Fourth of a series of Broadway reports

NEW YORK — “Moulin Rouge,” undeniably an expansive and explosive musical unfolding at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway, is a monstrous dash of flash. It’s anything you might want it to be: a nightclub, a disco, a non-stop jukebox of hot pop songs, a floor show of can-can girls. Even a state of mind, as noted by Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge club, played by Eric Anderson.

The show – set in Gay Paree’s notable nightclub of the title — begins even before the spectacle opens, with costumed characters descending from sets onto the stage, crawling on the rims of both stage left and right, resembling Cirque du Soleil artists. The regalia — some nostalgic, some brief, some clearly exotic — build anticipation of what’s to come.

Amour is in the air, and when the dazzling melodies start thumping away, showtime means feathers, glitter, gyrations and hearty emotions.

“Lady Marmalade,” certainly the key prevailing anthem in the score, is all action and audience reaction. The cast and the audience members (some quietly, some not) belt out Labelle’s explicit and exquisite lyrics of  Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, and the dance party is officially on.

Director Alex Timbers and choreographer Sonya Tayeh retain the life-is-beautiful spirit of film director Baz Luhrmann and co-writer Craig Pearce, who collaborated on the film, which has been updated and upgraded with lots of oomph and power, with something to appeal to all, straight, gay, or LGBTQ.

Starring Joanna “Jojo” Levesque as Satine, a courtesan fighting tuberculosis, Derek Klena as the lovestruck composer Christian, Eric Anderson as Harold Zidler, Andre Ward as Toulouse-Lautrec, and David Harris as the Duke of Monroth, aka he/him, “Moulin Rouge” treats music as a drug in a sense that it’s easy to get high – with emotion and participation. Songs often are said to be the soundtrack of our lives, and surely, fleeting nostalgic moments of your memories whirl and twirl like a merry-go-round on steroids.

Unfortunately, the Playbill does not collate titles of the music employed during this journey, so you can’t reflect and count ’em. And the tunes are clustered into fast-and-furious medleys that you may not recall the fave you’re grooving to because, um, here comes another fastball.

But since songs are so dominant and definitive in the show, you’re likely to get dizzy with joy when you recognize Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in a quick mashup with Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” then sooner or later, there’s an extended rendering of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,”  roaring out from the lungs of Christian and Santine. One of the shows impactful moment, this.

In case you forget when the charades and parades fade, Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Get Always Get What You Want” are prominently staged with glorious dances.

There are temptations, visual and aural, all tied to the tempo and choreography, and since this is kind of a Bohemian rhapsody, expect Elton John, Madonna and sundry others to pop in musically.

Be warned: if strobe lights and loud music offend you, you might best order balcony seats to be\some distance away from the pyrotechnics…

And that’s Show Biz. …

‘Moulin Rouge

“Moulin Rouge” is a musical based on the film written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, directed by Luhrmaan, with book by John LoganPlaying at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre


Third in a series of Broadway reports

NEW YORK — Lea Michele has emerged as the belle of the revival of “Funny Girl,” becoming a diva of traditional Broadway musicals fueled by a female superstar.

She put the glee and the whee into the troubled show, which was launched a season ago with Beanie Feldstein in the lead.

Michele succeeded Feldstein on Sept. 6, 2022, earning six standing ovations on her first night, and the roars of approval haven’t stop at the August Wilson Theatre. Clearly, she’s become one of the next-generation’s leading ladies of the genre of traditional stage musicals like “Hello, Dolly!,” “Gypsy,” and “Mame,” and Michele’s appeal has rewarded her the opportunity to be the Fanny Brice voice in the show’s cast album. Also, Michele’s presence has buoyed the show into the Broadway League’s “million dollar club,” meaning that the weekly “Funny Girl” box office grosses have finally logged a slot on the elite list.

Lea Michele, as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.”

The fingerprints may be invisible, but there exists the Barbra Streisand aura in the revival – think “hello, gorgeous!” – when Fanny is in front of her dressing room mirror. Streisand’s Broadway debut as Fanny in the 1960s, coupled with the subsequent movie version in the late ‘60s in which she also starred, has been the stuff of legend, but Michele surely will make this her own trademark in the decades ahead. Michele, till now best known as a luminary from the “Glee” TV series, is poised and powerful in delivering she show’s best-known anthems, “People,” “I’m the Greatest Star” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” lasting favorites from the score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill.

The tale, based on a book by Isobel Lennart revised by Harvey Fierstein, tracks the show biz quest of Brice, a Jewish vaudeville wonder from Brooklyn, who becomes a headliner of the famed Ziegfeld Follies, and wife of the production’s honcho, Nicky Arnstein, played by Ramin Karimloo. They have chemistry, notably on “You Are Woman, I Am Man” and “Who Are You Now.”

Naturally, there is a poker-playing Jewish mom, Mrs. Brice, portrayed by the beloved Tovah Feldshuh, who demonstrates her seasoned charm on “Who Taught Her Everything She Knew,” a duet with Jared Grimes as Eddie Ryan. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

Funny Girl’

“Funny Girl,” a musical featuring music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, book by Isobel Lennart, revised book by Harvey Fierstein

Playing at the August Wilson Theatre, through Sept. 3


Second in a series of New York reports

NEW YORK – Location, location, location.

Price, price, price.

Convenience, convenience, convenience.

Whenever I traveled in the past, I’d book hotels to accrue frequent-stayer points.

I favored the Hilton brand, which included sister properties like Doubletree. And Sheraton also was a secondary favorite.

But when my back and leg pain worsened, a hotel located smack dab in the middle of the zone I preferred – in New York, it’s always been the Theatre District in Manhattan’s West Side –the focus of where my wife and I would stay mattered most.

And though we were totally aware of the Hotel Edison on W. 47th Street, we’ve never stayed there. Till this most recent trip.

We’d always walk through the Edison’s lobby, to get to 46th Street, and through the Marriott on 46th and 45th to further traipse through the short cuts to 44th Street. Everyone did this; the flock of theaters were located in this region.

When checking for housing this time, the Edison’s $238 daily rate was an unbelievable attraction, because Marriott down the street was charging under $500, just like The W next door.

Of course, the final tab would escalate when New York’s multi-taxes were added.

Still, when you rely on an electric wheel chair to tool around the theater district, location and convenience matter most.

Thus, the Edison in the heart of the Broadway action, was a gem. No need frequent stayer points. Location doesn’t get any better, and the price clearly was right. And the conveniences on W. 47th St., like the TKTS booth,  attracts folks hunting for buy-one, get-one-free tickets to Broadway shows. Popular restaurants like Olive Garden are on W. 47th, and Applebee is just up the street, on Broadway. Junior’s, a Zippy’s-like eatery with a huge family following, is further up on Broadway at W. 49th Street, and we always have breakfast here.

Further, the MTA buses stop at W. 49th Street on Seventh Avenue, if you’re southbound; and subway stations similarly in walking distance.

But the largest convenience is the fact that  Broadway theaters generally are in the mid-40s, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

One theater, the Lunt-Fontanne, where “Sweeney Todd” is playing, is a mere minute away next-door to the Edison. Can’t get better than this.

We stayed at the Marriott before, when I was still a fully qualified walker; the problem with this hotel is that whenever the elevators open, they were always filled, particularly when everyone was headed to a show. The next available elevator would be generally filled to the max, too. With a wheelchair now, this would be wholly inconvenient. In contrast, the Edison’s bank of six or seven elevators are readily accessible; if one was full, the next one arrived quickly.

This past stay, the furthermost theater we visited was the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center, at W. 65th Street. We caught a Yellow Cab going there and an Uber lift returning to the hotel.

The longest distance I walked was up to the August Wilson Theatre, on W. 52nd St., where “Funny Girl” is running. ‘Twas the longest journey by foot, augmented by my walking cane. But manageable.

To get to “Here Lies Love” at the Broadway Theatre, at Broadway and W. 53rd Street, I utilized the wheelchair and parked it in the lobby. Like many theaters, this one had a mezzanine balcony, and our seats were Up There, and I managed the ascent and descent by clinging to handrails. The movement was slowly, yes, and deliberate, to avoid a fall.

Also, wheel chaired to the Winter Garden, at Broadway and W. 51st Street, and had booked seats for “Back to the Future” in the last row in orchestra, with an open space for the chair adjoining the companion’s fixed seat. Didn’t have to park the chair in the lobby here. We exited the performance during the curtain call, enabling us to get a jump on the journey to the Edison.

Back to the hotel: If I book the Edison on a future trip, I’d try to secure a room with more space. Our room had a king-sized bed but little wiggle space, with the wheelchair parked in the midst of the room for nightly recharging.

 The Edison, renovated some years back, had a spacious bathroom with a large shower stall. But storage was nil; just one small door-sized closet to hang clothing, plus a shelf.

The work desk for a laptop was a teeny table that also held the coffeemaker, the coffee packets, the tub for ice, and bottled water, with an office chair – the only seat in the room.

The bed had two tiny shelves with one small drawer on each side but was attached to the walls; perhaps two smaller drawers below would have been helpful. 

The ledge of a large window was used as an iPhone and Apple watch recharging station, since there was no other space.

The Edison hosts a complimentary 24/7 gym, which I visited only once, for an hour of cardio pedaling on a bike, along with exercise machines I’ve used back home, under supervision. I didn’t want to overdo or underdo weights for leg and pulleying excersises without an on-duty official, in case of accidents.

The hotel stay included a daily free grab-and-go breakfast (with choices like an egg and bacon sandwich, a croissant, a yogurt sundae, and fruits like banana and orange) and Wednesday and Friday happy hour wine parties which we didn’t partake in since we were coming from or going to theater.

The Edison provided a new concept of breakfast in bed, since there was no space to sip coffee and eat – except on the bed. And a large TV mounted on the wall facing the bed, offered the “Today” show daily. …

By paying more and securing a larger room,  perhaps the location-price-convenience formula would still be relevant. For potential handicapped visitors, these considerations count. We shall see if we return to the gem called Edison. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


First of a series of New York reports

NEW YORK – Truth be told, you have to be physically fit and heathy to enjoy the joys of Broadway and all the thrills New York offers.

The pandemic four years ago was my last trek to the Big Apple —  in the summer of 2019, before COVID 19 shut down the city and all of his attractions – and it took some guts to decide to finally catch up on what I’ve been missing.

A late June return was a challenge, because I’ve become weaker and wobblier than the last visit. I lost confidence and was concerned about the recurring manic crimes and unacceptable unrest. Yet I needed to return to New York, which always has been My Kind of Town, so a 10-day visit restored my faith in the destination.


And happily, I saw the city through new eyes, since I rented an electric wheelchair to augment the walking cane that accompanied my treks because of lower back pain and a stubborn sciatic right leg.

Yes, I am not just elderly, but I’m now part of the handicapped community, too.

Clearly, The Big Apple still is best enjoyed by foot.

But a bum back prevents long walks, without aggravating additional aches. So a battery-operated wheelchair seemed like logical band-aid. The chair made me realize that it was possible at least to get a bit more mileage in the outings. Not a helluva as lot more, but a reasonable daily dose of  a daily show (two on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when matinees are irresistible). Oh, what bliss! Live theater galore!

But you shouldn’t and can’t do this alone, without a support wheel in the form of a trouble-shooter and advance team member who monitors your behavior.  So lucky am I, to have my wife Vi (show here at the Museum of Broadway) running interference; she checked out where and which theater has handicapped priority entrances, where lobby-level restrooms are located in performing halls, and which restaurants are wheelchair-friendly.

I would not to be able to survive all that I did, without her guidance and trust, so thanks, honey.

Especially since my mobility has deteriorated considerably since the pandemic.

So the first time ever, I didn’t “do”  the subways any more (Vi objected, knowing subway stations have zero or very few elevators, but plenty of stairs to descend and climb). So despite the purchase of a Metro Card, which allow limitless subway and bus rides, we only had two bus trips after heated discussions. She always advocated taxis or Uber service.

So while the underground trains were taboo, I wanted to experience the street-friendly MTA buses on two occasions. Once, to visit a Trader Joe’s store on W. 14th Street near Union Square, and an immediate pause at a nearby Post Office to send home omiyage treats in Priority Boxes to avoid overweight airline suitcase fees.

The post office, however, had a few steps up from the sidewalks, so I waited patiently while Vi handled and processed the boxes for sending the treats. Two of three mailings were awaiting our return home.

As a novice wheelchair driver, I was like a kid trying to earn a driver’s license. Steering is via a toggle knob, for all forward, backward, or left and right moves. With one lone dry run in the lobby of Hotel Edison on W. 47th St., in the heart of the Theater District, I had no mentor, nor a how-to manual,  nor a trial run on the immensely crowded sidewalks of New York, night and day. But folks are hugely helpful, offering to lift or nudge the chair onto the pavement, or help jimmy it up or down, when necessary.

Similarly, on the bus, commuters – male and female – were open to kokua. And patient, too. Perhaps they pitied this oldster and wondered WTF?

You do know that buses “kneel” to enable cane, walker or wheelchair folks to enter or exit the bus.

They don’t know whether I had Wheelchair 101 certification, and laugh if you want, it’s not that easy to do parallel parking on the bus, while scores are watching, either the already boarded, or the small throng awaiting to board.

At a visit to the new Museum of Broadway, a hall of the treasure trove of Broadway actors, choreographers, writers and more, the corridors and the elevators are not as wide and generous

Like those at MoMa, the Whitney or The Met, so it takes meticulous and precise skills to make a quick turn or stop, with your toggle switch, but I had the benefit to have my friend Kevin Iwamoto (pictured in front of a glitery sign at the Museum of Broadway), pushing me cautiously, with the wheelchair on manual mode. Otherwise, I might have had an embarrassing collision with a display or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” costume or a cluster or real-life Tony trophies.

I share these shameless revelations of wheel chairing, mostly because I fear handicapped folks might nix making a journey to a Broadway show, a dining spot, or a museum. Surely, having a trusty buddy along with the experience is a must. There’s so much culture out there to be enjoyed, and it’s treat to witness the joy of musical theater or experience Cuban cuisine once in a while. There’s so much to explore and savor if you’re willing to take a chance and go for it.

I had surprising fun, doing nothing but sitting in my wheelchair on several instances, watching vacationers in action. Times Square offers free shows year-round, like free performances from budding stars, in the space where there’s the tiered seating above the TKTS booth, watching a model try to build a portfolio with her boyfriend shooting pics, sometimes in the middle of a crowded crosswalk while folks are transiting, or cheapie Mickey and Minnie, counterfeit Spiderman impersonators trying to get unknown folks to get a photo taken with ‘em, then asking for a few days payment.

And that’s Show Biz. …