When I was growing up in Montreal, my family often went to New York to visit our
relatives there. One of my most vivid memories is going to Radio City and seeing
the inimitable Rockettes. I remember the vastness of the Art Deco music hall,
the plush red seats and the impeccable symmetry of the showgirls’ synchronized
dancing and high-stepping kicks.
On a recent visit to New York City, I
was very gratified to see that the Rockettes and Radio City are alive and well
and still on the Big Apple’s entertainment roster.
The Radio City
Christmas Spectacular, which made its debut in 1932, is a classic contingent of
holiday fare that runs until December 30. Replete with the familiar live
orchestra, live animals, 3-D segments and a lot of singing and dancing, the show
has kept in step with the times and includes CGI graphics and LCD screens. And
the Rockettes still perform the impressive “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” With
the precision troupe dressed as toy soldiers, the piece ends with the dancers
slowly falling over, one by one, like a row of domino dolls toppling in slow
And speaking of parades of soldiers, I arrived in New York on
Veteran’s Day (November 11), just in time to witness the annual Veteran’s Day
Parade, which took place in Manhattan and held up traffic for hours. The largest
parade in the US to date, some 600,000 spectators lined the streets to watch
thousands of participants march along Fifth Avenue to pay tribute to the
country’s millions of military heroes then and now.
My uncle Barney
Present is a decorated war veteran. Now 85, he didn’t march in the parade but
was happy to watch the procession on TV. Wounded by German gunfire in 1945 in
Belgium during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, he received the Purple Heart
for being wounded in action and the Bronze Star for bravery.
parade brings back memories,” he said, recalling the grueling events that had
earned him his medals.
MEMORIES OF a different ilk were recorded in an
article that appeared in the New York Post. Fyvush Finkel, 88, who recently
completed a show with the National Yiddish Theater entitled Fyvush Finkel Live,
waxed nostalgic about the old Yiddish theater district, which extended along the
Lower East Side’s Second Avenue. Comprised of more than 20 Yiddish theaters and
several Jewish restaurants, the area thrived from 1910 to the 1930s. For
example, The National Theater was taken over by Boris Thomashevsky, who
constructed a large clock on the building so that no matter where people stood
on Second Avenue, they’d know what time it was. That building is now a
condominium. The Yiddish Art Theater, which still functions as a theater, was
built for consummate actor Maurice Schwartz, who served as producer and director
and played the role of Tevye long before Fiddler on the Roof became a Broadway
classic, Finkel recounted. And the still active Second Avenue Theater was the
training ground for such beloved performers as Menashe Skulnik and Molly Picon,
In a more current mode, Broadway is awash with a wide
range of musicals, comedies and dramas. Some are adaptations or revivals, while
others are new original works.
Some of the familiar titles on the Great
White Way include The Addams Family, a musical with Nathan Lane and Bebe
Neuwirth; Brief Encounter, a musical with Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock;
La Cage aux Folles with Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge; Driving Miss Daisy
with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones; A Little Night Music with Bernadette
Peters and Elaine Stritch; Mrs. Warren’s Profession with Cherry Jones and Sally
Hawkins; Promises, Promises with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes; and Women on
the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, a musical with Patti LuPone and Sherie Rene
New to Broadway, a number of musical offerings have received
American Idiot, adapted from the album by Green Day, is
a rousing rock opera in which the dynamic cast grapple with the problems of
Shifting to another part of the globe, Fela!,
produced by Bill T. Jones, is the biography of Nigerian music revolutionary Fela
Anikulapo-Kuti. Rendered to the pulsating rhythms of Afrobeat, the stirring
combination of concert, dance and musical theater stars Sahr Ngujah and Kevin
Names somewhat more familiar are featured in Million Dollar
Quartet, which revisits the night of Decemner 4, 1956, when Elvis Presley,
Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins got together for an impromptu jam
session at the Sun Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
of a fabulous foursome, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway features a
look-alike cover band knocking off many of the Fab Four’s greatest
On the dramatic scene, Time Stands Still by David Margulies tells
the riveting story of two journalists, played by Laura Linney and Brian D’Arcy
James, reeling from the rigors of covering the war in Iraq.
vein, The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, based on a true story, explores the
passion and meaning of art through a group of five artistically adventurous
miners in northern England.
And for sports fans, in Eric Simson’s play
Lombardi, Dan Luria tackles the role of legendary Green Bay Packers football
coach Vince Lombardi.
On the comedy circuit, stand-up comic Colin Quinn
takes to the stage in his oneman show Long Story Short, directed by Jerry
Seinfeld. Subtitled “History of the World in 75 Minutes,” the play casts a wry
eye on the foibles of mankind over the past couple of millennia.
wry is the bombastic satire La Bete by David Hirson. Starring Mark Rylance,
David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley, the play, written in iambic pentameter,
revolves around the ruination of theater in the time of Moliere.