From the bright lights of Broadway to the revered stages at the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, from the high kicks of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall to the cutting-edge works performed at BAM, New York City continues to be one of the most diverse and heavily textured urban cultural centres in the world the BIG apple has it all.
The principal entertainment districts are the Theater District in the Broadway/42nd Street/Times Square area and the LincolnCenter for the Performing Arts on the Upper West Side. Most Broadway theatres are located in the blocks just east or west of Broadway, between 41st Street and 53rd Street. Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres are sprinkled throughout Manhattan, with a concentration in the East and West Villages, Chelsea and several in the 40s and 50s west of the Broadway theatre district. The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, Columbus Avenue at 64th Street (tel: (212) 721 6500; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is America’s first and largest performing arts complex, containing many venues. It is also the home of the Metropolitan Opera (website: www.metopera.org), the New York City Opera (website: www.nycopera.com), the New York City Ballet (website: www.nycballet.com), the New York Philharmonic (website: www.newyorkphilharmonic.org), among others.
New York continues to grow and, as well as these established attractions, offers something new each day. Times Square is one of the prominent areas to receive attention. Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, 234 West 42nd Street (tel: (800) 246 8872; website: www.nycwax.com), which includes a movie complex, the New Amsterdam Theater, 214 West 42nd Street, owned by Disney, as well as a number of similar renovations of historic theatres – such as the New Victory Theatre, 209 West 42nd Street (tel: (646) 223 3020; website: www.newvictory.org) and the Academy/Apollo (see Theatre below) – have ensured that New York remains the cultural capital of the USA.
Tickets are available for purchase through Telecharge (tel: (212) 239 6200; website: www.telecharge.com), which handles, Broadway, Off-Broadway and some concerts. Ticketmaster (tel: (212) 307 7171; website: www.ticketmaster.com), also offers Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as tickets to MadisonSquareGarden and RadioCity. Reduced-priced tickets of up to half-price for same-day Broadway and Off-Broadway are available for purchase at the TKTS booth, 47th Street and Broadway (website: www.tdf.org/programs/tkts), open daily 1500–2000 for evening performances, 1000–1400 for Wednesday and Saturday matinees and 1200–1830 for all Sunday performances. Credit cards are not accepted.
Information on cultural events in the city is available online (website: www.nycvisit.com and www.whatsonwhen.com). Time Out New York (website: www.timeoutny.com) also is a good source of information published weekly and sold at newsagents and kiosks for US$2.99.
Music: The Avery Fisher Hall, in the LincolnCenter, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, Columbus Avenue at 64th Street (tel: (212) 875 5030; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is the permanent home of the New York Philharmonic (tel: (212) 875 5709; website: www.newyorkphilharmonic.org) and a temporary one to visiting orchestras and soloists. Tickets for the New York Philharmonic cost approximately US$15–50. Avery Fisher also hosts the very popular annual Mostly Mozart festival (tel: (212) 875 5103) in August. The Alice Tully Hall, also in the LincolnCenter (tel: (212) 875 5050; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is a smaller venue for chamber orchestras, string quartets and instrumentalists. The greatest names from all schools of music – from Tchaikovsky and Toscanini to Gershwin and Billie Holiday – have performed at Carnegie Hall, 154 West 57th Street, at Seventh Avenue (tel: (212) 247 7800; website: www.carnegiehall.org), which boasts an astonishing and eclectic repertoire at moderate prices. Other leading venues that draw the world’s top performers include Kaufman Concert Hall, in the 92nd Street Y, at 1395 Lexington Avenue (tel: (212) 996 1100), and Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx (tel: (718) 960 8232; website: www.lehman.cuny.edu/lehmancenter).
Known as the Met, the Metropolitan Opera House, in the LincolnCenter (tel: (212) 362 6000; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is New York’s premiere opera venue and home to the Metropolitan Opera (website: www.metopera.org), from September to late April. The New York State Theater, also in LincolnCenter (tel: (212) 870 5570; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is where the New York City Opera (tel: (212) 870 5630; website: www.nycopera.com) perform. Its wide and adventurous program varies wildly in quality – sometimes startlingly innovative, occasionally mediocre – but seats go for less than half the Met’s prices. Other venues include the JulliardSchool, 155 West 65th Street, at Broadway (tel: (212) 799 5000; website: www.juilliard.edu), where talented students perform with a famous conductor, usually for low prices.
Theatre: Theatre venues in the city are referred to as Broadway, Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway – groupings that represent a descending order of ticket price, production polish, elegance and comfort and an ascending order of innovation, experimentation, and theatre for the sake of art rather than cash. Off-Broadway is still the place for theatre punters to see the works of the world’s most innovative playwrights – social and political drama, satire, ethnic plays and repertory … in short, anything that Broadway would not consider a guaranteed money spinner. Lower operating costs also mean that Off-Broadway often serves as a forum to try out what sometimes ends up as a big Broadway production. Off-Off-Broadway is New York’s fringe. Unlike Off-Broadway, Off-Off doesn’t have to use professional actors and shows range from shoestring productions of the classics to outrageous and experimental performance art.
The National Actors Theatre, 1560 Broadway, Suite 409 (tel: (212) 719 5331; website: www.nationalactorstheatre.org), presents the classics on Broadway, while Manhattan Theatre Club, 311 West 43rd Street, Eighth Floor (tel: (212) 581 1212; website: www.mtc-nyc.org), produces some of the finest new plays in American theatre. Other theatre groups include Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, 1450 Broadway, Suite 300 (tel: (212) 827 5412; website: www.disney.go.com/disneyonbroadway), which brings the magic of Disney to life on the Broadway stage. For a more ethnic flavour, Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, 253 West 125th Street (tel: (212) 531 5300; website: www.showtimeinharlem.com), has celebrated the legacy and culture of African-American music and entertainment since 1934.
Dance: New York has five major ballet companies as well as dozens of contemporary troupes and the official dance season runs from September to January and April to June. Metropolitan Opera House, in the LincolnCenter (tel: (212) 362 6000; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is the home of the renowned American Ballet Theater (tel: (212) 477 3030; website: www.abt.org), which performs the classics from early May into July. New York State Theater, also in the LincolnCenter (tel: (212) 870 5570; website: www.lincolncenter.org), is home to the revered New York City Ballet (website: www.nycballet.com), which performs more contemporary ballet for a nine-week season each spring.
Universally known as BAM, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Street, between Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street, Brooklyn (tel: (718) 636 4100; website: www.bam.org), is America’s oldest performing arts academy and one of the busiest and most daring producers in New York. During autumn, BAM’s Next Wave Festival showcases the hottest international attractions in avant-garde dance and music. Winter brings visiting artists, while, each spring, BAM hosts the annual DanceAfrica Festival, America’s largest showcase for African and African-American dance and culture.
The most eminent and celebrated troupes in modern dance perform at City Center, 131 West 55th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue (tel: (212) 581 1212; website: www.citycenter.org). Big-name companies include Merce Cunningham Dance Company (website: www.merce.org), Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (website: www.alvinailey.org), Joffrey Ballet (website: www.joffreyballetschool.com) and Dance Theater of Harlem (website: www.dancetheatreofharlem.com). Merce Cunningham Studio, 55 Bethune St at Washington St (tel: (212) 691 9751; website: www.merce.org/studio.html), the home of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, stages performances by emerging modern choreographers.
Film: A movie centre second only to Tinseltown itself, New York has hundreds of modern cinema complexes and arthouse cinemas. Cinemas worth visiting include Sony Lincoln Square, Broadway at 68th Street (tel: (212) 336 5000 (recorded information) or (212) 336 5020), which is more a theme park than a multiplex, and The Ziegfeld, 141 West 54th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue (tel: (908) 918 2000; website: www.clearviewcinemas.com), which often holds glitzy premieres and is the grandest picture palace in town – once home to the Ziegfeld Follies. Arthouse movies are screened at Angelika Film Centre, 18 West Houston Street (tel: (212) 995 2000 or 2570), Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, 30 Lincoln Plaza (tel: (212) 757 2280), and Quad Cinema, 34 West Street, between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue (tel: (212) 255 8800). General information, show times and advanced tickets are available from Moviefone (tel: (212) 777 FILM or 777 3456).
New York has been portrayed through celluloid in a number of ways, ranging from the ridiculous yet enduring images of King Kong, swinging from the EmpireStateBuilding, in the 1933 classic starring Fay Wray, to the psychological horrors of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976). In the latter, Robert De Niro plays the part of a mentally isolated New York cabbie and Vietnam vet, driven to violence by the decadence of the city. It is New York decadence of a slightly different nature that Alan Rudolph explores in Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), which looks at New York literary life and society during the 1920s. The life and times of one of New York’s most famous daughters, the acid and hilarious writer and wit, Dorothy Parker, is brought to life amid a lavish New York setting.
Cultural events:New York’s biggest antiques event, Manhattan Antiques and Collectibles Triple Pier Expo, is held at three piers on the Hudson River, in February. The annual harbinger of spring, the New York Flower Show, is held on piers 90 and 93, 51st Street and 12th Avenue, in March. Meanwhile, Art Expo New York, the world’s largest show of popular art, features a wide range of works from paintings and sculpture to posters and decorative arts, at the Javits Convention Centre, also in March. Ninth Avenue International Food Festival is a gastronomic feast of a street fair in May, with live bands and hundreds of food stalls selling a wide assortment of ethnic and junk food. Summerstage, a festival of free or low-cost concerts in Central Park, features world music, pop, folk and jazz artists throughout the summer.
The vibrant city of New York has spawned some of America’s most celebrated writers and provided the backdrop and inspiration for countless best-selling novels and hit movies. Washington Square, at Fifth Avenue and Waverley Place, was home to the 19th-century aristocracy and provided the inspiration for the classic study of the American upper classes, Washington Square (1881), by New Yorker Henry James. Bohemian Greenwich Village has long been the favoured haunt of America’s literati. The ChelseaHotel, on West 23rd Street, is something of a writers’ emporium. Here Arthur Miller penned After the Fall (1964) and William Burroughs worked on Naked Lunch (1959). New Yorker Arthur Miller is celebrated as America’s greatest living playwright, whose numerous works have delighted Broadway and international audiences for decades. His knowledge of the Brooklyn waterfront helped to form his characters in his play A View From the Bridge (1955) and powerful reflections upon his home town are revealed in The Price (1968).
New York’s most famous contemporary novelist is Paul Auster, who won international acclaim for The New York Trilogy (1987), a book comprising three novellas – City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room – all set in New York. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace’s Gotham (2001) is one of the most illuminating and readable histories of New York. One of the most striking works from the flurry of post-11 September 2001 publications is September 11: A Testimony (2001), assembled by press agency Reuters, with some of the most dramatic WorldTradeCenter photographic images.