The author and her friend BrayLynn looking out from One World Observatory. (Photo: Lisa McElroy)
It seemed as if I could see the whole world, at least all of Manhattan from One World Observatory. That 360-degree view that stuns every visitor was the final stop on a tour with Walks of New York. Sitting there, beside my best friend who was seeing New York City for her first time, I definitely had new eyes: bigger, grander ones.
I don’t remember the first time I visited New York; I was so small, I’m sure, that the trip was just another experience. My friend BrayLynn, however, will always remember this trip, her first venture to the East Coast. Exploring the city with her gave me fresh excitement about the place I have always loved. Her eyes, new to the lights of Times Square, lent me some of their first time excitement, making this a trip I will never forget, either.
Because BrayLynn is an aspiring actress, we knew that any trip she made would have to include a few Broadway shows. Three shows in two days, that was our goal, a goal we met valiantly. First on the bill was Amazing Grace, an amazingly touching musical about slavery, the story behind the famous hymn. The beginning may have made me teary-eyed. Its candid portrayal of a slave auction was jarring to watch. It was BrayLynn’s first show, and my goodness, it was amazing (pun intended). I could feel her excitement as we waited for the curtain to rise. What does it feel like to have an experience for the first time? All I can tell you is that people glow.
In order to have a nice variation, the next show we saw was On the Town. Flash, bam, lights, this musical was all sorts of pizzazz. Every minute was packed with an opulent dance number, telling the story of three sailors spending their one day in the city. This was a wonderful show for us, as it talked about many of the sites New York has to offer. It also added a bit of irony: Chip’s goal was to see as much of the city as possible in his short period of time — ours, too!
On a tour of Broadway with Broadway Up Close. (Photo: Lisa McElroy)
Last, but certainly not least, was Kinky Boots, another completely different experience. A rock musical, it was the story of a failing shoe factory in England, which, with the help of a drag queen, was saved by creating boots for transvestites. It was fabulous, the perfect mix of humor and solemnity. Throughout the show, BrayLynn would beam this giant smile. You could tell; she was enjoying herself immensely. The message of the show is best summed up in step three of Lola’s six point plan for happiness: “Accept yourself and you’ll accept others, too.”
To enrich our Broadway experience even further, we chose a walking tour of Broadway that was created and run by actors called Broadway Up Close. Full of history, ghost stories, and so many shocking tales, the tour we took was just part one of three. The first time Tim, our tour guide, did the tour, it was a whopping seven hours long. He quickly decided to trim it down, however, and Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3 were born, each a manageable hour and 45 minutes. I’ve never learned so much in such a short period of time. Who would ever believe there was once a farm on top of a theater? Well, Tim and his staff will show you photos. What an amazing way to introduce Broadway to a newcomer!
Our last Broadway activity was definitely something special. Through the company E.t.c. Custom Tailored Events, we sat down for lunch with an actor from the musical Amazing Grace. Savannah Frazier has been described as “the closest you can get to a real life Disney princess in the absolute best way possible.” Cheerful, upbeat, and sweet as anything, I could think of no better way to sum her up. She gave all sorts of advice for actors hoping to be in her place (Savannah is originating a secondary role and will undoubtedly be a name well known very soon). She also shared her experiences, answering questions about everything from makeup to costumes to wigs. We were so engaged in conversation that we barely noticed the passage of time; an hour flew by too quickly.
Making plans for day at the Westin. (Photo: Lisa McElroy)
Of course, through this whole experience, we had to sleep. To give BrayLynn the feel of different places, we split our time between two hotels. Our first night was spent at the Westin New York at Times Square. Big, sleek, and right at the heart of everything, the Westin was perfect for all of our activities. We could dash back for a quick nap in between shows because of the convenient location. We stayed in one of their family rooms, a new feature they’re offering. With two queen beds, this might have been the largest hotel room I’ve ever seen in the city. These rooms will soon include family carts, which carry Roku devices, XBoxes, movies, just to name a few, in order to give guests the comforts of home.
We spent Monday night at a boutique hotel called the Archer, right in the Garment District. It was adorable (to say the least!). With cozy beds and curtains that blocked every speck of light, this room shut out the lights of the city so we could crash for a much-needed sleep after all of our adventures. When the curtains were open, however, we had a stunning view of the Empire State building. And when it rained, as it did on Tuesday morning? Not to worry, in our closet was probably the cutest umbrella we’d ever seen, assuring you a sunny day (from the outside, it’s plain and black — the inside, however, shows a blue sky.)
At the 9/11 Memorial. (Photo: Lisa McElroy)
At the end of the day, the city was brighter, newer, and a lot more wonderous after I took a walk in someone else’s shoes. As for BrayLynn? She was given a glimpse of the life she one day might live. She met people she might one day work with. She saw theaters she could be performing in. No matter what, life is always being lived, and she had a taste of one she might enjoy in the not so distant future.
As for me? I got to watch as she sampled the city and borrowed her fresh new view of the whole place.
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