So here I am in New York City for the 2nd time in my life. Last time I was here I did a fair bit of sight-seeing and saw a handful of Broadway shows… as you do. This time it’s only a short visit, literally in and out in 36 hours, but I plan to make the most of it!
After landing at 7pm and waiting 2 hours for immigration to wave me through, I head for my accommodation in Chelsea, drop my bag and leave again straight away, ready to hit the town. Tonight’s bar of choice is Marie’s Crisis Cafe, a staple for any Broadway fans who visit (or live) in NYC. Marie’s is a small underground bar, but with one major difference. Here, in the centre of the room, there is a piano with a rotating schedule of pianists who play and sing Broadway hits from every era. It is the crowd’s job, and privilege, to sing along and fill in at least 5 other harmonies and character parts. The bar is always full of people singing (quite well usually) and a lot of performers choose to chill here for a casual sing when they aren’t on stage themselves.
Needless to say, arriving about 10.30pm was no detriment, the bar is open until 3am most nights. I enter to hear the start of One Day More from Les Miserables. I sing a few bars on my way to the bar, grab a drink, sit down and smile. These are my people, I am home.
I strike up conversation with a few other patrons who notice my (apparently heavy) Australian accent, “Oh look, another Aussie!”. Turns out there is someone else from Sydney here and so the party is on. The highlight of my night was singing Satisfied from Hamilton, literally raising a glass to the pianist and others in the room. After singing until I am hoarse I head home about 2am, very much in the Broadway mood and ready for the show I am seeing tomorrow.
But before it’s show time, I spend the morning on my other love: bikes. I hired a bike from the good guys at Danny’s Cycles on the corner of 15th and 6th. I’m impressed with the bike, a modern and well looked after Trek flat-handled roadie. It’s not a crappy tourist bike, which is important as I plan to cycle 50km around the full circumference of Manhattan Island, and I won’t be having a repeat of my town bike experience in Copenhagen!
So I set off down 15th street until I hit the Hudson River. There is a cycleway which stretches just about the entire length of the western side of Manhattan, where the view is great and the infrastructure fantastic. The trip around the top is mostly okay weaving in and out of parks and very enjoyable on this sunny but crisp autumn morning. The return home down the eastern side of the island is a little less easy as the top half requires a bit of on-road riding. This in itself isn’t a terribly big deal for me, I can handle roads with pedestrians and cars, even New York traffic, but attempting to navigate an area I don’t know led to the occasional missed turn. Every so often I’d find myself riding down a road thinking “hmm, I probably shouldn’t be here… let’s not stop”, but at no point did I actually feel in any real danger and I was soon back on the right path. The East River cycleway is nowhere near as extensive as the Hudson, so there was a lot of back and forward getting between the various sections. All in all a fantastic 62km ride, and well worth the 4 hours it took me.
Tonight I have the real reason I bothered to stop in New York on my way through, tickets to Dear Evan Hansen. This is a show I’ve never seen, and intentionally avoided reading the story of. I’ve only heard the sound track, which gives a lot away, but there are a great many gaps which I am looking forward to understanding properly, including what the actual outcome of the ending is. The show was fantastic, and sad and weird and scary all at the same time. Leading the show, Michael Lee Brown makes the weird and socially anxious Evan Hansen character very real. I can’t help but to see parts of my teenage years in the character, and it often left me unsure whether I should laugh or cry, sympathising with both his struggles and his mistakes. The show is a tear-jerker and the ending is no different, leaving me not knowing how to feel, torn between happy for his growth and distraught for his loss. I can say this, the music was excellent and I can’t wait to get home and get re-acquainted with my piano and the Dear Evan Hansen songbook I purchased. I rarely do this, but I gave the cast a standing ovation, it could not have been more deserved.