Monday, July 2, 2012

Video: 'Potted Potter' at the Little Shubert Off-Broadway

Here are some videos about the off-Broadway production of London import 'Potted Potter' now playing a limited summer run in New York City.

Venue: Little Shubert Takes On 'Potted Potter'

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
The Little Shubert Theatre is an off-Broadway venue and owned by the powerful Shubert Organization that owns the bulk of official Broadway houses. The Little Shubert is one of the largest off-Broadway theaters with 499 seats.

Built in 2002, it's also one of the newest theaters boasting a Broadway size stage and wide auditorium providing excellent view from most seats. The architecture is not as fancy as the Broadway theaters built in the early 20th century but the venue does offer generous lobby space, escalator and elevator.

There was thought that the theatre could be the home for bigger off-Broadway musicals but the economics of the producing theater has shown that presenting a musical or even a play at this venue has proven to be expensive mainly due to contracts with the theatrical unions. Most of the shows that premiered at the Little Shubert have not been able to maintain a long run and closed at a loss.

Some of the shows to have played the Little Shubert include: 'Fame on 42nd Street' (2003); 'Shockhead Peter' (2005), 'Three Mo' Tenors' (2007), 'Lucky Guy' (2011) and 'Dracula' (2011). Tonight I'll be seeing 'Potted Potter' an unauthorized parody of the Harry Potter books. See the next post for my review of the show.

Visit for more information and seating chart.

Pie Face Bakery Cafe: An Australian Eatery in Midtown

Italian sandwich
Mini chocolate pie
Iced espresso
(all photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Word on the street is that Pie Face is planning an invasion of New York City. The cuisine of Australian meat pies is making its debut at the corner of Broadway and 53rd Streets and Pie Face expects to open more locations within the coming year.

It's sort of the funny that the street that was home to Stephen Sondheim's macabre musical 'Sweeney Todd' about a barber with the assist of the pie shop owner downstairs who turns his victims into meat pies.

The shop is a great idea. It serves savory pies that are portable for fast paced Manhattan. Customers can choose from a variety of fillings including BBQ pulled pork, Thai chicken curry, Tandoori vegetable and Philly cheese steak. The pastry itself is a wholesome and basic (flour, butter, milk powder, salt, baking powder). Who can resist a shop whose pies actually have faces.

Pie Face also offers sausage rolls, pastries, cakes, sandwiches and wraps. My appetite this afternoon was leaning towards their sandwiches and I ordered one comprised of Italian ciabatta, salami, pepperoni and Italian Ham ($6.89). It's grilled like a panini. To sample their sweet menu, I ordered the mini chocolate pie ($3.25) and an iced espresso coffee ($4.95). There's nothing pretentious about the food here other than to satisfy and for this afternoon this trio fit the bill. I would have to return again to try one of their meat pies.

Best of all in the city that never sleeps the location is open 24 hours. One would would think it's easy to find a meal past 11pm in Times Square but it's not that easy and Pie Face is a welcome resident to the area. Visit for more information.

Pie Face at the corner of Broadway and 53rd Street.
Selection of sandwiches and pies.
Pie Faces
How do you wake up??? Choose your coffee.
Sounds like a deal but I'll order it next time.

New York City Gift Item Idea from Hershey's Times Square

After visiting New York City for almost twenty years now I've long ago stopped buying city souvenirs for myself or as gifts. Instead I've stick to practical things, mainly food stuff, to bring back home. Looking for something simple? How about a giant Hershey's candy bar which states "Times Square". Who doesn't love chocolate especially a generous serving of the company's signature product. The set of three costs $15 and the shop can even customize the wrapper with other wording if you wish.

Click HERE to read my post "Hershey's Times Square Equals Candy Heaven" which gives an overview of the store or visit for more information.

Minamoto Kitchoan: Peach Jelly and Fruit Jelly

The window display at the New York City location of Minamoto Kitchoan.
Grace Dew Fruits Jelly (all photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Once again I made my yearly stop at Minamoto Kitchoan for Japanese confections. Since 2008 I've been picking up goodies from the store to bring home or to enjoy during my visit. I think I'll continue doing so until a branch of the company opens in my home town of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Click HERE for my post called "Minamoto Kitchoan: Artful and Declious Confections" which gives an overview of the shop. This post covers the products purchased during today's visit.

Whenever I step inside the store my eyes are dazzled by the array of wagashi (japanese confections) all beautifully displayed and wrapped. Hakutoujelly ($12 each) which is a jelly made from white peach is something I've always wanted to try. Inside the wrapping is a bowl of the smooth, light and refreshing white peach jelly. Best eaten chilled, the store offers spoons regardless if you plan to eat it now or later.

The store also carries Grace Dew Fruits Jelly from Rokumeikan (box, $24). These colorful and bite-sized fruit-shaped confections are steps above the "gummy" products pedaled to children. Each piece is tender without being cloyingly sweet and richly brings the flavor of each kind of fruit. Flavors include orange, lemon, grape, banana, apple, mango and many others. Each piece is individually wrapped.

The wrapped Hakutoujelly (White Peach Jelly).
Inside the wrapping bowl is a serving of White Peach Jelly.

A Passing Glance at the Gardens at the Frick Collection

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
I've not yet had the opportunity to visit the Frick Collection which is one of the small art museums along New York City's Fifth Avenue. But I couldn't help to take a glance through the iron fence while walking to Central Park to enjoy my macaron ice cream from Laduree right around the corner.

The noise, traffic and the general hustle of the bustle of New York City is often deafening and unending. But when I see an oasis like this hidden among the concrete, glass, bricks and pavement I can't help to pause. It's a relaxing feeling to see a well-manicured and serene garden such as this one.

This is a view of the museum's 70th Street garden which was designed in 1977 and, according to the museum's horticulturalist, was meant to be viewed from the street or from the museum's reception hall windows like an impressionist painting. The garden's centerpiece is a rectangular pool crowned in the summer with blue and white tropical lilies and lotus. Visit for more information.

Laduree: Heavenly Macarons in the Upper East Side

A prestige box of macarons.
 Packaging from the napkins, boxes to bag in Laduree's signature pale green.
A box of eight macarons.
(all photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Note: I actually visited Laduree a week ago and  I knew I would have to come back so I'm combining information from that visit as well as from my visit today.

Walking into the Laduree shop in New York City's Upper West Side feels like an elegant experience. Even seeing these delicate desserts in the shop's window display captures a sense a wonder. It literally made me feel like a kid looking in a candy store but this one resembling a jewel box of the company's signature pale green, mirrors, dark woods and decorative accents. But the main event is the selection of macarons for sale. Call them exquisite, call them heavenly or call them delicious they are irresistible.

The macarons sold by Laduree are comprised of a double deck of meringue cookie (almonds, eggs, sugar) shells between which is a sweet filling. I bought a box of eight macarons and devoured them in one sitting after returning to my hotel the same afternoon last week. Needless to say I knew a return trip was required before I left the city.
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The New York City shop exterior along Madison Ave.
The window display includes towers of macarons.
A single macaron (this one in green apple flavor).
The shop also carries the company's brand of chocolates, ice cream macarons, candies, teas, perfumes and fragrances. But visitors mainly come in for the macarons which are placed in one of several beautiful gift boxes which are collectible in themselves.

Once inside the shop look behind the glass wall along the counter and see an array of macaron flavors. The collection of permanent flavors include: vanilla, coffee, chocolate, Madagascar chocolate, pistachio, lemon, caramel with salted butter, licorice, roses, orange blossom, raspberry and violet blackcurrant. Seasonal flavors include: red fruit, lemon with lemongrass, chestnut, praline, coconut, mint with anise, gingerbread, fig, green apple, chocolate with blackcurrant, morello cherry with almond.

During my visit there was also chocolate banana, lime basil, blood orange ginger, chocolate kalamansi, grapefruit vanilla, strawberry poppy, red fruits, lily of the valley, chestnut pear, milk, chocolate, almond, Columbia chocolate and Ghana chocolate.

Of the eight flavors I tried during my first visit, I loved them all but perhaps the pistachio and green apple best. Each one has a crisp exterior and tender interior that melts in your mouth. In the process the true flavoring of the filling bursts among one's tastebuds. If I didn't pace myself I could have eaten all eight within seconds.
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Ice cream topped with a single macaron cookie.
Pistachio flavored macaron ice cream.
A selection of the tasty but fragile confections.
Even before deciding on the flavors of macarons one must choose one of the fashionable boxes to hold them. The box of eight macarons that I purchased earlier last week cost $21.60. For my trip back home I bought the pale green "prestige box" (size 2) which holds about 30 macaroons for $68. The cost is steep however all the store products including the macarons are imported from Paris. Plus Laduree is the originator some sixty years of the idea of pairing two macarons with filing.

It should be noted that if you wish to bring the macarons back home after visiting New York, Laduree recommends the macarons be consumed within three days and must be stored in the lower part of the refrigerator.

Today I also ordered a the pistachio macaron ice cream cup ($8.50). Since the shop has no seating, I walked to one of the benches along the Fifth Ave side of Central Park a block away. Now I know I am totally hooked. Topped with just one macaron cookie I cannot recall a more refined serving of ice cream ever. Absolutely smooth and flavorful.

Visit for information. Laduree is located in various countries but this is only shop in the United States at 864 Madison Ave (between 71st and 72nd Streets) in New York City (nearest Metro stop at Hunter College). Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-7pm and Sun 10am-6pm.

Why don't all NYC subway stations have these signs?

Electronic sign at the 51st Street Station.
(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
It's day eight in my Summer 2012 trip to New York City and this means last minute shopping errands while trying to make the most out of my last full day in the city. This morning I find myself at the 51st Street Station waiting for trains 4, 5 or 6 (Green Line).

I take pause here because of the sign above the platform. It lets waiting passengers know how long till the next train and the number of the train. These types of signs are at every London subway station but are less common in NYC. Maybe NYC is in the process of installing these signs at more stations.

It's funny that with the sign people keep looking at the sign for their wait. At subway stations without this electronic sign, people keep peeking down the tunnel for the light of an oncoming train.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Late Night Room Service at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel New York City Times Square

Chicken Quesadillas.
Lime Marinated Shrimp Cocktail.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Ordering food from a hotel's room service menu is usually seen as an expensive way to eat when traveling. I generally agree with this but there are times the traveler will find once in a while this is probably the most convenient way to enjoy a meal.

After brunch I had back to back plays to see today. Naturally all that running around got to me and I fell asleep upon returning to the hotel after my evening play finished at 8:30pm. When I awoke it was already nearing 11:30pm and I realized I had not had dinner. I honestly did not feel like searching for someplace to eat this late Sunday evening or eating fast food at the nearby McDonald's.

So I picked up the phone and ordered food from the Doubletree's late night menu which lists primarily appetizer items. I ordered the chicken quesadilla ($15; marinated chicken breast, onion and pepper on flour tortillas, served with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo) and the lime marinated shrimp cocktail ($17; served with virgin bloody mary dipping sauce and salad). Combined with a sparkling water and cola the total with service fees and tip was $56.55. Such is the price of convenience.

I have to admit this meal was way better than the Jambalaya I had the other night at Gingers, the Doubletree Times Square's sole full-service restaurant.

Hours for room service is daily from 6:00am-11:30pm

Review: 'Cock' aka the 'Cockfight Play' at the Duke on 42nd St

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
‘Cock’ is such a provocative title that it automatically sets up the audience to see a certain kind of play that lives up to its name. Though in the family-friendly press the unofficial title of the ‘Cockfight Play’ has been adopted there is nothing vulgar presented on stage. There are no titillating moments. What author Mike Bartlett has devised instead is a battle of words and wits between a man, his gay partner and his female lover. Things get more complicated when the partner’s father appears late in the 90-minute one-act opus.

These characters battle and argue so it is befitting the entire play takes place in an arena. The audience sits coliseum-style surrounding all of the action where they not only experience the performance but also the reactions of fellow spectators sitting across them as the stage lighting bleeds over the audience.

Director James MacDonald continues the tradition of setting the play with no scenery or props in a tight-fitting space, the actors all in contemporary dress and performing with British accents. But it is in Bartlett’s words and intimate scenes and the strength of each actor’s performance that we can feel ever-changing emotions to their predicament that we envision not the arena but the environs in which they enter. In our mind’s eye we see the home and dinner party at which they are hosts and guests.

Jason Butler Harner, Amanda Quaid and Cory Michael Smith.
(production photos: Joan Marcus)
Cory Michael Smith, Cotter Smith, Jason Butler Harner and Amanda Quaid.
Side note. The coliseum-style seating is rather clever but uncomfortable. Though the play lasts an hour-and-a-half I was thankful I had a seat on the highest and farthest row where the wall served as a seatback. However seat cushions are provided for everyone.

The play stars Cory Michael Smith as John (the only character with a name) who is torn between his love for “M” (Jason Butler Harner) and “W” (Amanda Quaid). Completing the equation is “F” (Cotter Smith) who is the father of “M”. They all appear civil but the lingual fireworks soon begin to explode in continuous bursts. The actors do not touch or embrace and are often at odds along the edges of the stage as they move round the perimeter almost always facing each other across the floor with darting eyes. There is no nudity in the play but the characters are made to bear their souls.

Jason Butler Harner and Cory Michael Smith
Smith has the unlikely appearance to be the romantic object of “M”. He possesses a lanky build, a youthful charm and often-immature attitude. A choice has to be made and he cannot make it for himself waiting for the others to make the choice for him. The role of John will likely elicit strong opinion as the indecisive instigator of the evening’s events. However Smith harnesses the role so the audience is never quite tipped over to only sympathize or dislike him.

The obsession that “M” has for John is understandable. He thought he had found love that had long been lost to him and he cannot bear being alone. He is not willing to wait and hope and search to move on and find another partner. As played by Harner in the showiest role he is willing to inflict verbal wounds at every opportunity.

Quaid holds her own as the only the female in the play caught between the two men. Smith, though first appearing very late in running time, brings a voice of reason. He is the supportive dad willing to be there if things do not go in his son’s favor.

They all argue the same points over and over again but without the feel of being repetitive. At moments funny, touching and dramatic the play reminds us that we’ve all been made at one time to choose between people, things or situations. When it is a choice between two people for which one feels a deep love, the play ultimately asks us how can the decision be made. But when that choice is finally made who then is actually happy in this sexual power play.

  • Website:
  • Where: The Duke on 42nd Street
  • Location: 229 West 42n Street
  • When: Tue-Fri 8pm; Sat 2:30pm & 8pm; Sun 3pm & 7pm
  • Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
  • Ticket Prices: $79.50-$89.50 (premium $99.50)
  • Opening: May 17, 2012 (previews from May 1, 2012)
  • Closing: Oct 7, 2012
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 646-223-3010

Jason Butler Harner and Cory Michael Smith
Cory Michael Smith and Amanda Quaid

Video: 'Cock' aka the 'Cockfight Play' at the Duke on 42nd St

Video about the 'Cockfight Play' now playing Off Broadway at the Duke on 42nd St.

Venue: Duke on 42nd St Headlines 'Cock' aka the 'Cockfight Play' Off-Broadway

The facade of the Duke on 42nd St facade sits along side the marquee
of the American Airlines Theatre.
Current occupant at the Duke on 42nd St is the 'Cockfight Play'
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
There is no denying the fact that when I visit New York City my intent is on seeing the latest Broadway productions but every now and then when time permits or the show peaks my interest, I take in an Off Broadway production. Click HERE to read my post about the differences between Broadway and Off Broadway.

Today I see the 'Cockfight Play' at the the Duke on 42nd St.  Though it is located right in the Times Square Theatre District, it is considered an Off Broadway venue. Ironically it is situated above the entrance hall to the American Airlines Theatre, one of the official Broadway theaters.

The Duke on 42nd St was constructed as part of the rejuvenated 42nd Street. Access to the theatre is up one flight of stairs or elevator where the box office is also is also located. The auditorium itself is an intimate flexible-use black-box space. This allows the for versatile seating arrangements to accommodate the demands of the physical production. The building in which the Duke is located also hosts rehearsal facilities. The theater is named in recognition of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Visit for more information about the venue.

Review: 'Harvey' Takes Up Residence at Studio 54 on Broadway

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
Jim Parsons (Elwood P. Dowd) (production photos: Joan Marcus)
My previous knowledge of ‘Harvey’ is only that a 1950 film, which I have not seen, adaptation starring Jimmy Stewart exists involving the lead character’s insistence that his friend is a six-foot-tall rabbit. Sadly I’ve never made the time to see the film. Now in a Broadway revival with television star Jim Parsons (“Big Bang Theory”) taking on the Stewart role, I finally had no reason to deny myself the opportunity since I happen to be in the city at the same time.

A play written for an audience with values of 60 years ago could be difficult to produce for an audience in 2012. But as presented by the Roudabout Theatre and directed by Scott Ellis, he brings a gentle hand in maintaining the light-hearted nature of Mary Chase’s comic fantasy and upping the ante as the comic misunderstandings builds into the second act.

Parsons stars as the harmless middle-aged Elwood P. Dowd, the sole-heir of his late mother and master of their elegant Victorian home. He is driving his sister Veta (Jessica Hecht) literally crazy by insisting that his friendship with an invisible white rabbit is real. She attempts to commit him to a sanitarium where as she describes the strain that Elwood and his rabbit friend has placed on her she is mistakenly seen as the one that needs to be committed.

When Elwood arrives at the sanitarium he in fact charms everyone there including Carol Kane who plays the wife of the head of the clinic lead by Charles Kimbrough. Comic chaos ensues once everyone is aware that they let Elwood leave the clinic and attempt to retrieve him and release the traumatized Veta.
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Jessica Hecht (Veta) and Jim Parsons

Carol Kane (Betty Chumley) and Jim Parsons
If the play starts out slow with the obligatory exposition, hilarious performances are eventually turned in by Hecht when she is committed and Charles Kimbrough who plays the head of the clinic who anxiously chases after Elwood. In her one scene in the first act, Angela Paton’s double takes are priceless when she is introduced to the imaginary Harvey.

Parsons maintains a calm exterior which is how one would expect normal people to act which makes it all the more funnier when he references Harvey. He oozes likeability and every now and then offers a sly smile as if he knows more than everyone thinks.

Kudos goes to David Rockwell for his sets. The intricate wood detail in his design of the mansion of Elwood’s family clearly shows the clan comes from wealth. This is in contrast to the bright clinical set of the sanitarium. The two sets are placed on a revolving platform and efficiently moves the action between the two locations. Lighting by Kenneth Posner plays up the contrasts between the sets. Costume designer Jane Greenwood dresses the cast as if evoking the movies produced at the time of the play’s writing but in full color.

For some reason one fault that was a distraction was Kane’s delivery of her lines. For some reason her voice did not carry even though I was seated in the first row and I felt like I had to bend my ears to hear each word she spoke. Since the show was already running two weeks after opening, I’m guessing this was an unusual occurrence.

After seeing ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ last night, I will claim this classic play is lacking in as many laughs and may be too old-fashioned for audiences. But it’s a credit that most of the cast including the two leads can command the stage that we don’t mind being introduced to Elwood’s friend for a couple of hours. In fact the audience will be seeing rabbits all over the place by curtain call. I guarantee it.


  • Website:  
  • Where: Studio 54
  • Location: 254 West 54th Street, New York City
  • When: Tue-Sat 8pm; Wed, Sat & Sun 2pm
  • Running Time:
  • Ticket Prices: $47-$165
  • Opening: Jun 14, 2012 (previews from May 18, 2012)
  • Closing: Aug 5, 2012
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 212-719-1300

Charles Kimbrough (Willim Chumley), Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons.
Larry Bryggman, Holly Fain, Charles Kimbrough, Morgan Spector and
Rich Sommer.
Jim Parsons, Angela Paton, Jessica Hecht and Tracee Chimo.
Jim Parsons, Jessica Hecht and Rich Sommer.
Tracee Chimo, Jessica Hecht and Larry Bryggman.

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