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Glee’s Broadway Roots

by Amy

Last year, Fox network found a runaway hit with Glee. The show, whose genre is musical, takes place in a high school where both student body and faculty are prone to breaking out in both song and dance. But while it may take place in Ohio, its roots can definitely be traced back to New York City. No doubt inspired by the big-number shows found among the bright lights, pieces of Glee are easily found all over the Manhattan theatre district, home to the world-famous Broadway.

Throughout the show, the cast performs countless popular hits, dating back decades and including every genre from standards to hip-hop. Glee also frequently pays homage to the shows that paved the way for a musical-style primetime program, by utilizing both show tunes as well actors who have appeared in some very notable productions. In similar fashion, while a visitor to New York can take in a pop spectacle at Madison Square Garden and rock out at Irving Plaza, they can also get a fix of some of their favorite Glee-performed show tunes and see some of the same theatres they became famous in.

For the most part, Glee mainly sticks with classics when it comes to choosing ballads and showstoppers. The pilot episode is emblematic of this, having featured music from Chicago and Les Miserable. Chicago first premiered in New York in 1975 at the Richard Rodgers theater on 46th street, and since its revival in 1996 has played at the Shubert Theatre on 44th and the Ambassador on 49th. Overachiever Rachel Berry, played by Lea Michele, performed the Les Miserable favorite “On My Own” the first time she sings on the show. Les Mis played at the Broadhurst Theatre on 44th Street, a theatre that is now almost a hundred years old after opening in 1917.

While Broadway features many revivals of classic shows, it’s also home to newer productions that may someday become classics in their own right. This group is likely to include Wicked, a musical with multiple ties to Glee. After it opened at the Gershwin Theatre on 51st Street in 2003, Wicked has been playing to regularly sold-out audiences. Its original Broadway stars, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith, have both brought their acting and singing chops to the small screen with roles on the FOX program. The music of Wicked has also been represented. In one episode, Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, faced off against Rachel in a battle for dominance over “Defying Gravity.”

Aside from Menzel and Chenowith, several Glee regulars have Broadway experience under their belt. Before playing a small-screen couple on the show, Ms. Lea appeared with Jonathan Groff as onstage lovers in Spring Awakening at the Eugene O’Neill theatre on 49th. Matthew Morrison originated the role of Link Larkin in Hairspray at the Neil Simon Theatre on 52nd street prior to playing Glee club director and Spanish teacher Will Schuester. Keeping it in the fictional family, Will’s father was played Victor Garber, a 4-time Tony-nominated Broadway vet.

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The cast of Glee

Glee has turned to Broadway for supplying songs for some of their most memorable scenes. As the romance between guidance counselor Emma and Will blossomed, the show utilized “I Could Have Danced All Night,” featured in My Fair Lady. Before Audrey Hepburn bore the cockney accent, the 1959 production of My Fair Lady featured Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle, and ran at what was once the Mark Hellinger Theater on 51st Street. ( The theater has since been transformed into the Times Square church; for more historical Broadway facts, check out Uncle Sam’s Theatre District Tour!)

Later on in the initial season, Rachel delivers a veritable showstopper in the form of “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from Funny Girl. Funny Girl’s first Broadway run took place at three different theatres, starting with the Wintergarden (on the actual street Broadway is named for), and moving on to the Majestic on 44th before ending back on Broadway at, well, the Broadway Theatre.

The first season of Glee ended in June, 2010. A few months later, the 2010 Emmy nominations were announced, with Glee receiving 19 nods. In seasons to come, the series is sure to feature even more Broadway numbers, bringing the songs to a new generation, former theatre stars to a new audience, and millions of viewers out of their home and straight into the heart of Manhattan.

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Filed under Amy Eiferman, NYC Culture

Where is the Best NYC Shopping?

By Samantha Nicholson

Many NYC tourists put shopping on the top of their to-do list. After all, there are thousands of stores in New York City , ranging from boutiques to huge department stores to little-known designer outposts. But with all this selection, shopping can sometimes be a lot less enjoyable than a trip to your local mall. You might even just end up going to the same stores you can find anywhere. However, your NYC shopping experience should be unique and memorable, not just another trip to Abercrombie and Fitch. The best plan is to pick an NYC shopping area that appeals to your taste and your wallet. Here are the details of each of the major shopping districts in New York City .
SoHo in New York City is the most unique shopping area in the world. You can find colorful knock-off RayBan Wayfarers on the street for as little as $3. Or you can head to Dolce & Gabbana and get a blazer for $1500. The high-end stores you’ll want to check out in SoHo are Chanel, Phillip Lim, Atelier New York , and RPM Studio Inc , among others. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for jeans that cost about a month’s rent in NYC , you can still have fun window-shopping and trying on outfits. If you’re looking for cheaper but still high-quality clothes, you’ll want to check out Top Shop, H & M, and Uniqlo. Yes, you can find these stores in any mall in the USA, but the selection here is unbeatable. Also, these stores tend to get the newest clothes first. No one else in your hometown will have some of the items at these outposts of popular stores.

Just the word “Fifth Ave” tends to make people imagine wealthy people and posh stores. And yes, Fifth Avenue has plenty of that. On this one avenue, you can find Bergdorf Goodman , Henri Bendel, Cartier, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co . Even if the salespeople seem a little frightening, don’t be afraid to go inside and check out the items. You can even try them on if you’re especially brave. Fifth Avenue is the best place for huge department stores. Saks Fifth Avenue is an NYC favorite, and you can easily spend the entire day browsing the store.
If you want to escape the throngs of tourists that crowd Fifth Avenue and SoHo, try shopping in the Upper East Side . You’ll find a lot of the same stores that also have downtown NYC locations; except uptown there are far less crowds and a shopper can get personal attention for the salespeople. Some stores you will want to check out include the Sonia Rykiel boutique, the uptown version of RPM Studio Inc, and the uptown Bloomingdale’s . You won’t find many cheap stores here, but that is part of the Upper East Side’s allure.
It is true that you have to plan your New York City shopping trip in order to have the best and most productive time possible. It will only take a few minutes to plan out a fun day of shopping. Or you can make things even easier by booking Uncle Sam’s New York’s Fashion on Fifth Avenue Tour This tour will take you to the best stores in New York City with the help of your own personal stylist. The tour runs every Saturday.

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Filed under Samantha Nicholson

Is the NY Pass Your Key to the City?

by Sam Nicholson

The concept of a city pass is a little hard to believe. The NY Pass let you go to more than 40 places in NYC at a discount of about 70 percent. It doesn’t seem possible at first.  A business-savvy customer might question, “How does any attraction even make any money off of NY Pass customers?” A new visitor to the city might be wary and feel that a company is trying to take advantage of their naiveté.

These people will surely be surprised to learn that this pass is not a scam. In fact, it is a great deal that all tourists who plan on doing a lot of sightseeing should consider. The pass can last up to seven days. You only pay once, and this is when your card is activated. After the pass is activated, you have a large choice of tourist attractions to visit with the pass. Your sightseeing will be tension-free as the varying cost of attractions won’t be on your mind. The pass works like a credit card, and the charges vary depending on which package you select. But you can be assured that you will be saving money using your NY pass rather than visiting each location and paying separately. If you plan on visiting more than 3 attractions a day during your visit to New York City, the pass is a great money-saver.

Also, the NY Pass lets you know about attractions you may never have known about without it. Every tourist wants to go to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building—but what about Bike and Roll Bike Rentals? Or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises? How about the Museum of Sex? The NY Pass will open your eyes to a wide array of attractions that you might never have known existed. You will be even more encouraged to not laze around at the hotel all day considering that you have already paid for your NY Pass.

If you do just want to laze around at your hotel all day or wander the streets of New York City aimlessly, then the New York Pass is probably not for you. But if you want to see all that New York City has to offer and discover the fun of the Big Apple, then you should definitely buy the New York Pass.


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The Battery: Where Manhattan Begins!

By Jared “the tour guide” Goldstein, exclusively for Uncle Sam’s New York

New York City started on Manhattan Island in today’s Downtown, Lower Manhattan Financial District below Wall Street. It began at the Battery on the bottom of the island.

The “Battery” refers to the fort, Castle Clinton, which protected New York City from the mighty British Navy with its battery of cannons. In the 19th Century, Castle Clinton served as P.T. Barnum’s Castle Clinton Gardens, where Jenny Lind, ‘the Swedish Nightingale,’ entertained thousands for her American debut. It also served as an immigration point of entry for eight million immigrants before Ellis Island opened for immigration in 1892. It later became the New York Aquarium, the largest in the world. After World War II the Aquarium moved to Coney Island and the Fort was restored and reopened as a National Monument.

Alexander Hamilton came to Boston as a 16 year-old immigrant from the Caribbean, but came to this area shortly after.

Experience the Battery on the Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour.

Click here to reserve your tour now!

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Filed under History, jared goldstein