Travel Planning: New York City at Thanksgiving – Broadway Bound!

My favorite New York City experiences, without a doubt, were the shows! We saw Frozen at the St. James Theater, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes, and the New York City Ballet perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. I would have loved to see at least one more show, but you know… money. For more about our trip, check out my other posts covering our sightseeing as well as our arrival to the city.

FROZEN THE BROADWAY MUSICAL – 11/21/18

My first Broadway playbill!

If you take nothing else away from this blog, know this – if you’re buying tickets for a show online, pay the extra to get them shipped to you! We bought our tickets February 2018 before Frozen even opened. Although I had thought I was buying them through Ticketmaster, apparently I got re-routed to a third-party website and was unknowingly sent invalid digital tickets. The customer service reps at the theater even went so far as to say they were fake!

We were so naive walking up to this theater…

After almost twenty minutes on the phone with the company that sold us the tickets and pacing like a lunatic in the theater entryway, I finally received the correct tickets via email. With this being our first New York theater experience, suffice to say I was apprehensive the rest of the week.

Following that unpleasantness, we took our seats and waited for the show to start. I have always wanted to see a Broadway show, especially with the original cast, and boy did this deliver! Caissie Levy & Patti Murin were wonderful as Elsa and Anna, and Jelani Alladin was delightful as Kristoff! My only (very minor) complaint is that Sven looked too real, and ended up being a bit creepy looking. Do what you do best Disney, and stick with the fantastical.

Wandering Oaken’s – one of the best parts of the show!

I’ve pretty much memorized the movie’s soundtrack, so it was interesting to hear both the classic songs and the new numbers. “Let it Go” was obviously a standout (and the first act closer), and standbys like “For the First Time in Forever” and “Summer” were fairly similar to the film. One of the biggest and most surprising differences is “Fixer Upper,” which was reworked to be slower and more tribal – and it worked! In regards to the new songs, my favorite hands-down was “Hygge,” sung by everyone’s favorite mustachioed shopkeeper Oaken. The whole number was so enjoyable and a great way to open the second act – and for a Disney production, is really quite racy 😉

Overall, I loved this production as both a Disney and theater-going fan. The cast was perfect, the music was lovely and the visuals were spectacular! I will definitely be first in line when this show comes to LA.

THE RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR – 11/22/18 @ 8:30 PM

Thankfully he gets in for free!

This was the show that, as far as we were concerned, had the most hype to live up to. Several years ago, my mom bought the 2007 production’s DVD and we’ve watched it on repeat ever since, so we knew that show by heart. As a former dancer, I’ve always had a high regard for The Rockettes, and although I’ve seen the touring companies before, nothing compares to seeing them at their home base.

I practically had my nose up the orchestra!

When we bought our tickets, we took a gamble and grabbed front-row seats in the orchestra. We typically don’t go for front row, but the prices were surprisingly reasonable, so we figured why not? It ended up being a surreal experience sitting that close to the stage and the performers. We weren’t able to enjoy the projections on the walls of the music hall as fully as other audience members, but honestly, I didn’t mind.

The show’s opening number takes advantage of showcasing the miracle that is the music hall’s elevator systems under the stage. The orchestra not only goes up and down, but for the finale, the whole platform moves to the back of the stage! The transitions are so smooth and so much is happening at any one time that you don’t realize they’re gone until after the fact. During our tour, the guide told us they’re still using the original elevators from when the music hall open – so cool!

March of the Wooden Soldiers fall

Most of the numbers performed by The Rockettes during the show are fairly similar to the numbers from our DVD – the Reindeer opening, 12 Days of Christmas (no more funny huffing and puffing though), March of the Wooden Soldiers, New York at Christmas and Rag Dolls. Their new number, Christmas Lights, is a joy to behold and I’m so glad we were able to see it in person.

Christmas Lights high kicks

The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular was, without a doubt, our favorite show. It’s a joy to watch from start to finish, and the experience of seeing it at Radio City Music Hall is something I never could have imagined. I’m already dreaming of taking our future kids to see this someday.

NEW YORK CITY BALLET’S GEORGE BALANCHINE’S THE NUTCRACKER – 11/23/18

Our most expensive disappointment

With my previous dance experience and performing in various places, I can understand the pressure of being perfect on stage, so I can only imagine how the dancers with the NYCB were feeling on opening night of The Nutcracker. That being said… for a professional world-renowned dance company, I was not impressed.

My first inkling that this was not what I would consider a “typical” opening night was when audience members started showing up in jeans and tennis shoes. Now don’t get me wrong, it was freezing, but… really? You better believe I suffered – and looked darn cute – in my heels and knee-length dress and tights (with the obligatory heavy winter coat, gloves & scarf). That being said, my mom did have my flats in her big purse which were a lifesaver on the walk back to the hotel.

We had a great view… of everything that went wrong

I’ve seen The Nutcracker performed by various companies over the years and have obsessively watch the Baryshnikov version on DVD, so I know the ballet and its variations fairly well. However, with this iteration, I was really surprised by how much it felt like a kids’ Christmas recital. Not only were there a number of children performing which is fine, but it felt like the kids were the feature rather than the professional dancers with years of experience under their belts. I was also shocked that the little girl playing Marie (Clara) wasn’t on pointe!

As the performance continued, I noticed other things that should not have been happening – a soloist had their headpiece fall off which disrupted their number, a child’s shoe went flying, etc. I kept sitting there wondering if they had done any dress rehearsals as these were all things that should have been caught and fixed well before opening night.

However, Lincoln Center is very fun to photograph at night!

All in all, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker did not impress us the way we were hoping. I love going to the ballet, and was so excited for this performance – and was so disappointed when it fell flat. Considering these were our most expensive tickets, buyer’s remorse doesn’t begin to describe how we felt walking back to our hotel that night.

So that’s it! As I said, I really wish I could have seen at least one more show, but I guess that will have to wait until my next NYC trip. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these shows, and what your thoughts were!

All the best,

Mrs. P²

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