Things to Do in NYC: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Family Matinee

When it comes to dance in this country, one name comes to mind: Alvin Ailey. This past Saturday, my daughter and I had the opportunity to see the iconic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company perform live at the New York City Center.

For more than five decades, the esteemed African-American dance enterprise has graced stages in front of more than 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents—as well as millions who’ve witnessed their masterful artistry through television broadcasts, film screenings and countless online platforms.

So, to finally see the AAADT up close and personal with my 7-year-old daughter was an experience I won’t soon forget. Saturday’s show was part of the company’s Family Matinee series, which aims to get more families out to experience the beauty of the AAADT during the holiday season.

AAADT in Hope Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream. Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Hope Boykin’s “r-Evolution, Dream.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

Divided into three acts with two 15-minute intermissions, the show opened with “r-Evolution, Dream” an enthralling piece inspired by the speeches and sermons of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Led by Hope Boykin, veteran Ailey dancer — the Civil Rights era came to life through a mesmerizing ensemble that didn’t miss a beat. Through fluid movement and awe-inspiring narration by Tony award winner Leslie Odom Jr., the piece delved into Dr. King’s exceptional and unyielding message of unity during one of America’s darkest, yet most constructive times.

AAADT in Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The next piece, “Members Don’t Get Weary,” a remarkable display of the current social landscape picked up where “r-Evolution” left off. Set to the music of legendary jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, the piece captivated the audience with spellbinding steps and seamless choreography. The dancers’ bodies evoked immense emotion with every move—conveying a gripping story of triumph.

AAADT Alvin Ailey's "Revelations." Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The final rendition, “Revelations,” a cornerstone to AAADT’s legacy—was a soul-stirring, hand-clapping and foot-tapping performance that entranced the entire audience from start to finish. This signature masterpiece transfixes you and takes you to a spiritual place. With the stirring church songs and traditional organ chords, you’re transported to the church in which Ailey drew inspiration from while choreographing this piece. It’s as if your soul soars above the seats and floats center stage alongside the artists. Witnessing the effortless elegance and power of this performance is akin to an out-of-body experience (at least what I’d assume one to be).  It’s no wonder the ballet has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work—it’s that good.

From the brilliant, symbolic costumes, to the top-notch lighting, to the riveting music, the show’s overall production is beyond praiseworthy. While the artists were indeed the stars of the show, the staging was superb and allowed the dancers to elevate and showcase their breathtaking artistry.

To top off an incredible afternoon, guests were also treated to a Q&A session with the dancers and veteran Ailey dancer, Hope Boykin. Attendees learned about their inspiration, background and future aspirations.

Watching the uber-talented dancers demonstrate their creativity through movement has inspired me and my daughter. While I’m sure she didn’t understand some of the elements, art is universal and witnessing poetry in motion is something that everyone can enjoy. After the show, she couldn’t stop twirling and swaying her body from left to right. You never know, I might see her on stage with the ADDT one day. Now that would be a dream.

Below, please find the remaining Family Matinee schedule:

Saturday, Dec 16, 2pm – The Winter in Lisbon, Night Creature, Cry, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 23, 2pm – Four Corners, After the Rain, The Hunt, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 30, 2pm – Four Corners, After The Rain, Mass, Revelations

All performances will take place at New York City Center – 131 West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, New York, NY. For ticket information, please visit: www.nycitycenter.org

**Disclosure: I was given two comp tickets for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

 

Have you ever seen an Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performance?

‘Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic’ Show Will Make You a Believer

Do you believe in magic? If not, you’re going to change your mind after watching Jason Bishop’s mesmerizing new show, “Believe in Magic” at the New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The show aimed at kids ages six and up, is obviously created for younger audiences—but will keep parents just as entertained. With funny political and pop culture references sprinkled throughout, Bishop delivers laughs for adults in between mind-boggling tricks.

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Bishop, who made his New Victory debut last year, has updated his show with holiday inspired magic and surprises to add to the festive wonderment of the season. Plus, audience participation puts your budding magicians in the spotlight with fun stunts and tricks that will make them feel like a pint-size Whodini!

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Credit: Alexis Buatti-Ramos

From puzzling card tricks to unbelievable illusions, kids will be entranced as he seamlessly creates a magical experience they won’t soon forget.

And as always, the New Victory offers fun interactive crafts and games that complement the show in their stunning, newly renovated space. My kids loved the show from start to finish and couldn’t wait to go home to show their dad the tricks they learned.

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Jason Bishop’s “Believe in Magic,” is currently showing at the New Victory Theater, located 209 W 42nd St, New York, NY through December 30th.  For ticket information, visit the New Victory Theater.

**Disclosure: I was provided comp tickets to “Believe in Magic” for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

What shows or live performances are you taking your kids to see this holiday season?

New Musical ‘Interstellar Cinderella’ Soars in Off-Broadway Production

Think you know the story of Cinderella? Think again.

New York City Children’s Theater’s latest production, “Interstellar Cinderella,” based on a book of the same title by Deborah Underwood, puts a fresh, new twist on the classic Disney tale.

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Set in 3017, “Interstellar Cinderella” takes theatergoers on a far-out ride into the future where Cinderella is a beautiful, self-assured science and tech-savvy space engineer in the making. Like the original, Cinderella still wants to escape the wrath of her evil stepsisters and hateful stepmother, but this time around, it’s not a Prince Charming she’s after—it’s independence and an opportunity to make her dreams come true.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Good with her hands, Cinderella, portrayed by Meadow Tien Nguy, has a knack for fixing things and coming up with out-of-this-world inventions—namely, a warp-speed rocket engine. After learning of a space parade hosted by the prince, she knows that it’s an opportunity she can’t miss—and thanks to a two-headed fairy godmother she doesn’t.

While at the ball, her ability to fix the prince’s rocket ship catches his eye and the quintessential fairy tale unfolds.

Directed by Marty Johnson, “Interstellar Cinderella,” emphasizes girl power throughout the STEM-centric production, which is refreshing and inspiring for young audiences, especially young girls. Plus, with music by Laurie Berkner, the famed children’s composer and former preschool teacher—the 50-minute musical is spellbinding and keeps everyone grooving along in their seats. “This is the best thing I’ve worked on today,” says Berkner of her participation in the production. “

My kids with the cast of "Interstellar Cinderella," at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

My kids with the cast of “Interstellar Cinderella,” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

Also, all of the characters bring something unique to the performance and showcases the actors’ remarkable talents.

If you’re looking for a funny, modern show that’s entertaining from start to finish, don’t miss out! Get your tickets for “Interstellar Cinderella” at the Beckett Theatre today.

What’s your all-time favorite fairy tale?

‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Musical Makes a Broadway Splash

Oh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you don’t know the next line to that catchy ditty, then maybe it’s YOU who’s been living in a pineapple under the sea! For those in the know, it’s of course “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

In case you didn’t get the memo, the world’s most famous sponge is making a big splash on Broadway right in time for the holidays. “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” is currently in previews at the Palace Theatre, and my kids and I had the pleasure of seeing it last week.

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The beloved, quirky character who’s been a mainstay on Nickelodeon for nearly two decades, comes to life on the Great White Way with the zeal and enthusiasm that only SpongeBob can bring. Ethan Slater, who stars as SpongeBob, excels as the upbeat, yet trouble-prone sponge.

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The plot revolves around an imminent catastrophe that SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom friends including Patrick, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Pearl Krabs and of course Sandy, the smart and science-savvy squirrel must find a way to avoid.

Jam-packed with cool costumes, the show, set in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom is as colorful as the cartoon that made the yellow sponge popular in the late 1990s and early aughts. The production is also topnotch with eye-catching set designs accompanied by a band outfitted in Hawaiian shirts—giving a tropical vibe that the animated series exudes.

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The show’s opening number set the tone for a dynamic afternoon of unforgettable original songs (earworm worthy) written by legendary artists like John Legend and Yolanda Adams. The talented ensemble didn’t miss a beat and brought the house down with every note.

Speaking of the cast, seeing the human versions of the popular animated cartoon crew was delightful. The performers masterfully embodied the quirks, twangs and mannerisms of their animated versions.

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While the show is aimed at kids, adults will find striking similarities to social issues facing the country today that are cleverly woven into the musical. Without giving too much away, there’s a theme of prejudice against certain creatures that sound unfortunately familiar in today’s political climate. But like the citizens of Bikini Bottom, hopefully the world will see that there’s power in optimism!

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If you’re looking for a fun, high-energy introductory Broadway show for kids, look no further than the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea!

Get your tickets today!

**Disclosure: I was given comp tickets to the show from Nickelodeon for review purposes only. All opinions are my own. 

Are you looking forward to seeing “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical?” What’s your favorite musical? 

Sunny Days: Sesame Street Celebrates 48th Season at Metrograph

There are times when I’m amazed by the opportunities that my blog has afforded me.

One of those moments occurred this past Thursday when the kids and I attended Sesame Street’s 48th season celebration at the Metrograph in New York City. Over the years I’ve covered many events and worked with countless networks and brands, but there’s something so special about the iconic children’s program that brings out the kid in all of us.

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Held at Metrograph, the retro-chic movie theater/restaurant located on the city’s Lower East Side, attendees were in for a memorable “sunny day.” With healthy snacks and fruit juices lining the concession stand, kids could grab treats for the screening of the Sesame Street special, “The Magical Wand Chase.”

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Before the kids headed upstairs to check out the playroom and passed hor’s deourves, they snapped photos with the famous street’s most beloved characters including Big Bird, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Rosita and Cookie Monster. Seeing these classic puppets up close and personal is an experience my kids and I won’t soon forget.

Once we arrived on the second level of the venue, the kids enjoyed the toy area where they played with plushies, read books and let their imaginations run wild. After that, we headed back downstairs for the sneak peek screening in the theater.

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Airing on HBO today (Nov. 11), “The Magical Wand Chase,” is an hour-long special that celebrates diversity within large cities. In an entertaining, engaging and educational way, it shows children that they can explore and meet new friends from different cultures and communities right in their town’s backyards.

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If the character meet-and-greet and movie weren’t enough, as we exited the building, we were met with delightful  cookies and churros from Cookie Monster’s “Cookie Food Truck.” The unexpected sweet treat was the cherry on top of an unforgettable evening.

Happy 48th birthday, Sesame Street! Here’s to an eternity of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Be sure to watch “The Magical Wand Chase” tonight on HBO at 7pm EST. Also tune in to the season premiere next Saturday (11/18) at 9am EST.

Who’s your favorite Sesame Street character?

Nickelodeon’s ‘Top Wing’ Takes Flight Nov. 6

When it comes to the debut of a new animated series, my 4-year-old son is all in.

He anxiously counts down the days until the show airs and reminds me of its premiere every chance he gets.

The latest object of his obsession is Nickelodeon’s highly-anticipated new show, “Top Wing,” slated to land on TV screens Monday, Nov. 6, 12:30 P.M. (ET/PT). He’s been looking forward to seeing the CG-animated series aimed at preschoolers for weeks. So, you can only imagine his excitement when I told him that he could get a sneak peek of the show before it broadcasts next week.

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Immediately upon clicking on the link to the first episode, “Time to Earn Our Wings,” he was entranced. The action-packed series follows a team of four best friend cadets (Penny, Swift, Rod and Brody) whose mission is to help their island community and go on exciting adventures, all while staying the course to earn their wings as full-feathered rescue birds.

“Top Wing” is an engaging and educational series that will help preschoolers build self-confidence and develop enriching team-building skills, ideal for little ones new to classrooms and other social environments. Through relatable storylines, the series is set to captivate young audiences—it certainly did for my son. He’s watched the first episode multiple times and still can’t wait to watch the premiere on Monday!

If your preschooler is into planes and interested in learning about perseverance and hard work, this is a show he/she won’t want to miss. If the first episode is any indication of what kids can expect this season, it’s off to a flying start!

What are your kids’ favorite animated series?

‘A Sky for the Bears’ is a Must-See for Families this Fall

Like most working moms, the weekends are reserved for my two children. This past Saturday, we had the wonderful opportunity to see “A Sky for the Bears,” at New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The 60-minute shadow puppet show was fascinating from start to finish. The audience was treated to not one cute story, but two! Through smooth movements akin to ballet and impeccably-crafted puppets, both stories come to life before our eyes.

Photo by Serena Groppelli

Photo by Serena Groppelli

The first tale tells the story of an easy-going bear longing to become a papa bear. However, there is just one problem: he doesn’t know what he needs to do to become a daddy to a precious cub. After encountering several funny and ill-informed fellow animals giving him poor advice on how to make his dreams come true, he finally meets a creature who yearns to have a cub too, a female bear.

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The second story picks up where the first one left off. Now, the cub is born and on a mission of his own—finding a way to be with his dearly departed grandfather. After offering himself to seeming predators throughout his quest, he realizes that he doesn’t want to join his grandfather in the afterlife. Instead, he can imagine him dancing and playing in the sky without meeting him in the clouds.

Serena Groppelli

Serena Groppelli

Through imaginative dance and well-designed props, this family-friendly performance tackles heavy topics such as procreation and death in a smart and charming way that kids can understand. The engaging show presents a perfect opportunity to broach tough life moments with your little ones.

“A Sky for the Bears,” is appropriate for children ages 4-7 and showing at New Victory Theater through November 5, 2017. 

What show are you looking forward to seeing this fall/winter season?