(From Andre Poulin, TODAY Producer)
Grand opera. A haunted house. Restaurants as theater. And a new movie directed by Sean Penn. That was my weekend last week AROUND THE TOWN.
Pagliacci at Lincoln Center, Courtesy Carol Rosegg
Nightmare: Ghost stories
This is my second blog about the riches of New York’s City’s cultural scene. You might say my weekend started last Wednesday night, September 26th. I met my friend Andrew Flynn, art director for the fashion bible, Women’s Wear Daily or WWD, at a Greenwich Village restaurant called THE SPOTTED PIG. I was celebrating my 25th year working for NBC. Dining as theater is not unique to New York of course, but this city does have its share of restaurants that seem to double as stage settings where diners and staff make up the cast. Ask anyone – going out to eat can sometimes reach levels of farce, comedy, melodrama and disappointment and leave you wishing the curtain had never gone up. However, sometimes the experience can be sublime when the cuisine and the service are impeccably executed. April Bloomfield is the chef and principal owner of the gastro pub and appeared on TODAY this past June. She features such items on the menu as Pot of Pickles and Crispy Pig’s Ear. You can also find an all-American Chargrilled Burger. Well, sometimes we diners and the food itself are upstaged by celebrity arrivals. The night I was there, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were seated next to us. On separate occasions, I’ve seen the likes of Senator John Kerry, Bette Midler, and Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Most nights, Tim, the manager, is directing and even choreographing the action in this bustling restaurant. In my opinion he deserves a TONY AWARD for his performance! Bravo!
Friday night was a different experience altogether. The location was Lincoln Center and the setting Italy but it had nothing to do with that country’s fabulous cuisine. It was a night at the opera – two, in fact – CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA (RUSTIC CODE OF HONOR) composed by Pietro Mascagni and PAGLIACCI (CLOWNS) composed by Ruggiero Leoncavallo. They are sometimes referred to as “Ham’n Eggs” and “Bagels and Lox” because the two late 19th century operas are performed as a pair. At curtain time, my eyes were getting heavy and I hoped it would not be a cue for a mini-nap (the man next to me did fall asleep) but once the music began, from the first note I was transfixed. Betrayal, unholy unions, and murder filled the stage and how glorious it was. Bravo was once again! Performances end October 27th.
I may have received my L.L. Bean Christmas catalogue just the other day, but on New York’s lower east side it is decidedly Halloween from now through November 3rd. Billed as New York’s most horrifying haunted house, NIGHTMARE – GHOST STORIES features 23 very dark and spooky rooms populated by the undead and psychos with one goal in mind – to make you scream and jump and laugh. I did all three sometimes all at once. At one point I became separated from my group and eventually found myself alone and lost. I quietly asked one of the psychos to direct me to the next room and was obliged. The creative team behind NIGHTMARE actually conducted an online poll of people’s paranormal experiences. It culled the most hair raising and ghastly stories and brought them to life. It’s now in its 4th year at the CSV Cultural Center on Suffolk Street in Manhattan.
My weekend ended with the new film INTO THE WILD, written and directed by Sean Penn. Based on a nonfiction bestseller by Jon Krakauer, the movie takes you on one young man’s journey to discover who he is. He abandons his parents, sister and most of his personal belongings to live in isolation in Alaska. Along the way, he meets several people including a retired military man played by Hal Holbrook who gives what might just be an Oscar nominated performance according to my own crystal ball.
Speaking of crystal balls, it’s signaling me to stop now.
More to come.