A Glistening New York Holiday

By Megan McDonald December 7, 2011

In this guest blog post, Rita Greenbaum--a leading local arts and not-for-profit supporter, avid theater-goer and the winner of this year's CAN Dance: Dancing with Our Stars--takes to the Big Apple to see Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway and experience some of that singular New York holiday magic.

Just in time for the decorations and illuminations for the holidays, I was in New York this past week for the pre-opening of Bonnie and Clyde at the Schoenfeld Theatre. Even though I had seen the musical’s preview at Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre last year, I was alert and as fascinated as if I was seeing it for the first time. The action of bullets flying left me riveted, as well as the seductive monologue and throaty kisses between the two stars, Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. Frank Wildhorn's (music) and Don Black's (lyrics) score of blues, gospel, and rockabilly are big gulps of Americana air amid love and hopeless devotion. I thought the play was thrilling and the audience thought so too; why else would they give Bonnie and Clyde a standing ovation?

The Asolo group at the Russian Firebird restaurant.

Following the play my husband, Ron, and his daughters, Lisa Durbin and Dana Douglas, and I took a taxi to the Russian Firebird restaurant to hook up with a group of Sarasotans who were in New York for an Asolo Theatre tour. Among the locals were Michael Donald Edwards (Asolo’s artistic director), Beverly Koski, Chuck and Margie Barancik, Susan and Jim Buck, Linda diGabrielle and Gary Sweetman, and Koni and Cary Findlay. Only a few of us saw the pre-opening that evening; most were going to the opening the next night. The Findlays said they really enjoyed the play and were especially impressed with the lyrics and music. The vibe in the room was electric. No one seemed particularly worried (perhaps because the reviews were not out yet). 

Michael Donald Edwards, Jim Buck and Flora Major.

Michael Donald Edwards pulled me by the elbow and said, “You must tell the director what you thought of the play.” I squeezed into a snazzy booth beneath a selection of framed Cossack costumes and sat next to Jeff Calhoun (director and choreographer), and Ivan Menchell (book). I told Calhoun I loved the changes from the preview in Sarasota, and thought it flowed more smoothly. I also commented on how the play is a bit sexier and bloodier.


Calhoun talked about the production process, and it was interesting to learn that he makes changes, ordinarily, up until the last preview performance. For Bonnie and Clyde he froze the show two weeks early. He felt that it was good, and he wanted the characters to really “own their parts.” Meaning, the actors are no longer reading new lines everyday and there are no more changes--they are free to ad lib. For example, in Osnes’ (Bonnie’s) diary she Xeroxed her lines and put them in the digital, backdrop newspaper. 

Menchell said he eavesdrops on the audience during intermission. “You can really find the truth in the men and ladies’ rooms.” I can’t speak for Menchell about his experience in the ladies’ room, but I will say I was told by two young women in the restroom at the theatre that they were there because they heard it was a love story. I asked had they seen the movie with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty—they had never heard of the two—but said they were “really enjoying the play.” It’s interesting to hear a new generation is fascinated with this unsettling love story.

Window display at Bergdorf Goodman.

New York City hosts many different shows and events throughout the year, but window shopping in Manhattan is a must-do during the holiday season. I was especially awed with Bergdorf Goodman’s displays. The theme of "Carnival of the Animals" is woven through each of the windows. These stunning windows feature wintery high-fashion and authentic antiques. If you see just one of New York City's many holiday window displays, this should be it.

The tree at Rockefeller Center.

Few activities are more magical then listening to Christmas music and watching ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. I stood above the rink and watched the skaters glide and twirl alongside the center’s Christmas tree. The tree, according to a security guard who was standing beneath the enormous Norway spruce, is illuminated by 30,000 LED lights on five miles of wire and crowned by a Swarovski crystal star; a classic New York holiday experience.

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Dana Douglas, Tony Danza, Lisa Durbin, Michael Feinstein, me and my husband Ron

Our last evening in the city was magical as well. Sitting at a table bumped up to the stage at Feinstein’s at the Regency, we were entertained by two outstanding performers, Michael Feinstein, owner of  Feinstein's, a nationally known singer-pianist famed for his George and Ira Gershwin songs, and Tony Danza. Danza is better known for his role in the TV sitcom Taxi, but he is an extraordinary entertainer and tap dancer. We met the two after their wonderful performances and had a brief chat and some photos taken of with them. Feinstein even signed an old 1980s tape cassette of his we brought along.

The Broadway plays were our main draw, but December in NYC with so many beautiful lights and elaborate decorations everywhere you look, along with the crisp air, we undeniably were drawn in by the holiday spirit, too.   Happy Holidays!

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