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SummerStage Brings Free Concerts to New York City

SummerStage is a largely free outdoor concert and performing arts series scheduled in 18 parks throughout New York City during the five summer months (through September).

The end of August shows are particularly exciting and will have you on your feet with rhythms, dance, and music befitting the hot “dog days” of summer.

The week of August 21 scheduling includes a screening of “Mr. Gaga,” the story of choreographer Ohad Naharin and his signature movement language developed during his tenure as artistic director of contemporary dance powerhouse Batsheva Dance Company. Starting this film-oriented evening on August 22 will be a performance by GALLIM, whose artistic director, Andrea Miller, was a Batsheva company member and is now forging her own path with her Brooklyn-based company. The program begins at 6pm and is free. Central Park, Rumsey Playfield, enter at 72nd Street.  For more information, visit https://cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage/.

Eddie Palmieri

On Sunday night, August 26, the tempo kicks up salsa-style with a free concert from salsero Tony Vega and Grammy Award-winning Latin jazz band leader Eddie Palmieri, who will be performing with his band La Perfecta. While bleacher seating is available at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park (enter on 72nd Street, off Fifth Avenue), you’ll want to be on your feet closer to the stage to dance to the rhythms of this amazing musical group. The show starts at 6pm. Refreshments are available.

One of the most anticipated events in New York City also happens this week, the 26th edition of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which runs from August 24 through August 26, with free concerts, panel discussions and workshops. There will be live performances in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, near where Parker worked, and in Tompkins Square Park, near where Parker lived. (Note the house near East 10th Street with the Charlie Parker plaque on it). This year’s highlights include a celebration of Charles Tolliver’s Paper Man with Jack DeJohnetteGary BartzBuster WilliamsMonty Alexander and the Harlem Kingston Express; and a special commission with trumpeter Adam O’FarrillImmanuel Wilkins, and Joel Ross.  Shows in Marcus Garvey Park are scheduled for Friday August 24 at 7pm, Saturday August 25 at 3pm, and Sunday August 26 at 3pm.  All concerts are free.

Many of the shows are benefits and the City Parks Foundation depends on contributions to keep this wonderful free series alive for all to enjoy.

https://cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage/

An Insider’s Guide to Broadway and Off-Broadway: What to See, What to Do, Where to Eat

No visit to New York City is complete without sampling two things: theater and restaurants. You may consider yourself a world traveler, and you may have dabbled in international cuisine and some touring shows, but nothing compares to the bright lights and shiny plates of the Big Apple.

A trip down Manhattan’s Great White Way offers up a confusing and varied selection of musicals and plays, some veteran productions that are now crisscrossing the US and others seen only in Manhattan.  My advice is to skip “Kinky Boots” and “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” (you’ve probably already seen them this year), or “Phantom of the Opera” (it’s now in its 31st  year on Broadway) and go for the newer shows that theater divas rave about.

I Want to Hear Some Singing

Come from Away

Among musicals, two should be on your “don’t miss” list. “Come from Away,” a 100-minute jewel box of a show, wins the hearts of theatergoers every performance with its touchingly humanitarian story of travelers stranded outside of the US in the days following 9/11. Cast members play multiple roles, the songs are memorable, and the story strikes a chord. The equally captivating “Dear Evan Hansen” is a narrative about a topic that resonates with many families. Written by director Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen will have you remembering just how important musicals can be in building awareness of difficult topics. TONY winners “Once on This Island” (best musical revival, 2018) and “The Band’s Visit” (best new musical, 2018) should also be on your go-to list. For a night of pure fun, “Mean Girls” does the trick.

But Drama is What I Prefer

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It’s filled with magic and the characters that you love, so don’t delay in sourcing a ticket to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the two-part spectacular that was an enormous hit in the West End and is currently wowing audiences on Broadway. It’s a drama that the entire family will appreciate, especially if they’ve read all the books.  Do you love farce?  Then you absolutely have to see “The Play That Goes Wrong,” another British import that will have you laughing until your sides hurt.  Seriously.  You may want to see it twice, just to catch all the lines that you miss in this rapid-fire silly show.

There’s More to Broadway than Broadway

Jersey Boys

Off-Broadway refers to a number of smaller theaters located minutes away from traditional Broadway houses or in other parts of the city. The shows in these alternative venues may have stripped-down sets or may function as tryout spaces for future Broadway runs. This is where current Broadway mega-hits like “Hamilton” and “The Band’s Visit” started, and, if you see a director, story or cast member that appeals, it’s a great chance to explore. It’s also the place where larger-scale, popular Broadway shows sometimes return for a second incarnation. If you loved “Avenue Q,” “Jersey Boys,” or “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,”  here’s a chance to see them again, refreshed.

Off-Broadway shows usually have limited runs and are announced periodically. Check online for performances at the Public Theater, Signature Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company and Vineyard Theatre among others to see what’s playing when you plan to visit. Then check the reviews – it’s good to experiment!

So, Where Should We Eat?

If the show has an early curtain (7pm instead of 8pm), or a runtime of 90 minutes (instead of 2 ½ hours), you’re probably safe dining after the show. If the thought of eating at 10pm after a longish play makes you queasy, then consider one of the quicker pre-theater options that locals enjoy instead of the overcrowded (and bland) choices that fill Times Square.

Obao

My recommendation is to head to the small, ethnic restaurants on Ninth Avenue.  Give yourself an extra 10 minutes to walk from the theater to these, and you won’t be disappointed.  From 42nd Street to the low 50s, an array of ethnic options offers authentic international dining, the antithesis to Epcot Center. Among the many Thai restaurants, two-story Obao is a standout, offering reasonably priced pan-Asian choices in a casual setting with quick, attentive service. Nearby upscale Marseilles satisfies with lovely French cuisine in a pretty room – the bouillabaisse is an instant ticket to the South of France. Italian Bocca di Bacco will please any oenophile. Other choices are the aptly named Turkish Cuisine and Five Napkin Burger for terrific Istanbul and American dining.

Food halls are the rage in Manhattan, with one of the newest located in the Theater District. Atop the Row NYC hotel, City Kitchen is an upscale version with a carefully curated variety of stalls. Here, local favorites like Luke’s Lobster (lobster rolls), Whitmans New York (cheesesteaks), and Gabriela’s Taqueria (tacos) let you create a smorgasbord of quick-food choices. Grab a seat in the picnic-like area, eat as quickly or as slowly as you’d like, and then mosey off to your show.

The Marshall

After the curtain falls and you’ve gotten an autograph by the stage door, you can continue stargazing by heading to after-show cast favorites like Joe Allen’s, Orso and The Marshall. Or descend the staircase to subterranean Sake Bar Hagi, an izakaya hideout of the photographer set.

Three Ways to Score the Least Expensive Seats

The TKTS booth at 47th Street in Times Square offers deeply discounted tickets for same-day shows, starting at 10am (matinee days), or 2pm (Tuesday) or 3pm (rest of the week).  Other TKTS locations in Brooklyn, at the South Street Seaport and at Lincoln Center have shorter lines. Check the hours of operation online. https://tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-Overview

Take your chances on where you’ll go with Broadway Roulette. You indicate whether you want a musical or a play, exclude up to six shows that you don’t want to see, and provide your dates. Broadway Roulette selects the show with the best seats.  https://www.broadwayroulette.com/

Book ahead with Today’s Tix, a theater concierge service that has discounted tickets to many shows and delivers them to you outside the theater.  https://www.todaytix.com

The hitch? With these options, you can’t pick your seats.

Eataly Flatiron’s Manzo and Chef Adam Hill Offer Special Chef Collaborations All Summer

Diners are invited to enjoy a program featuring the best of New York, with local chefs and local producers coming together in a delicious way, courtesy of Manzo located in the everything-Italian-emporium Eataly in Flatiron.  The collaborations also benefit Grow To Learn by GrowNYC, a local charity.  Started in 2017, the highly successful multi-chef dinners, “From New York to New York – Manzo,” will continue through September.

Manzo

Earlier this summer, Chef Fortunato Nicotra from the acclaimed restaurant Felidia treated diners to his exceptional tutto tonno, with tuna prepared three ways: a semicarpaccio tartare, preserved, and tonnato sauce. He also created an exceptional prime beef striploin battutina pounded thin, and served with housemade burrata and heirloom tomatoes. The tutto tonno special was added to Manzo’s menu for the month of July.

In August, Manzo will show off the special menu creation of Chef Ali Larais of The Sosta with her corn agnolotti with an Invincible Summer Farms heirloom tomato pomodoro sauce added to the menu at Manzo. Sosta is an authentic Italian restaurant located between New York City’s Little Italy and NoLiTa neighborhoods.

Chef Ali Laraia

September ‘s guest chef and menu will be announced soon.

The special menus are featured throughout the month with a special cocktail and wine pairing.  A percentage of the proceeds from the dish are donated to the Grow To Learn by GrowNYC, an environmental non-profit that runs a New York City farmers’ market program, builds urban farms and community gardens, and teaches the city about recycling. GrowNYC is active in creating school gardens in each and every public school in New York City that wants one and is currently working with more than 750 schools in all five boroughs.

For information and reservations, contact Manzo, https://www.eataly.com/us_en/stores/nyc-flatiron/nyc-manzo, Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, Flatiron District.

Eat and Drink for a Good Cause at Chefs & Champagne – July 28

Get ready for this weekend’s much-anticipated foodie event, the James Beard Foundation’s annual Chefs & Champagne tasting. The delicious event is held in support of the James Beard Foundation’s  programs which celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage.

On Saturday July 28, 36 chefs – many of them James Beard Award winners — from restaurants in New York, Florida, Missouri, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington DC will dish up their best under the beautiful tent at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. The 2018 Guest of Honor is Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s James Beard Award-winning Top Chef.

The menu features craveworthy, seasonal dishes like Stephen Bogardsus’s corn soup with truffles (The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold); Georgette Farkas’s tarte pissaladière (Rotisserie Georgette, New York); Mina Newman’s Nikkei ceviche with sockeye salmon (Sen Sakana, New York City); and Nick Stefanelli’s burrata with beluga caviar (Masseria, Washington, DC) that show why summer is the best culinary season. All is to be washed down by constantly flowing Champagne Boizel, Tito’s vodka and a variety of Wölffer Estate wines.

The evening begins at 5pm with a VIP reception. The main event, from 6-8:30pm, is followed by an after-party for VIP guests until 10pm. All guests receive a goodie-filled swag bag and can also take part in an extravagant silent auction with the chance to win a vacation getaway, a delicious dining experience, a watch, cookware and more. Bidding is open online through July 25 and will continue as a silent auction throughout the evening of the event. Take a look here.

Proceeds from the auction and the dinner will support JBF’s initiatives including the Impact Programs in areas of seafood sustainability, food waste, chef advocacy and childhood nutrition; the Women’s Leadership Programs and numerous scholarship programs. For tickets, including VIP tickets to the after-party dining extravaganza, click here

Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Sagg Road, Sagaponack, New York; 212-627-2308, www.jamesbeard.org/chefsandchampagne

This Weekend: A Benefit Evening of Dance Takes Center Stage with a Program Headlined by Elite Dance Companies and Honoring Bebe Neuwirth and Chita Rivera

Here’s a “good” reason to travel to the Hamptons this weekend: the 2018 dance benefit brought to you by Dancers For Good at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York. http://dancersforgood.org/

Thanks to producers Eric Gunhus and Michael Apuzzo, you’ll want to put on your own dancing shoes after watching Friday’s amazing line-up of dance luminaries. Starting at 7pm, a program of modern dance, contemporary dance and ballet featuring eight companies and 40 performers will take the stage in support of The Actors Fund.

The evening of dance celebrates dancers who have devoted their lives to the wonder of movement and supports an important organization in the arts community, The Actors Fund. Headed by President and CEO Joseph Benincasa, The Actors Fund provides support and services for those in the performing arts and entertainment fields.  The Actors Fund encompasses programs like The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and more.  All net proceeds from the evening’s event will go to The Actors Fund.

Honorees for the evening are noted dancers and actresses Chita Rivera (Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, The Visit, Nine) and Bebe Neuwirth (Chicago, Dancin’, Sweet Charity).  Performances scheduled include a special tribute by Broadway star Stephanie Pope (Chicago, Sweet Charity, Pippin) also the host for the evening, who will perform “All That Jazz” from Chicago, recognizing the roles played by Rivera (Velma) and Neuwirth (Velma, Roxie)  in the musical.  Dance companies on the program are Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Rock the Ballet, Amy Marshall Dance Company, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Eryc Taylor Dance and Pam Tanowitz Dance.  VIP level ticketholders are invited to attend the post-performance cocktail reception and mingle with the stars.

Eric Gunhus, a former Broadway performer, created the first Dancers For Good event in 2016 along with dancer Michael Apuzzo of the Paul Taylor Dance Company as a showcase for some of the most prestigious companies and individuals in the dance world.  Why East Hampton?  “East Hampton was a natural choice with a beautiful theater like Guild Hall,” Gunhus replied. “And we felt The Hamptons was craving a unique event of this nature.  Where else out East can you see a world-class showcase of dance with celebrity hosts and guests and endless cocktails at a charity event to support a vital organization?”  It’s a beautiful setting for a beautiful evening of artistry.  Amen, Eric. I couldn’t agree more.

Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton.  Tickets are $150 and $250 (VIP) and can be purchased here.

Day Trips by Train from New York City — Festivals Await!

Seven exciting events taking place this summer in the Hudson Valley have the added benefit of being easily reachable by train from New York City. With a ride on Metro North or Amtrak, you can stop at these stations and walk—or take a short taxi ride or ride share service—to reach the event. www.hudsonrivervalley.com

While summer in New York City can be a lot of fun with parades, festivals, outdoor movies and concerts, sometimes it helps to have a getaway planned, no cars needed.  From Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal, you can start your day with a bite at the Pennsy or at the food court downstairs or grab a pastry and coffee from Zaro’s, meet your friends under the clock or departure board, then grab a train, sit back, and enjoy a day out of the city at one of these great events.

It’s easy:  you can use the new, interactive Hudson River Train Tour mobile app, recently developed by the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in partnership with the National Park Service, to check out programs, find guides, and information about these wonderful day trip opportunities.

Station: Yonkers

Event: Yonkers Riverfest

Less than 15 minutes from Manhattan via Metro North from Grand Central, the 26th Annual Yonkers Riverfest takes place September 15, rain or shine, and it’s free. The festival will include music entertainment, arts, crafts, food, exhibits, children’s activities, and much more. Events take place along Main Street and Buena Vista Avenue, where the Yonkers Train Station is located. https://www.yonkersriverfest.org

Station: Peekskill

Event: Hudson Valley Exposition

Travel just 25 minutes from Manhattan via Metro North from Grand Central to The Hudson Valley Exposition, taking place on August 4, with many events right near the train station. The festival includes a Kidz Zone where children can create art, learn about science, interact with live animals and more. There will also be music, food, drinks and craft beer, and a wellness and technology area. http://www.hvexposition.com

Station: Beacon

Event: Hudson River Craft Beer Festival

Travel a little further – 1 ¼ hours — from Grand Central on Metro North and you can spend the day on the Beacon riverfront for the Hudson River Craft Beer Festival, September 15. For the 6th year, the festival will bring together beer lovers from all around the area to Riverfront Park, next to the Beacon train station. There will be over 150 releases from some of America’s best breweries to be sampled. And just think, you don’t have to drive!  General admission and VIP tickets are now available. https://americaontap.com/event/hudson-river-craft-beer-festival/

Station: Cold Spring

Event: The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

In slightly under two hours, you can train via Metro North from Grand Central to The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival for shows at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison. This year, the productions include Richard II, The Taming of the Shrew, The Heart of Robin Hood, The Sea-Maids Music and Rip Van Winkle. Shows take place from July to the beginning of September. What’s even better? HVSF will offer a free round-trip shuttle from the Cold Spring Train Station to the Theater Tent every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. https://hvshakespeare.org/

Station: Poughkeepsie

Event: 4th of July Fireworks

Buy a ticket for a ride that’s just an hour and a half from Manhattan by Metro North from Grand Central to see fireworks that are even more spectacular over the water. Join the City of Poughkeepsie and the Walkway Over the Hudson for their 4th of July celebration. The park, a 15-minute walk from the train, is the place to watch the city’s fireworks display overlooking the Hudson River, scheduled for 9pm. Tickets can be purchased online at $12.50 for adults, $10.00 for Walkway Members, Veterans and Seniors and free for children under 10. https://walkway.org/4th-of-july-fireworks-spectacular/

Station: Rhinecliff

Event: The Dutchess County Fair

Amtrak service from Penn Station in Manhattan will take you to the popular Dutchess County Fair in about an hour and a half to the second largest county fair in New York, scheduled this year from August 21-26. With more than 147 acres of land for farm animals and exhibitions, the grounds become an entertainment destination for all. There are free shows and attractions, and tickets can also be purchased for the Grandstand Concert Series including The Wallflowers, Chris Lane and Kip Moore.  Start your day early – this is a terrific event. http://dutchessfair.com/

Station: Hudson

Event: Basilica Soundscape

If you don’t mind a slightly longer trip, the 2 ½ hour ride on Amtrak from Penn Station in Manhattan will lead to the beautiful countryside where Basilica Soundscape is being held from September 14-16. Basilica Soundscape is a weekend of art, culture and music held in historic factory building down the street from the Amtrak station. Live performances by Efrim Menuck, Grouper, Haxan Cloak x Nick Zinner, Insect Ark, and Jungil Hong are scheduled over the three days. There will also be conceptual performances, author readings, local vendors and artisans, collaborations and activities throughout the weekend. http://basilicahudson.org/soundscape/about-basilica-soundscape/

www.hudsonrivervalley.com

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