Raising Broadway Babies – and A Totally TONYs Partnership (pinch me!)

b_totallytonysI grew up going to the theater, performing in musicals, doing ballet.  Living in Brooklyn meant going to a Broadway theater was an event.  We planned ahead, tickets were bought in advance, reservations made, more often than not a special occasion was involved.  I didn’t really care what I saw – I just loved going.  And the truth is, when you’re a kid, if there’s singing and dancing and a big velvet curtain it’s all magic.  If you also got Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin or Patti LuPone – well then that magic elevated to a level of serious wizardry.

When I’m being totally honest with myself I will admit that I miss being a part of the theater.  For most of my childhood and early 20’s it is where I assumed I would be.  And it does not surprise me that when I look at most of my closest friends many, many of them are theater geeks too – with their own drama stories and a bit of wistful regret.  I never doubted that I would raise my daughters as theater goers.  They do not have quite the performing bug I had – they participate, but that love of the stage is not deep in their bones like mine. They are more attracted to singer/songwriters, not all out musical theater.  However, they love to go.  Even when they were little – when they hated movies, were terrified to watch previews or sit in a movie theater, they loved watching live theater.

Nothing can replace that feeling of being in the audience and watch real people, feeling real emotions, working through relationships, love, loss, and joy right in front of you.  Theater is almost a basic human need – going back centuries – the desire to connect, relate, tell a story, entertain, educate.  And you don’t need much to put on a show right in your own basement, backyard, school auditorium, or neighborhood park.  It’s enough to inspire Broadway dreams in kids across the country.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce that KidzVuz is partnering with The Tony Awards this year to promote the June 9th telecast of the Tony Awards hosted by Neil Patrick Harris (woot!).  We are holding a contest for kids all over the country to tell us about their favorite show, or sing a bit of their favorite Broadway show tune.  And the response has already been amazing.  Here’s one of my favorite video entries so far:

If you’ve got a Broadway Baby in your life make sure to let them know about this contest – they can win a giant bag of Broadway Show swag with hats, T-shirts, soundtracks, autographed Playbills and more.  AND they could be featured on the Tony Awards website!

The kids have taken over Broadway this year in Matilda, Newsies, Kinky Boots, Annie, Motown, Annie and more.  There’s never been more family friendly fare on the Great White Way – so if you’re in NYC be sure to see a show.  And make sure to check out the regional theaters near where you live.  Support your local theater since that’s where so many kids’ dreams begin.

And in the meantime, they can enter the Totally Tonys video contest by clicking HERE!

Behind the Scenes at Mary Poppins – Disney Magic In Times Square

Behind the Scenes at Mary Poppins – Disney Magic In Times Square

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few weeks ago we were invited to take a backstage tour of the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street, current home of the Disney Broadway musical, Mary PoppinsThe New Amsterdam is a particularly rich historical theater – it housed the Ziegfeld Follies and the fabulous Fanny Brice and is haunted by the ghost of Olive Thomas.  Like most of Times Square in the 70s and 80s The New Amsterdam had fallen apart, become decrepit and rat ridden and showed Kung Fu movies.  I remember when Disney purchased the theater and announced their intention to restore it and bring The Lion King there.  Most New Yorkers were skeptical at best.

What occurred is one of those extraordinary New York and theater moments.  The restoration of the theater – most of it helped by the memories of original Ziegfeld Follies girls then in their 90s – is glorious.  All of the original details were restored or rebuilt from the crowned sconces, to the Shakespeare friezes, to the beautiful murals in the downstairs lounge that depict the history of New York.  It’s hard to imagine the lounge with 2 feet of dirty water filling the floor as it was 15 years ago when they began the restoration.

On our tour we not only saw the beautiful details but also had a backstage, hands-on experience with props and set pieces from all of the Disney musicals.  Sitting in Ariel’s scallop shell bathtub was a definite highlight.  That evening we saw Mary Poppins – for the second time I should say.  But, now that my girls are 9 they had a whole different appreciation.  It also was pretty amazing to see the show after standing on that very stage that morning.  There is nothing like walking on a Broadway stage!  Except, maybe, seeing yourself on one of the giant screens in Times Square.

We had an extra dose of Disney Magic that day when the girls got to experience a virtual Disney Park experience by posing with a beamed-in Daisy Duck and having their pictures projected on the screen above the Disney Times Square store and then again and again on within the “castle” that covered the building across the street.  I think they could have watched themselves forever…

Transport Group’s Queen of the Mist Review (and Get Discount Tickets!)

I don’t often do reviews here on Beccarama.  I have plenty of opinions, but I’m not a technical reviewer who parses the ins and out of products – unless it’s something I really, really want to talk about.  I have been a theater and movie geek since I was old enough to waddle into a theater.  I was one of those 5-year-old kids who could sit through a 2 hour movie, ballet or musical and barely blink, let alone squirm.  It was always magical and engrossing to me.  Growing up in NYC meant I had access to the best of everything – and performing arts was top of that list.  So, when I was invited to join a new blogger group of women bloggers called Mama Drama co-founded by Holly Rosen Fink (theculturemama) I immediately said yes and I will now be reviewing all of the productions I see on Beccarama.

This past week I saw a new production, currently in previews, produced by the Transport Group Theatre Company called Queen of the Mist.  The production takes place at the Gym at Judson – the space is an actual gym that has been transformed into a performance space – the seats are on either side and the action takes place in the center and sides, level with the first row of the audience.  It’s very intimate, and for an intense production like Queen of the Mist, quite powerful.  Here’s the background from the plays’ producers:

Based on an astounding, outrageous, and haunting true story, Queen of the
Mist stars two-time Tony nominee Mary Testa as Anna Edson Taylor, who,
in 1901, set out to be the first woman to shoot Niagara Falls—in a barrel of
her own design. Navigating both the treacherous Falls and a fickle public
with a ravenous appetite for sensationalism, this unconventional heroine
vies for her legacy in a world clamoring with swindling managers, assassins,
revolutionaries, moralizing family, anarchists, and activists. Convinced that
there is greatness in her and determined not to live as ordinary, she sets out
to battle her fear and tempt her fate. With a score that incorporates turn of
the century themes with signature LaChiusa elements, Queen of the Mist is
the story of a single great fall, and how one woman risked death so that she
could live.

Anna Edson Taylor was the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.  The Queen of the Mist refers to the barrel itself.  It’s a story steeped in turn of the century Americana, touching on the temperance movement, WWI, and the beginnings of ginned up public relations.  In a way it’s the precursor to modern reality TV.

The musical written by Michael John LaChiusa and directed by Jack Cummings is emotionally and musically complex and intense.  The cast is exceptionally strong, led by Mary Testa as Anna Edson Taylor.  Being that close to the actors is a very different experience than a typical Broadway show where the music, dancing and singing are kept at a distance, where you are always aware there is an invisible wall between them and you.  In this sort of space the strength and power of the acting – not just the amazing voices – is what surrounds you.  The connections between the actors, the truthfulness of their emotions and reality of their space were the most compelling part of the show.  It’s absolutely worth seeing for those performances alone.

Here’s a video of the cast meet and greet:

For $10 off the ticket price enter code: TGMAMA

Click HERE for tickets.

For more blog posts on Broadway’s Godspell visit MamaDrama.

The No Schlepping, No Shipping Gift Guide (With a Giveaway of Course)

We’ll be lighting the menorah on Wednesday night while leftover cranberry sauce still jiggles in the back of the fridge.  Even the procrastinators have an excuse this year (not like Christmas which is always the 25th, I mean come on it’s not like you didn’t see it coming!)  So for all of you who have been caught by surprise here is my no schlep, no ship gift guide when it’s gotta be there ASAP but you don’t want to get off your ASS to get it -or even pay for shipping.  Good for Xmas (and those sneaky birthdays too)

Many of my specific suggestions are NYC-centric but you can take the idea and Google away locally!

1 – Museum or Zoo Membership: I love NYC for the incredibly rich array of cultural institutions that enrich every borough.  But, no matter where you live chances are there’s a museum, zoo or other site that your loved ones would go to on a regular basis.  Membership is a fantastic way to give all year long, plus it’s tax deductible and takes up no room in the house!  Win-win all around.  And sometimes they throw in a T-Shirt too!

My faves: The American Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Conservation Society for 4 NYC zoos & aquarium

2- Theater Tickets – It’s not just a gift, it’s an outing.  Have a drama queen, a gleek or budding musical genuis in your midst? Have theater loving friends?  Take them to a show.  Many children’s theaters have subscription series so you can enjoy shows all year round.  Or make a special day of it and throw in dinner or lunch as well.

My faves: The New Victory Theater Subscription for kids and Roundabout Theater Subscription for adults

3 – Groceries – OK – that sounds weird right?  But who wouldn’t love their groceries covered at least once?  Takes a big bite out of the family budget so not having to worry about it for at least a week is a true gift.

My Fave: Fresh Direct – It’s not just groceries, it’s wine and prepared food too – delivered exactly when you want it to your door.

4- Design Your Own Sneakers – I almost didn’t put this in because it is my go to gift of the moment.  So, if you’re invited to the same parties as I am you are not allowed to give this – but if you don’t even know me you should jump on this!  Send a $75 e-gift certificate to the fashionista of your choice and they can go online to design their very own custom Converse sneaks from tongue to sole and everything in between.

Also Check OutNike for pricier but equally fab custom sneakers, especially for narrower feet.

5- Geek Out Your Tot – Kids love to hear the same books over and over and over again.  But parents, well sometimes reading The Night Before Christmas for the 1000th time can be a chore.  Fortunately you can let Meryl Streep do the reading for you.  Ruckus Media has created gorgeous storybook apps for the ipad and iphone like The Velveteen Rabbit and Tom Thumb that your child will pour over again and again – and you can read Us Weekly The New York Times in peace. (See the GIVEAWAY below!)

Also Check out: iKnowDogs – if your kid is a freaky dog lover like mine & iLive Animal World for animal loving little ones

6- Give for the Sake Of Giving – Find a charity and give in honor of someone.  Or better yet, let them decide and pick with you.  It’s a proactive easy way to embrace the meaning of the holidays.

My Faves: World Wildlife Fund – My girls love adopting an animal every year & Donors Choose – help schools, help kids.

7- Who Says School is Boring? – Have a friend or family member that’s dying to learn how to knit?  Or ice skate?  Or become the next Martha Stewart?  If you have an expertise you can share then offer up your services!  Or offer to pay for the class of their choice at a nearby gym, cooking school or community center.

My Faves: Institute of Culinary Education Recreational Cooking and Baking Classes & Rising Shutterbug private photography lessons for kids and adults to finally learn all the cool tricks your camera can do! (full disclosure – taught by my sister!)

Cranwell Resort

8-Leaving on a Jet Plane or a Car – Travel is something they never outgrow.  Give your miles or points to a family member or treat them to a trip (even to see you).  Or how about a weekend away for your grown kids with babysitting thrown in?  Just a thought.  hint, hint.

My Faves: Cranwell Resort & Spa in the Berkshires – a four season gorgeous escape with or without kids & Luxury Link so they can get away and get a great deal.

9 – Say OOHHMMM – This guide is all about no stress so why not give the least stressful gift around?  A SpaFinder gift certificate – emailed to their inbox of course.  They can pick a spa closest to them from 100s of choices.  And again, if you throw in some babysitting you eliminate half the stress before they walk out the door.

My Fave: Bliss Spa – They warm the massage tables and put paraffin booties on your feet.  Heaven.

10 – When All Else Fails – The Amazon electronic gift card.  It’s not original or sexy but it does the trick.  One click and boom!  it’s in their inbox ready to be spent.  What could be better than a shopping spree on somebody else’s dime?

And now the GIVEAWAY!

You can win 5 Gorgeous Ruckus Media storybook apps for iphone/ipad?  These are truly gorgeous apps that fully capture the beauty of classic stories with talent like Robin Williams and Meryl Street reading the texts.  Your child will love them!  Just leave a comment below telling me what your “Go To” gift of the moment is and be entered to win!

Want an extra entry?  Follow me on Twitter and let me know you did here.

Contest ends December 8th.

Good luck!  And check out my other giveaway for Petz Nursery 2 for DS

NYC iPhone Apps Every BlogHer Attendee Should Have

You’re coming to New York City For BlogHer10. You know that most of your time is already taken up by all of the crazy BlogHer events but still you’re going to have some free time right?  These are the iphone apps I can’t live without as a native New Yorker.  They will help you make the most of your free time and maybe even look like a local (NO FOLDOUT MAPS!). Staring at your smart-phone while walking down a crowded street is your first step to fitting in…

  1. HOPSTOP (free) – take public transportation.  And even if you think you will never set foot in a NYC Subway you may find yourself stranded without a taxi in sight, laden with swag and just tired.  Hopstop will save you.  It knows where you are, you tell it where you want to go – and you can even select bus only to be a true New Yorker (the buses are New Yorkers’ little secret.  Super safe, AC blasting and you get a lovely tour of the city to boot) – and off you go to your destination without worry.
  2. EVENTBRITE EASY ENTRY – (free) You’ve got lots of BlogHer parties to keep track of and all those paperless tickets to show at the door – use the EventBrite App and see all of your events in one place without having to scramble through your email.
  3. OPEN TABLE -(free) Yes it’s good for lots of cities, but it’s a life saver in NYC.  Find out which restaurants near you have availability, get instant options, and make your reservation.  Almost anywhere you want to eat is in there.
  4. SEAMLESS WEB (free) – Food delivery at your fingertips.  More restaurants than you can imagine.  Place your order, put in your credit card, and just sign when the nice delivery man brings the food right to you.  Real New Yorkers do NOT pick up food.
  5. CENTRAL PARK NYC ($2.99)- Even better on an ipad.  Don’t even think of not going to Central Park when BlogHer is only 5 blocks away.  Take a breather and go for an early morning stroll, or run if you’re one of those crazy fitness bloggers, or a gorgeous lunch break.  This app makes navigating the park easy and enjoyable.   Plus it’s really cool to show your kids when you get home.
  6. VILLAGE VOICE (free) – Tells you what to do, where to do it and why you should.
  7. AT THE BOOTH – ($0.99) Want to know what’s at the 1/2 price Broadway ticket booth in Times Square before you go wait in that line?  The app will tell you.
  8. MIDTOWN IN MY POCKET – ($1.99) Best cupcakes by the Hilton?   Closest Art Gallery?  Manolo Blahnik?  This app covers midtown (the area where the Hilton is located) by category, shows you on a map, and even lets you tag favorites and show you local deals.  There’s also a SOHO in My Pocket free App if you’re heading downtown.
  9. WHITE NOISE – ($1.99) – We live in small 2-bedroom apartment, so we’ve always used a white noise machine in the bedrooms.  Now I find it indispensible in hotel rooms world-wide, but particularly in a hotel full of partying bloggers!  Especially good if you’re sharing a room with a snorer or early riser.
  10. FLASHLIGHT – (free) – Another great app if you’re sharing a room but you and your roomie have different bedtimes.  Also works great as a booklight on the fly or (just saying) there’s a blackout!

Do you have an NYC app you can’t live without?  Or a travel app that makes your life better no matter where you are?  Let me know in the comments so I can add it to the list!

Bookmark and Share

We The People: America Rocks! TheatreWorks USA Free Summer Children’s Theater in NYC

On Sunday I took my girls to see We the People: America Rocks! TheatreWorks USA latest free summer production for kids.  The story: The Four Founding Fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin use rock ‘n roll to explain the American Democracy and how the government works.  In the vein of Schoolhouse Rock the show is full of witty lyrical songs that are filled with really good information and actual learning.  The cast is funny and energetic and also have great voices.  In order to make the show at kid level the main character is a 14 year old girl running for Student Council President.  She’s got to learn to take that job seriously and how all citizens can make a difference and be a part of the government.

I thought We the People: America Rocks!  was well done and certainly went all out to entertain and inform the kids.  But, my eight year old daughters found it difficult to follow completely.  If you’re going to see the show, and I do recommend it, you might want to have a discussion about the branches of government, definitely go over who those founding fathers were, and also touch on The Constitution and Bill of Rights.  You don’t have to give a full civics lesson, but a little background will go a long way.  We had a lot of these talks after the show as we tried to explain the details of what they were singing about in the show.  I’m a total civics and history geek so I love having these discussions, but I think they would’ve gotten more out of the show had they understood some basic workings of our government beforehand.  It’s not a show for kids 7 and under for sure.  They just won’t get it.

Here are the Free Ticket Details:

Tickets for WE THE PEOPLE: AMERICA ROCKS! are FREE and available on a first-come, first-served basis in-person at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Box Office (121 Christopher St.) starting at 9:30 a.m. weekdays and 1 p.m. Sundays. There is a limit of four (4) tickets per adult.

WE THE PEOPLE: AMERICA ROCKS! is a 60-minute, one-act musical, recommended for children ages eight (8) and up. The performance schedule is as follows:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday – 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Thursday – 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Sunday – 2 p.m.

* DON’T WANT TO WAIT IN LINE, BUT STILL WANT TO SEE THE SHOW?
If you want great reserved seats in the orchestra then make a donation to Free Summer Theatre! All donations are 100% tax-deductible and will go directly to offset program costs.For every $50 you donate, you are entitled to one reserved VIP seat for the performance of your choice. Limit 10 tickets per donor. No exchanges or refunds.  For more information, call 212-647-1100 ext. 126 or email development@twusa.org.

The Founding Fathers Rock Out

The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up – A Weekend Spent with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3

my daughter and her beloved monkey

My daughters finished 2nd grade and now at 8 years old they have declared themselves to be “tweens.”  I personally thought the whole tween thing was for ages 10-12, the real prepubescent years with middle school and all those horrors.  But no, Time Out Kids had an entire tween issue and right there on the cover it said ages 8-12 and if it’s in print, especially full color giant sized print, my daughters take it as gospel.  They will go to sleep away camp for one week this summer, for the first time.  Next year they will be in 3rd grade, starting standardized testing and being a part of the “upper” grades.  Whether I truly think of them as tweens or not doesn’t really matter, the sad truth is they are growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

As if this weren’t already weighing on my mind we spent a weekend taking in two great shows that hammered in the nostalgic, heart wrenching reality of childhood’s inevitable demise.  On Saturday night we went to the Papermill Playhouse’s production of Peter Pan and on Sunday watched Disney’s Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D.    Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan – the boy who refused to grow up and gave up a chance at a real family and real love as a result.  Like all good stories Peter Pan changes as the reader ages.  When I was in 4th grade I played Peter Pan in a school performance.  On the most basic level the musical is wonderful, full of witty and rich songs, colorful characters and perfectly drawn characters.  But when you’re a child the sad character at the end is really Wendy who got old and is now a boring old mom who watches her daughter fly away for an amazing adventure in Neverland.  Seeing the play as an adult I just felt bad for Peter at the mercy of his petulant, immature ego and constantly looking for new lost boys to follow him and new little girls to play mother to his pretend father.  (The other thing that was glaringly apparent seeing the play as an adult is that both Peter and Captain Hook are perhaps two of the biggest narcissists that ever walked the stage.  But that’s a an examination about manhood vs. boyhood that deserves its own post, or Master’s thesis!)

I watched my daughters intently during Peter Pan.  They were completely entranced.  The flying of course is always spectacular and as I said the execution of the show from cast, to choreography to direction was flawless.  But at the end both of my daughters couldn’t understand why Peter would go back to Neverland rather than stay with the Darlings and have a real family.  To them Neverland didn’t seem like a fantasy come true – it seemed like a place with kids who needed someone to take care of them.  I never thought of it that way, after all the entire conceit of Neverland is that never growing old is the ultimate wish, but it’s more of a wish of an adult looking back than of a child looking forward.

Toy Story 3 was another matter.  While the mother’s quiet dismay at sending her son Andy off to college plays in at the every end of the film it is Andy himself who has to make the brutally conscious choice to give up the symbol of his childhood, Woody the cowboy, and leave childhood behind for real.  While of course I cried like every adult I’ve spoken to who saw Toy Story 3, my daughters cried even more.  Now, one of my daughters always cries at movies when they get the least bit sad or sentimental and always has.  It’s one of the reasons she hated going to the movies.  She does not like having her emotions manipulated.  But, she gave into it this time and just sort of went with it instead of being scared by it.  For my daughters the thought of giving up their beloved stuffed Monkey or blanket was horrifying.  They could not fathom how Andy could give up his most prized toy friend to another child.  And because the movie was so beautifully done you could see that Andy couldn’t quite deal with this decision either.  It’s one thing to make that inevitable march towards adulthood because that is where the thread of time is pulling you, and another thing entirely to make a wide-awake decision to abandon a cherished part of your younger self.

As a mom I am constantly torn between wanting my daughters to mature and take on more responsibility – pour your own cereal and milk into a bowl for god’s sake! – and then wanting it all to slow down and be thankful that they still want to crawl into our bed in the morning and cuddle.  They also seem to be struggling with wanting to remain in that fuzzy babyish realm of childhood and move forward into the adolescent world of making their own decisions, keeping secrets and taking on new responsibilities.   Spending a weekend with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3 made it abundantly clear to them and me that while growing up cannot be avoided it’s not something any of us need to rush.  And yes, my daughter already told me her stuffed monkey will be going to college with her.  I don’t doubt it.