Students are getting ready to see Waitress, their first show of the trip.
Jul 31, 2018
Tuesday, May 9th
Today, we arrived at Laguardia Airport for our much anticipated Broadway Experience New York Junior Journey. Our trip is one of the two Junior Journeys designed specifically for students majoring in theatre, though anyone can sign up to take the trip! This year the trip consists of nine theatre majors and one of our professors, Mary T. Albright. Our primary goal is to see as many shows as we can in the five days we are here, and since many shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway have matinees most days of the week, it is possible to see around 9 shows.
We took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, which was actually a really nice ride because we were able to take in all the sights of the city. All I could think was “this is the real deal” and “the buildings are even taller than I imagined.” Most students on the trip have been to New York before and Mary T. even lived here before, but this is my first time and I was extremely excited to see and do everything that I had heard so much about.
We are staying at the Edison Hotel, which is adjacent to Times Square. Mary T. took us to Ellen’s Stardust Diner which is a very famous and touristy restaurant near our hotel. She mentioned that she usually likes to stay away from very touristy places, but the Stardust Diner is a great experience for someone’s first time in New York. As we entered the diner, we learned that it was indeed bustling with people visiting NYC, and we also learned that it wasn’t your typical diner. The servers are all aspiring actors and there is very little time when there isn’t a server singing a Broadway or Disney hit. Our waitress was very talented at serving food, but an even better singer! We made sure to compliment her on her fantastic voice as we chowed down on burritos, burgers, and salads.
The last thing we did today was see our first show of the Journey, and my first Broadway show ever! We had already purchased tickets with our show budget to see Waitress, a musical based on a 2007 movie of the same name. The music and lyrics for the musical were written by popular singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and she was actually starring in it for a couple months so we got to see her play the lead role. The show was fantastic, it was amazing to see so much talent in one show! We all enjoyed it and discussed the show over frozen yogurt, afterward, before going back to the hotel. It was a great first day in New York City and it was amazing to already experience such a different culture from home. In New York, we quickly learned, things move rapidly and everything is open late. It truly earns its name as “the city that never sleeps.”
Wednesday, May 10th
Today, we woke up and knew that we wanted to experience something that is so classically New York. Bagels! We made our way to a small bagel shop called, Pick-a-bagel, and ordered a variety of bagels. The bagels were delicious and everything we had dreamed of, but what really made them great was the cream cheese!
We saw two Broadway shows today, the first was Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and the second was Amelie. The leading role of Pierre in Great Comet is currently being played by Josh Groban, who is quite famous, so it was great to see him in the show and then meet him afterwards at the stage door. Broadway star, Phillipa Soo, plays Amelie in Amelie so it was awesome to see her live as well. Another staple of New York City is the amount of celebrities you encounter on the street. While walking back from Great Comet we saw social media mogul and brother of Ariana Grande, Frankie Grande. I had never seen so many celebrities in one day, but in New York, you get to see that they are just regular people walking to work or going to get a slice of pizza.
Thursday, May 11th
Today, we got up early to go stand in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square. TKTS is a service where you can get cheap same-day tickets to see Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and buying tickets from them was one of the things we planned to learn on the trip. Since we were buying tickets to a Thursday matinee, we only had a few options of shows to see. Most of my fellow students and I saw Cagney, an Off-Broadway show about the life of James Cagney. It was a great show with some fantastic dancing! The story showed Cagney fighting throughout his whole career to break out of the “tough guy” archetype that he was always getting cast as. It was a musical that spoke to us, as performers. Sometimes, it’s easy to be seen as having talent for only one thing, but the important thing is to not give up!
We also saw the night performance of Bandstand, a new musical about a group of veterans that start a band, with a woman who lost her husband in the war singing lead vocals. The dancing was fun to watch and the songs were good, but what really took my breath away was the story.
After being here a few days, some of us are discussing whether living in NYC is in our future. Mary T. had us meet with some alumni who moved here to pursue theatre after graduating from Florida Southern. We got their advice on what it takes to move to New York, not only physically but mentally as well. They explained to us how to get an apartment and good places to live, and also explained to us that you have to be flexible and ready to face rejection. Being here for the short time that we’ve been here though, we’ve noticed it doesn’t seem like a bad place to live at all! We’ve had an easy time finding places (the numbered streets really do help!) and it’s not as crowded as I’ve previously heard. After meeting with the alumni we went to get donut ice cream sandwiches, which were amazing. The food is definitely another perk of the Big Apple.
Friday, May 12th
Today, we only had two shows to see. One was our choice, we just had to visit the TKTS booth again and get tickets to see whatever we wanted. The other was Sleep No More, an immersive theatre experience that Mary T. had been to before, so she got us all tickets ahead of time. Since both shows were at night, we had a big chunk of our day open. We decided to visit the Museum of Natural History in the morning. Another great thing about New York City is the amount of museums which offer affordable and interesting experiences. It was really enjoyable and I only wish we had more time to spend there before having to go to the TKTS booth. At TKTS, we were able to skip the regular line since we had kept our tickets that we had gotten at TKTS the day before. This is something I recommend doing for anyone taking this trip. We all got tickets to see different shows, and decided to do some shopping in the meantime. We went to the Disney Store, Forever 21, a comic book store, and a theatrical book store. All the stores were two floors, with huge selections, making New York one of the best places to shop in the world. It was quite a treat and I came home with a bunch of souvenirs and scripts.
After seeing our mix of Broadway shows, we headed to the setting of Sleep No More. Sleep No More took place in an old warehouse that had been remodeled to look like a hotel in the 1920s or 30s. It was the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth told only through interpretive dance, but it wasn’t on a stage. The interesting part is we could walk around, through the countless number of rooms in the hotel, as we please and see the scenes play out in whatever order we saw them. It was pretty spooky at times, as the story of Macbeth is, but once it was over we were all amazed at what we had just seen. We took the subway home, which was an easy and effective way of making it back to the hotel at 2am, and didn’t stop discussing it the whole ride back. This was the kind of show you only find in New York, a place where theatre and art truly never stop evolving.
Saturday, May 13th
Almost everyone saw the Saturday matinee of a show today amd we also went shopping. For our last dinner in the City, met at a fancy restaurant. A lot of the restaurants in New York are very interesting. The one we went to, like many others, was at the basement level of an apartment building, it looks tiny, but when you enter, it’s very deep. We splurged on food, since we had money left in our food budget. Then, went our separate ways to see our last shows. I saw Miss Saigon with my pal, Brendan, and it was remarkable! It was a great last show to see. Afterwards, we all ordered pizza and hung out in the hotel. It was a great way to relax and close out a really fun trip!
This trip has changed my view of the world in so many ways. Every show we saw had a unique message. From watching Kinky Boots. we learned to accept people for who they are and Amelie taught us that helping others is the biggest gift of all. These might sound cheesy, and Broadway musicals usually are, but the morals of these stories are what give theatre its meaning. Other than that, we now know what to expect from the Big Apple and got to learn so much from watching top-notch performers at work. It’s crazy to think that such a fun trip could be educational but it definitely was.
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