Are You Going to Be Cupid or In the Doghouse for Valentine’s Day?
By: Ellis Nassour
Tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway are always a sought after gift, but there’s something about a show and dinner on Valentine’s Day afternoon [this year] and night, along with a pre- or post- theater tryst that just spells l-o-v-e. You work hard for your money, so you might as well spend it wisely.
Some of Broadway’s romantic shows include Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, Cabaret, Constellations, If/Then [closing March 22], Kinky Boots, Les Miz, Mamma Mia, Leonard Bernstein and Comden and Green’s love "poem" to NYC, On the Town, and, proving love never dies, Broadway’s longest-running musical in history, celebrating 27 years and the just-reached 11, 243 performance, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart’s The Phantom of the Opera with its timeless story of possessive love and one of theater’s great love songs: "All I Ask of You."
For exhilarating fun and spectacular, there’s Aladdin, The Lion King, and Wicked. Your Valentine might like a night of nostalgic tunes, then Jersey Boys is just the ticket. For vintage scatterbrain comedy from a cast headed by Tony- and Drama Desk winner James Earl Jones, hurry to Kaufman and Hart’s You Can’t Take It with You.
You really wouldn’t think that love and murder are a good mix, but think again. Kander and Ebb’s Chicago is still knocking them dead for over 18 years. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is the knock-’em-dead tale of debonair Monty Navarro (aptly portrayed by Bryce Pinkham), a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to speed up the line of succession using a great deal of charm… and a dash of murder. Tony-winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) plays eight doomed heirs who meet their ends in side-splitting ways.
For romance and laughs, don’t miss three-time Tony and DD winner and Oscar nominee Jason Robert Brown and Andrew Berman’s Honeymoon in Vegas. Bergman wrote the film the musical’s adapted from – and Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Rob McClure [Chaplin] and Tony Danza star. McClure lights up the stage with his comic antics and Danza channels Sinatra in the crooning department. There’re shameless but hilarious scene stealers, including Tony and DD nominee Nancy Opel (Urinetown) as McClure’s character’s mother and Catherine Ricafort as a Hawaii tour guide.
You know what’s coming up, right: Off Broadway’s 2-for-1 Week ticket promotion, running February 23-March 8. To purchase tickets to the incredible array of over 40 shows, take advantage of restaurant deals, and for more information, visit www.nycgo.com. There’s something for every taste, from fairy tales and musicals to high drama. Among participating shows: Tony-winning Avenue Q, The Fantasticks, the 50 Shades! parody, and the very informative Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. New arrivals include fabulous impressionist Christina Bianco in Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg’s kindergarten satire Application Pending; Churchill, which is a prism into the life of WWII U.K. prime minister; and, premiering at Playwrights Horizons, Placebo by Melissa James Gibson (The Americans), examining the space where truth and lies blur in a drug test and personally.
A recent Off Broadway arrival [not included in the Off Broadway Week] is Charles Mee’s Big Love, through March 15 at Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street), is stirring up buzz. It’s about "the hunger for independence, the burden of tradition, and the shape and size of love." Mayhem, music, song, and dance ensue as 50 brides flee their grooms and seek refuge in an Italian villa in this modern take on one of the world’s oldest plays, Aeschylus’ The Danaids. The cast includes Emmanuel Brown (Signature’s Kung Fu), Lynn Cohen (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), and Bobby Steggert (Mothers and Sons). Directing is DD-nominated Tina Landau (Floyd Collins).
Who doesn’t love Babs, sorry: Streisand? And her premier master impressionist with a voice just as masterful, Steven Brinberg returns with a new edition of Simply Barbra at Don’t Tell Mama on Restaurant Row on Saturdays March 8, April 14, and May 30 -all at 8 P.M.
The rollout of outstanding films has been ongoing since Thanksgiving to qualify for the recent Golden Globes and February 22’s Oscar extravanganza.
This weekend one of the most eagerly-anticipated and awaited films of all time arrives: Fifty Shades of Grey [Universal/Focus Pictures],based on the controversial zillion best-selling novel by E. L. James. With an S&M theme and male lead who abhors romance at its heart, it’s anyone’s guess if this will be a Valentine treat or a cuffed-to-your- seat nail biter with light flogging. The legions of readers must be curious, however the R rating might mean things have been tamped down. Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, is naive college grad Anastasia. Jamie Dorman plays tormented billionaire control-freak and toy collector Christian. [Ms.] Sam Taylor -Johnson directs. Four-time Oscar and three-time GG nominee Danny Elfman has created a score to heighten the intense playroom goings-on. The film boasts film and stage veterans, Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden as Christian’s mother, and four-time Tony, BAFTA, and SAG-winner Jennifer Erle as Anastasia’s.
There’re award-worthy films still playing: Birdman, a theatergoer’s delight with dazzling performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton; The Theory of Everything, the great love story of Stephen and Jane Hawking, superbly played by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, until a deliberating illness weighs heavily on them; Jennifer Anniston’s riveting performance in Cake; Bradley Cooper, delivering a much-acclaimed performance on Broadway in the revival of The Elephant Man, does a complete change of pace as the ultimate grunt Marine and complex husband/father; and, returning to delight moviegoers again is Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson’s magical The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The New York Philharmonic will be in a romantic mood Saturday at 8 P.M. with A Broadway Romance, a love story told through Broadway musical’s romantic songs, sung by Tony nominees and Cinderella co-stars Laura Osnes [Bonnie and Clyde, a later Nellie in LCT’s South Pacific) and Santino Fontana with two-time Tony winner Sperling (upcoming LCT’s The King and I; South Pacific, Light in the Piazza) conducting. There’ll be selections from West Side Story, Follies, Carousel, Company, Girl Crazy, and more. Tickets, at Avery Fisher box offices or www.nyphil.org, are $49-$129.
How about a visit to New York’s great museums? At the Metropolitan, the dining options are in a spectacular setting.
Have you made reservations at one of New York City’s intimate, romantic restaurants?
A couple of hints: Theatre District, Restaurant Row, West 46th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues:
Barbetta [321 West 46th Street] offers an Old World setting in one of Manhattan’s oldest restaurants [109 years] in classic 1800s townhouses, It’s where anybody who’s anybody goes for authentic Italian. Zagat says: "Romeos regard Barbetta as a sure fire closer!" If you’re fortunate, senora Laura will be on the floor supervising everything from soup to nuts. Details: $70 menu pre-theater "Cupid’s Kitchen" menu with music; then, from 8:30, dining and dancing to a swing band, $85. Grab the roses and ring box, get down on one knee, and she can’t say no. Reservations, (212) 246-9171.
Right across the street are more affordable romantic alternatives: cozy Le Rivage [(212) 765-7341], with its subdued lighting and walls of large canvases of French seascapes and landscapes; and right next door at Da Rosina [(212) 977-7373], a crowd-pleaser for over 20 years, reserve a table along the wall with the huge Italian villa and gardens mural, a romantic setting if there ever was one. You can’t beat their three-course run-of-the-menu prix fixe [Lunch, $22; dinner, $32] with coffee/tea. Break out the Champagne and wine, as both have lists that won’t make your blood boil when you get the check.
Downtown, Greenwich Village:
One If By Land, Two If By Sea, 17 Barrow Street, between Bleecker and West Fourth Streets [(212) 255-8649] is the ultimate romantic dining nook and famed for its Beef Wellington and Sunday jazz brunch.Three-course prix fixe, $89, which includes the ambiance of history: Aaron Burr’s carriage house with dual fireplaces and mellow piano styling. Don’t forget the flowers and ring box.
Philip Marie, 569 Hudson Street at West 11th Street [(212) 242-6200], has been voted one of NY’s most romantic restaurants. Chef John Philip Greco prepares innovative American fusion. Book one of the romantic downstairs nooks. Valentine weekend, there’s the unlimited Bloody Mary brunch and a "blissful" three-course prix fixe, $69, $99 with wine pairing. Reserve for Fat Tuesday, February 17, for Mardi Gras fun.
For excellent, reasonably-price Southern and comfort food in the surrounds of the Old West, you can’t beat Cowgirl, 519 Hudson at West 10th Street [(212) 633-1313], where you never leave hungry. It also has one lively bar scene.
On the East Side, the gals at Lips, 227 East 56th Street, will create "a night to remember" on Saturday – "the night of love," with "red hot entertainment" [comedy and vocals from ruby-red lips]. Bill of fare: "aphrodisiac" prix fixe menu. To reserve your love nest, call (212) 675-7710.
For a stress-free weekend escape, splurge for an experience that’ll give you a lifetime of memories. Step back 145 years at family-owned Mohonk Mountain House [a Historic Hotel of America], located in one of the most awesome settings imaginable. It’s 90 miles North, mostly on four-lane highways,just outside charming New Paltz, NY. Once you maneuver through hair-pin curves up, up, up the mountain road with towering trees looming below, there’s a winter wonderland. Mohonk is an old Native American word for "lake in the sky." It’s an apt name. Beyond the mirror lake, there’s 300 rustic acres nestled against rugged mountains. Famed for its service, huge hearths and fireplaces, classic rooms and suites with antique furniture, balconies with rockers, and the lavish Sunday and special occasion brunch.
There’s no end to the list of activities: fitness center and spa with a solarium, rock climbing, boating, tennis, golf, fishing, horseback riding, cross country skiing, biking, hiking, nature walks, family game room, heated Olympic indoor pool, and cocktail lounge. Valentine’s Day, there’ll be a complimentary photo booth, a concert by multi-Platinum recording artists Gyrlz, who’ve appeared on TV, in film, and with megastar Celine Dion. Room service will offer a breakfast-in-bed with amenities such as chocolate-dipped strawberries and Champagne, truffles, and wine. To book and for more information, visit www.mohonk.com.