To give some closure to my wonderful trip to New York, here are a few quick words about my virgin Broadway experience. Managed to catch three shows on Broadway.

1. Steel Magnolias

On my very first day in New York, I went to the Times Square information centre to inquire about all the Broadway shows that offered student discounts. From the list, I narrowed down my choices to a few. I realized that the half-price TKTS outlet was actually more crowded and expensive than going directly to the box office to ask specifically for student tickets so that was precisely what I did.

I walked just a few streets away when I passed by the first theatre on my list - Lyceum - which was doing a revival of Robert Harling's 1987 play Steel Magnolias. Just happened to check at the box office for student rush tickets for that night's performance and fortuitously, they had tickets for $26.25. Impulsively, I snapped a ticket up and went for dinner feeling mighty pleased.

When I returned a few hours later, I made my way to my seat only to discover that practically all the members of the audience were female, white and middle-aged. Naturally, I stuck out like a sore thumb (or, as I irreverently choose to put it, a rose among the thorns). I took my seat next to a group of gossiping white-haired ladies, highly amused.

Set in Louisiana, the play revolves around the lives for six ladies who meet regularly at their local hair salon. The southern accents were hilarious and the set was prettily done up with many cute touches. My only complaint was that the actors spoke a little too softly (or the acoustics weren't all that good from the lofty heights of the grand circle). It was a bittersweet comedy and one which I enjoyed tremendously. Needless to say, a great first taste of Broadway theatre.

2. Rent

Yes, I caught the famous rock musical by Jonathan Larson which won both the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Musical. Rent does not do student rush tickets but it gives out $20 lottery tickets for every weekday performance to fill the front two rows of the orchestra level. I tried my hand at this but, with 150 other people vying for the seats, was unsuccessful. I was about to leave and try my luck elsewhere when I heard one of the ushers yelling that $30 best-available seats were also up for grabs. These were the ones I got.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by the graffiti-inspired decor and the everyday clothes that most of the actors had on. The plot was simple enough; the songs were all right if a little jarring at times. What I was really impressed by was the energy level of the young cast. They ran, jumped, slid down poles and performed complex dance moves while maintaining excellent vocals. I was generally satisfied with the performance though it perhaps didn't quite live up to my expectations of a Broadway musical. Perhaps my notion of a musical is too traditional - something along the lines of Phantom of the Opera or Chicago. But then again, I'm sure each show has its own appeal.

3. The Producers

The third and final show I caught was by far the best and thoroughly lived up to my expectations of a great night out at the theatre. Mel Brooks' smashing hit, based on the 1968 film of the same name and which has swept more Tony Awards than any other show in history, was truly a delight from start to finish. I snapped up $25 student rush tickets in the morning and fortunately landed a seat in the second row of the mezzanine level with a great view of the stage. 

From the minute the curtain went up at the handsome St James Theatre, the audience was drawn into the glitzy sets and colourful characters. There were a barrel of laughs from start to end (especially the histrionics of the gay characters) and I was well and truly entertained. I was glad that for me, the best had been the last and that all my theatre expectations had been fulfilled.


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