After a year and a half since my last visit to New York City, I finally went back to take in another Broadway show. My past theater excursions there led me to sign up for e-newsletters of theater district happenings and upcoming shows. I had been hoping for a way to make this particular trip happen since last spring, when I first received one such email message. Its subject line relayed that Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad would star in “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway. Orlando Bloom! He had been one of my top favorite actors since “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy began; I had to see this production!
The idea of going back to NYC was indefinite for quite a while, whether or not it was in part for a stage performance. I didn’t have a lot of money set aside for the trip and then there was the issue of transportation. I would just have to see what happens.
September brought my first semester of grad school and I thought of possibly arranging a campus-wide trip. Maybe a group of other students would be interested in seeing “Romeo and Juliet” or at least going into the city and once there, deciding what to see and do. But I waited until my semester started to attempt that idea and the activities throughout the fall were already lined up.
Any chance of a return to NYC on my own dimmed, just as the lights of theaters on days when shows aren’t running. It wasn’t until my semester refund check arrived in the mail that plans were officially set in motion. I bought two tickets from the “Romeo and Juliet” website and clicking through a premium seats button, was able to pick front row center seats. That might sound expensive and although not cheap, it was far less than what I expected to pay for Broadway tickets, considering I was not attending with a group.
I used to think that if a person wasn’t going to a Broadway show as part of a group and getting discounted rates, a seat would cost somewhere around $300. Well, maybe that is true for the best seats at some shows. I don’t know. Buying “Romeo and Juliet” tickets was the first time I bought any for Broadway show on my own. Before, as an undergraduate, I went with a full bus load of students from campus. The transportation and show tickets cost a total of $35; souvenirs and dining required bringing along extra money.
Once I had the tickets for “Romeo and Juliet,” I decided to look around for other things to do while there. It would have to be limited, as this would be another one-day visit to NYC. At least, that’s how it was originally planned. Trying to work out transportation led to another first for this particular time spent in the city’s Theater District.
I’m not familiar with the subway system in NYC and also wasn’t sure which buses took passengers as close as possible to Midtown. At first, I figured on taking a train from Wilmington, De. to Penn Station and then taking a hop-on / hop-off bus to get around. But as it got closer to the day of the show, the only train back to Wilmington was midnight or so. In the end, the transportation issues changed the initial one-day plan to my first overnight stay in NYC. I checked Priceline for rooms, mostly looking for hotels that had their own parking and found an offer for accommodations at the historic Waldorf Astoria. Never imagining I’d get a chance to stay there, I booked a room for one night.
I didn’t see the check-in / check-out info until after getting the hotel booking confirmation page. It turned out that check-in was at 3 p.m., yet I had tickets to the 2 p.m. performance. So I called the Waldorf to ask about their early check-in policies and found out it was no problem. They would hold any luggage and the room key until coming back to the hotel.
The day of the show arrived, Oct. 26. After a little bit of a late start leaving Pennsylvania, we got turned around in New Jersey. At one point, we were going through the area of Robbinsville, which had a lot of old houses. It looked like a nice, small town and worth an intended visit sometime. It’s funny, but sometimes en route to one destination, I come across other places to check out in future travels.
It seemed as though we lost too much time and would barely make it to the hotel to check in before the show. We still had to navigate the city itself and that was a first for my mom, who was joining me on this Broadway excursion. But at last, we arrived at the hotel, where the first step was arranging valet parking. We stopped on one side of the Waldorf and I got out to ask a concierge where the actual parking was; it turned out to be just around the corner and a right turn into a ground-level breezeway under the hotel. We took what we wanted to carry around the city, while our luggage was prepared for safe-keeping and the car was lined up for an attendant.
We still had to check in and it was 20 minutes or a quarter to one and a short line of hotel guests were ahead of us. I wanted to take photos of the Waldorf’s beautiful lobby details from our spot in line, but opted to save my phone battery for the time being. When it was just about our turn for check-in, a hotel worker talked to us. He was from Ireland and when I replied that I’ve been wanting to go there for so long, he said I’d have to go sometime. I could hear the spirit he had for his home country; I’ve got that spirit for my ancestors’ country as well, at least from afar.
Check-in done. Next step: getting to the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The hotel worker from Ireland said it was about a 15 minute walk from the Waldorf. However, after leaving the hotel, a concierge hailed a taxi for us after doing so for other guests and we were on our way. I always hear that cab fare is expensive, but in this case, it wasn’t so bad. We weren’t going far anyway, even though the driver told us he had to go slightly farther beyond our destination and turn to go back toward 46th Street. I think that was just due to the allowable directions for traffic on various streets between the Waldorf and the Richard Rodgers. Anyway, I liked having that experience; it was another New York City first for me and my first transportation by taxi overall.
From the taxi, I caught a glimpse of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a site which I had been wanting to see for its architecture. This was the best photo I took of it on the trip from my driver-side view in the back seat.
We arrived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre with 40 minutes left before the show; its awaiting crowd gathered fast behind us and on the other side of the entrance. Before heading to the seats, I bought a t-shirt and script book and got a complimentary rose for the purchase total. Then it was time to find our seats and although I knew where they’d be based on the clickable chart from which I chose them, I felt even more excited in actually seeing their proximity to the stage.
“Romeo and Juliet” was amazing, from the exciting opening scene and soon after, Orlando Bloom’s motorcycle entrance! I could briefly smell the bike’s fuel and feel the heat from the flame effects of other stage pieces. Condola Rashad was a wonderful Juliet and there was such strong emotion between herself and Bloom as Romeo. Rashad, whose mom was Mrs. Huxtable on The Cosby Show, was not the only one in the play with ties to that TV series. The actor who starred as Elvin (Geoffrey Owens), was cast as Prince Escalus. When Romeo’s line about Juliet’s hand on her cheek came along, one girl in the front of the left section had her hand on her cheek as well. It looked as though she made eye contact with Bloom, from her smile and giggle at that moment. I probably would have had the same reaction. At one point when he stood two to three feet in front of me, I wondered if he’d have to kneel down and briefly glimpse at those of us in the front row before gazing out beyond that. They had the right phrase on the theatre marquee outside, about setting hearts racing! I loved every moment of the play, which had both drama and humor; everyone gave awesome performances!
Lining up for autographs after the show, there were squeals and screams from every direction as Bloom’s fans waited for him. A middle-aged guy, standing a bit squeezed between a parked bus and the crowd, had an amused grin as he looked out over the scene of starstruck faces. I wasn’t banking on getting an autograph, expecting that too many fans would be ahead of me. But I found myself alongside others at the front line, across from the Love Lock Fence, shortly before the handsome Broadway-debuting star exited the theater. In a few moments, I got Bloom’s autograph on my “Romeo and Juliet” Playbill, as well as two photos of him signing another fan’s Playbill. Before I left the excited crowd outside the Richard Rodgers, I also got an autograph from the actor who played Friar Laurence (Brent Carver). I didn’t see other cast members and thought maybe they might come outside for autograph signing later.
We headed toward Times Square to look for a place to eat before returning to the Waldorf. A few people dressed as Lady Liberty, along with a Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty, were posing for photos with tourists in the crowd. NYC tourists were also getting their photos taken with Spider-Man, Batman, Bane, The Hulk and a few other comic characters.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner was one restaurant I was hoping to try after reading about its singing waitstaff and 50‘s theme. But when we arrived, there were lines going out its doors in both directions. So we continued around the corner and decided to have dinner at the Broadway Applebee’s. With Halloween just a few days away, the restaurant was all set with creepy cool decor.
Walking back to the Waldorf Astoria, we passed Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I couldn’t really get anymore photos of the cathedral since we were passing along a side that was covered in scaffolding. So, I figured, maybe I’d be able to wander around it before check-out the following morning.
Too excited from the show and a first overnight visit in NYC, I stayed up and watched TV for a few hours. The first two movies of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was airing on the TNT channel, which was perfect to follow-up seeing Bloom in “Romeo and Juliet!” After the movies were over, I watched The Broadway Channel for a while. There were segments on “Romeo and Juliet,” “Wicked,” “Once” and “First Date,” to name a few shows. The one called “First Date” made me think of writers finding inspiration in things that people experience all the time and coming up with content for stage productions. It inspired me to write, as did the view of the Chrysler Building whenever I gazed out at the city.
I wanted to stay up all night and take in the city, even if just with the view from the hotel room and write. I almost brought a blank journal with me to carry it around the city and quickly jot down anything. But overnight, I used the Waldorf stationary on one of the bedside nightstands.
I spotted the hotel’s gift shop earlier and decided that before leaving the next day, I’d see if there were any books on the history of the Waldorf. A few books sat displayed by a window and the name in one title caught my attention. The title was “When the Astors Owned New York,” by Justin Kaplan. But I looked around in the gift shop before deciding to buy the book of Astor history and came across another book. This second one was “Sweet Serendipity,” by Stephen Bruce with Brett Bara and photos by Liz Steger. Ah, a book of recipes for desserts made at Serendipity 3, an ice cream shop I’d been wanting to visit ever since seeing it featured on the Travel Channel! I didn’t get there on this trip, so I figured, why not get the recipe book?
After buying the books, it was time to check out and call for the valet service to get our car. Waiting in that same parking breezeway, we spotted a Bentley just outside the hotel doors. That’s one brand of car we definitely didn’t see every day. Back in our own car, we made our way around NYC, trying to head north. The day’s plans included a visit to Sleepy Hollow, because of wanting to go home a different route. As a result, we’d eventually be so close to the town associated with the Headless Horseman story, I couldn’t pass it up. But that’ll be a separate blog post.
Next time I visit NYC, I’d love to stay for a long 4-day weekend at The Plaza Hotel to experience another of the city’s historic hotels. I’d see more of Central Park, have that frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 and take tours of the city via double decker buses.