set out to own their music.  This was during the late 80s with the release of their music on CD.  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was an essential and first addition to my Beatles discography.  Even today, I can play it and find some subtle nuance I may have missed in previous playings.  I enjoy all of the songs on it and admire the guts they took to retreat from touring completely and making this record.
In the 1990's, the survivng members of the Beatles worked together and the Anthology series of albums were released.  For Anthology 1 and 2, John Lennon demos were completed by Paul, George and Ringo and produced by George's fellow Travelling Wilbury - Jeff Lynn.   Free as a Bird and Real Love were the two songs completed.  The Anthology albums also included alternate tracks and demos of familiar songs.

In 2000, The Beatles "1" was released and it showcased 27 Beatle number 1 songs that hit the US and/or UK charts.  This compilation was released on the 30th anniversary of the bands breakup. The compilation is a great introduction to the band much like I was introduced to them via the Red/Blue albums.  This year, 2014, saw the release of the Beatles US albums.  When the CD's were released, they were released in the format they were released everywhere else but America.  In the USA, the Beatles releases were in a different sequence and now Capitol records have released the US versions.

Flash forward to today and the Beatles continue to remain relevant.  All of their music is now found on I-Tunes.  Paul and Ringo continue to make new music and perform.  George's son Dani Harrison has a band of his own and is following in his Father's footsteps.  Sean Lennon also is a muscian and social activist like his Dad.  He is currently protesting against the process of Fracking in upstate New York. 

I recently came across an Italian musician who has a number of YouTube videos where he dissects the vocal harmonies of Beatle songs.  Galeazzo Frudua truely enjoys what he's doing and it's a fitting tribute to a great band.  His videos are also fun to watch.  Follow him at his YouTube Channel - The Beatles Vocal Harmony and at Twitter - @Frudua


I think the Beatles could be summed up with one word: LOVE.  As in "All You Need is Love".  Sometimes a simple message, such as this, can have a profound effect on the world.  The Beatles were harbingers of the social and consciousness change that occurred in 1960's.  Yes, our world has changed since then, for good, for bad, that's a point to debate, but how we treat others remains relevant today as it did during the Beatles heyday.  I still believe the Beatles will be discussed and studied hundreds of years from now and I'm happy their music remains to inspire and influence the world. 

What's your favorite Beatles song or album?  Do you like their solo efforts?  I'd love to hear back from you so be sure to leave a comment.