After I went to the latest revival of Into the Woods last summer and had such an incredible time, I definitely wanted to head back to see the new version of Sweeney Todd that was getting such rave reviews. I wanted to be sure to see it with the original cast, however (since more and more, I’m convinced that’s the main reason to pay a premium to see something on Broadway.) This meant going sooner, rather than later, except I had no real reason to go to New York City other than seeing the show, and making a specific trip just for the show seemed a little overkill
Except then I found out I had a free night at a Hilton certificate about to expire at the end of May, and suddenly I had another excuse to go (especially when I could pair it with a work lunch with my agent). So Denisa and I headed down Wednesday morning and back today, a trip that sounds kind of nutty when I write it out, but which has actually turned out really well.
First off, we flew down. I still hate flying, but the original plan had been to take the bus. That was going to involve getting up at 4am or so to make it to the bus on time, then driving for six hours, to arrive in NYC around 1pm. Doable, but hardly enjoyable. JetBlue had one way tickets from Portland to JFK for $65, though, so I switched over to that. The plane left at 10:10, and we were in downtown NYC by 12:30. (You can take a train straight from JFK to the subway, and then it’s just MTA from there on. Really easy.)
We stayed downtown in the theater district, and managed to fit in a lot of fun in just a bit of time. A stop by a Slovak/Czech Variety store in Queens, followed by lunch with my agent at Westville Hells Kitchen. Denisa was really happy with the variety of vegan options, and it was nice to catch up with Eddie again in person. (I hadn’t seen him face to face since pre-pandemic times.) We walked around Times Square for a bit, grabbed some Danish treats at Ole & Steen, and some far-from-great pizza at a random pizza by the slice place. (Hey, you win some and you lose some.)
Sweeney Todd was absolutely incredible. A 26 player orchestra, fantastic scene design and seriously creepy costuming and choreography. Deeply, deeply unsettling, and I loved every minute of it. Josh Groban sounded like an odd match for the musical, since he’s kind of a squeaky clean guy in my head, but it made a ton of sense once you saw him in action. Todd was a squeaky clean guy himself, back before everything took a nose dive. Groban really sold the transition from simply desire to vengeance to full on bloodlust, and his voice was incredible. The star of the show was most definitely Annaleigh Ashford as Mrs. Lovett, though. I’ve seen Angela Lansbury play the role in the recording, and I can’t say to how she would have come across live, but Ashford . . . just perfect. Her acting of the role, the comedic timing, all of it took the musical to another level. And who knew Dustin Henderson on Stranger Things had such a great voice?
The show finished at 11, and we were back to our hotel by 11:15. This morning, we slept in and then ate some of the treats from yesterday before checking out and going to Hummus Kitchen for lunch and Amorino’s for gelato. (We don’t get a chance for much variety in Maine, so when we’re somewhere that has it, we try to get as much as possible.) Both we very good, and then it was a twenty minute walk to the bus station, where we caught the bus back at 1:45. (For $85. More expensive than flying. Go figure.)
We’ll be home by 9 or so, and honestly, I would do it all again. (Though if I could score the cheap airfare both ways, I’d probably go for that. Even though I hate flying. On the plus side, the bus gave me plenty of time to catch up on work and writing, so I felt pretty dang effective. It’s helpful at times that so much of work has shifted to things that can be done remotely, even on a bus as you head back to Maine.)
My big takeaways were that I’d rather stay downtown in NYC from now on, and that going down and back in two days is nothing to shy away from. Manhattan will always be “the city” to me. Yes, it’s dirty and full of garbage and smells, and people can be really rude and there are tons of tourists, but . . . it’s still a place I love to be. That’s surprising, coming from a guy who’d really rather not be around people too much. Manhattan has been in my life for a long time, though, so it’s kind of like family, in a way.
If you’ve got a chance to see Sweeney Todd in the next few months, you should most definitely take it. Not to be missed.
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