Friday, March 27, 2015

Martin Short in It's Only a Play

You know game, "if you could have dinner with any 5 people, dead or alive, who would it be?" I sort of play that game but it's more "if you could have anyone be related to you, who would it be?" I fondly, and creepily, think of Martin Short as my "Uncle Marty". Between Three Fugitives, Clifford, ¡Three Amigos!, the Father of the Bride remakes and much more, he was a big part of life growing up and still is. My sister and I may have snuck into The Santa Claus 3 just to see him in it, and of course, he was really the only entertaining part.

Back in 2006, Uncle Marty had a comedy musical on Broadway called "Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me", a sort of fictional autobiographical show told through skits and musical numbers. At the time I was living in my home state of Wisconsin but was going to be visiting New York City in just a few weeks. Once I arrived and checked into my hotel, I excitedly paid a visit to the concierge so she could help me score a ticket to the show. She calls up her contact at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and she has some bad news. The show closed. Just the day before. I obviously didn't do my research.

Fast forward to 2014, I am now living in NYC and hear Uncle Marty will be replacing Nathan Lane for a number of performances in "It's Only a Play". I immediately look for discounted tickets. Nothing really worth buying. A few weeks later I look for more discounted tickets. I've been waiting years to see him perform but at the same time, I'm on a budget. Soon enough the number of performances with Short are dwindling and in the end it was TKTS that won. 50% off day of tickets, $80 total per person for orchestra seats. Not too bad of a deal.

A brief summary of It's Only a Play and it's cast:

A wealthy first-time Broadway producer, Julia Budder, is throwing an opening night party for The Golden Egg at her luxurious Manhattan home. The playwright Peter Austin, the director, the actors, along with assorted friends and hangers-on (including a critic) nervously wait for the late-night reviews printed in the newspapers. Meanwhile they gossip and throw out the names of the celebrities who are in attendance. Virginia Noyes, the star of the show, is taking drugs. James Wicker, an old friend of the playwright, is now a successful TV actor who turned down the lead in the play, and is relieved and secretly thrilled about the bad reviews that arrive. And, although Ira Drew is a theater critic, he is very critical of the theater because he has no talent to actually participate, despite his secretly writing plays. Not discouraged by the bad reviews for The Golden Egg, the assembled parties eagerly make plans for their next play, which they know will be a hit. [from wikipedia]

The whole play takes place in Julia Budder's apartment so most of the entertainment relies on the performances. I liked the play as a whole for the most part. The pacing was off and certain lines/scenes could have been excluded. Throughout the show many celebrities are named as arriving to the party such as Daniel Radcliffe and Shia LaBeouf, and sometimes those names are the punch line of a joke. One such joke that seemed 5 years too late was when the wannabe actor who is hired to take care of the guests' coats for the night, Gus, walks in with a pile of plastic balls and announces that Lady Gaga has arrived.

Short plays James Wicker and he was fantastic. He was over the top when he needed to be and I ate it up. I am interested to see how Nathan Lane plays the character since his and Short's comedy performances are very different from each other. Micah Stock was just delightful as Gus. It makes sense that he would be. Like his character, Micah is pretty new to acting, this being his Broadway debut, so I can't help but think that when Gus is excitedly announcing the latest celebrity guest who has arrived, it is really Micah who is wowed from the excitement of sharing the stage with these acting veterans.

As Julia Budder, Katie Finneran plays her with just enough aloofness that it is endearing rather than annoying. She delivers some of her sarcastic lines under her breath that it made me wonder if Julia isn't as dim as she presents herself.

I was a bit disappointed in Matthew Broderick as Peter Austin; I wasn't sure if he was bored or his character was supposed to be so...monotone and stiff. Maulik Pancholy (who I really only knew as Jonathan from 30 Rock) was another disappointment. As the British rockstar like director of the play, Maulik's faux British accent seemed to strain him.

Overall, I would recommend the show.

After the play we headed over to Sardi's, birthplace of the Tony Award and overall nice place. If you are not familiar with Sardi's, it is known for the caricatures of stage actors that adorn their walls and is located in the heart of Broadway which makes it ideal for a meal or drink pre- or post-show.

 Martin Short wrote about when he had his caricature done in his book, I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend and how it basically looked nothing like him.
side note: If you haven't read his book, please get a copy asap. Even if you're just meh about him, he has great stories about his life growing up, starting out in Godspell with other future stars including Victor Garber & Gilda Radner and the stories about his Christmas parties make you wish you could sell your first born just to get an invite. 

After grabbing a drink from the bar (for the life of me I cannot remember what drink I ordered), I asked the bartender if he knew the general area of where Short's caricature was and he courteously took me downstairs to one of the back corners where I spotted it. The bartender was also kindly filled me in on a fact: Once the caricature is done, two copies are made. The original goes into a vault, one copy goes to the actor and the other goes on the wall.

Overall, it was a good day. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NYC Restaurant Week, Winter 2015

Ah, NYC Restaurant week, the only time I can justify trying new, trendy, expensive, etc. restaurants that I otherwise wouldn't think about. Twice a year for two weeks, lots and lots of restaurants through Manhattan participate in restaurant week with $25 brunches & lunches and $35 dinners. It's a great way to eat your way through the city without feeling too guilty (those drinks will add up though). With brunch and lunches (only a handful of restaurants offer the brunch option), a main course and dessert is offered; dinners are a starter/appetizer, main course and dessert. Reservations are made through Open Table via the Restaurant Week site.

Some friends and I decided to have dinner at Fig and Olive in the Meatpacking District. I can't speak for everyone's idea of a typical, stylish New York City restaurant, but this fit the idea in my head. When you walk in scented candles fill the area around the hostess stand and bottles of olive oil are lined along the tall shelves. The restaurant itself had tall ceilings with wicker lamp shades hanging, wine lined shelves separating the dining area and white linen chairs surrounding the table. The music switched between melodic and a few oldies, but nothing too distracting. The hosts were nice enough, and although we were told our table would be ready in two minutes, we ended up waiting closer to fifteen. It was a Friday night, so it wasn't too bad of a wait. 

Once we were seated I skipped the dinner menu since I had already decided what I wanted earlier that day so instead I studied the drink menu. The drink prices weren't that bad (for not only being a Manhattan restaurant, but a Meatpacking restaurant), being either $12 or $14, their signature martini the only $16 option. I decided to start with the Sweet Red Pepper and it most definitely hit the spot; I'm hoping to recreate it at home sometime soon. I was afraid it'd be too sweet or juice like what with muddled strawberries and passion fruit syrup, but it was light and smooth and the red pepper gave it a summery taste. For the opener I went with the Maine Lobster Bisque. IT WAS DELICIOUS. I would definitely recommend it. I should go into specifics, but it was just damn good. That's it. For the main course I went with the Pumpkin Sage Ravioli (with chicken. this wasn't listed in the menu title but it's in there. I mention this because we had a vegetarian in our group and because it seemed like chicken wasn't a main component it could removed from the menu item, but it couldn't). It was a solid dish. Nothing too exciting about it, but I liked having the crunchiness of the toasted pumpkin seeds scattered around. Dessert was the Chocolate Pot de Crème. Delicious, and like the main course, it satisfied me. 

Overall, I really loved this place and might actually go on a regular night. The only downside was for my vegetarian friend. The only option for the starter was a salad and she had no options for the main. They ended up making her a pasta dish, but it literally was just pasta and oil. No vegetables or additional sauces. That was a disappointment.

The one brunch I did during Restaurant Week was at Pera Soho. I will say, the food was delicious, but everything else was disappointing. The restaurant has more of a lounge vibe so it felt a bit odd eating brunch in a place that you feel there'd be club music and Wall Street guys bragging about their money.  Plus the tables were just awkward to maneuver ourselves into (two of us are on the taller end). When I asked the hostess what kind of place this was at night she said she doesn't really know; every night it's a different vibe and crowd. So take that as you will. Their outdoor space looks wonderful, but it was winter and slush was everywhere, but if it were summer, we definitely would have wanted to sit out there. We received our first order of drinks pretty fast (I started with the sangria, tasted like juice to be honest) but the food was another story. We were already done with round two of the drinks by the time our food arrived. I got the Eggs Benedict which had some tasty beef patrima and herb roasted potatoes on the side. A friend got the Shakshuka Eggs and was in love. Our dessert arrived not too long after our main course. Two of us got the chocolate mousse (I think I have a think for mousse/puddings) and the third got the baklava. There were no complaints in the dessert department. Then came time for the check. With only two other tables we figure it would come out soon enough but our waiter was nowhere to be found and finally after about 20 minutes I went to the hostess stand to ask for the check. 

Basically, come for the food, nothing else. I may have to give it another try once it gets warmer to check out the outdoor patio.

Oh, 21 Club, how I love you. There is something about this place where they would have to do something majorly terrible for me to hate it. I love the old supper club feel to it, the kitschy ceiling with toy planes, trucks, football helmets and more. There is so much history in this place and it has been featured and/or mentioned in many many movies and television shows including Valley of the Dolls and Sex and the City.  Though it was only my third time coming here, I hope the fantasy of it doesn't grow old for me in the years to come. 

To give you a little history about this restaurant: 

The original 21 Club opened in Greenwich village in 1922 by cousins Jack Kreindler and Charlie Bersand and was one of America's most famous speakeasies. It relocated two other times until settling into its current location (West 52nd Street) on January 1, 1930. They have stored private wine collections for many of the famous including a few Presidents, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Zsa Zsa Gabor and many more. The area where they stored these collections is still a wine cellar for the restaurant itself but part of it was remodeled as a private dining area. In 1985 the families of Jack and Charlie sold their interests in the restaurant to General Felt Industries then 10 years later, the heads of that company sold the restaurant to Orient-Express Hotels. 

Back to my adventures at 21 Club.

I arrived a little early so I took a seat in their Bar '21' and within seconds a drink menu and tray of assorted nuts and some sort of tasty rice snacks (at least that's what they reminded me of) were set in front of me. I started with the Blood and Sand and DAMN was that delicious. Obviously if you don't like whiskey, it won't be so tasty, especially since they did not skimp on the alcohol. Once my friend arrived there was a bit of confusion about whether our table was ready or not, but eventually, we were seated. 

My friend and I were seated at Fred Trump (Donald Trump's father) and Dick Flanagan's official table where we were told Donald Trump would sometimes accompany them for meetings.  

I started with the Maine Crab and Salmon Tartare (again with the seafood as a starter?). To be honest I can see a few people not being a fan because there was a strong, salty vinegary taste to it, but I love salty foods and you can't go wrong with a seafood tartare. 

For the main I went with the Faroe Islands Salmon. It was what it was. I was so impressed with the flavors of the starter that the salmon seemed a bit dull for me. 

Keeping with the theme of my previous Restaurant Week desserts I went with the Chocolate Panna. The difference between those chocolate mousse types and this one was that this one came with a bit of citrus, it was a great balance (my favorite Christmas tradition is to get one of those Terry's Chocolate Oranges, so it's like they knew). 

Bottom line: I'll be honest, the food isn't always kick you in the crotch, spit on your neck fantastic, but it's never disappointing and it's the general vibe this restaurant gives that makes it worth going. It seems intimidating because of it's history and dress code, but the bartenders, wait staff, hosts, etc. are always willing to answer any questions or tell you a fun fact about the place. I'll admit I can't afford to eat here on a non-Restaurant week night (maybe someday) but in the meantime I'll pretend I can.  And to read more about their history and possibly sitting in a famous regular's spot, click here

With that, I'm looking forward to NYC Restaurant Week in the late summer and trying some new and some familiar places.