Set Sail with Sting

Wash Sq. Park margolis pineo

Washington Square Park at night.

Stormy Night

LaMaMAWe head to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club for Karin Coonrod’s daring new TempestI’m enchanted by the smoky atmosphere and swinging starry-orb, whose tiny pinholes of light evoke night sky over a wild storm at sea. The white geometric on the dark floor suggests we’re in a celestial gymnasium. Coonrod’s  Tempest is vigorous, with Tony Torn as Stephano enjoying delicious physical comedy with Slate Holmgren as Caliban, and swaggering Liz Wisan as Trinculo. The show features damn fine lighting by Chris Akerlind and evocative music by Elizabeth Swados.  Get there.

Sunny Day

Millenium reflectionFlag and names 9-11We spend a sunny morning at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a carefully landscaped green space with young plantings along curving walkways. Cavernous twin squares are surrounded by bronze surfaces with names memorialized in dignified capital letters. Water runs gently and incongruously down the sides in an endless, symbolic journey. We don’t get the design, but love the serenity.

MAD World

Ladies in gift shop strutVessel by Peter VoulkosOn to MAD Museum of Arts & Design, all about contemporary craft, where surprises abound. Dale Chihuly’s early work is clumsy, his goblets resembling the pottery of a preschooler. Hats off to MAD’s clever founder, affectionately known as “Mrs. Webb,” for seeing his potential. Gorgeous objects include birdlike music stands in wood, enormous clay vessels in mottled summer hues, and oh!, the  jewelry, drawers and drawers of it, for inspiration and contemplation. Equally delectable is best-kept secret Robert, MAD’s upscale 9th floor eatery (reservations a must). The views are vertiginous in a great way, and the jazz brunch sounds like a gas. The gallery store’s snarky, quirky staff is helpful despite the layers of ‘tude. Don’t miss this MAD vertical gem.

Running With Scissors

blue-nudeThe SnailAnd it’s on to MoMA for the epic Matisse exhibition of his dazzling cut-outs. I contemplate Mermaid and Parakeet, amazed that humble scissors and pins created these sprawling, extraordinary works. My first glimpse of  The Snail, left, was at the Tate London decades ago. Its ravishing, exuberant color still makes me want to fashion my own universe in a lovely curving shell using exquisitely simple paint, scissors and pins.

mainGloom & Gusto

the-last-ship1STING-19LAST-SHIP-master495-v3We set sail for opening night of the inspired new musical, The Last Ship, by Sting. Yes, that Sting, whose gorgeous, memorable score encompasses foot-stomping folk tunes, sea chanteys and romantic ballads. Have a listen. Rousing performances include the great Jimmy Nail as the charismatic Jackie White, Michael Esper as Gideon, and Rachel Tucker as Meg, the ginger spitfire who lightens the grit and gloom of Wallsend.

Worried ManAs the opening night curtain falls, Sting treats us to a few songs. It’s magical. Opening and after-party are well-attended by Sting’s pals Bruce Springsteen, Billie Joel and Paul Simon — and my pals, incomparable lighting designer Chris Akerlind, and my lithe and brilliant sister Seeky. A great time was had by both luminaries and the well-lit. Was that me on the dance floor? You bet.

MV5BMTcwNzM0NTkxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTExNDEyNQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_La Dolce Vita

The next afternoon at JFK I’m still feeling swozzled. My party photos look like blurry pyrotechnics. I’m grateful to decompress at Addo Nuovo with Marcello Mastroianni and the endless loop of La Dolce Vita. As I sip tepid coffee and watch Marcello unravel his way through Rome, I think my time away was probably just enough la dolce vita for me … for now.  •

Sting party zizzleSting zizzle III

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Far Niente Ancora

Como sunriseLake Como, 2014

George Clooney’s northern Italian home is known for posh restaurants and hotels, but this Matisse-shaped lake is not just for glitterati. This northern-Italian oasis, shimmering in the ever-changing light at the base of the Alps, is a peaceful and breathable alternative to frenzied cities like Milan (a mere hour away if you need a fashion-forward fix).

Argegno centroHome Away

Our sleepy lakeside retreat in the tiny village of Argegno is perfect for an extended stay, with or without a Clooney-sized budget. Our modern, well appointed apartment is 111 steps up from Argegno’s tiny center — we count them both ascending and descending. Contact Barrie or Julie Webb at ItalianApartments.co.uk for dependably clean and comfortable units with spectacular lake views. In this ancient setting, Wi-Fi and flat screens may seem incongruous, but for people like me who combine business with pleasure, they are essential.

Like fur neckpice ComoBellavista

Our apartment’s best feature is wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows for abundant light and views, views, views. These peaceful hills are dotted with tiny villages surrounded by pines, olive trees and lush flowering azaleas. The clouds hang low on the hills like fluffy white stoles in old royal portraits. The rain keeps the terra-cotta rooftops a vivid red-orange. The sun breaks through the dappled gray to tantalize and encourage, promising an extended stay soon.

Lovely vista II ComoDIY Touring

lakecomomapbeigePricey boat rentals and cruises are aimed at tourists — most often little trips with big price tags. We prefer the relaxing Como Ferry (www.navigazionelaghi.it) whose well-appointed vessels depart from the center of our little town and run all day. A popular stop is Bellagio, the beautiful promontory that I love despite its commercial, touristy vibe. I  disembark and hang a right as everyone else heads left. There you’ll find quiet cobbled streets along the lake, away from the crowded shopping cluster, where you can stroll pretty vineyards and villas. Do the main drag if you must, but be prepared to feel shopped-out and maybe even a little ripped-off.

Menaggio lunchHop-on, Hop-Off

Ferry passengers hop-on and hop-off at dazzling stops from Como to Domasco. We grab tickets for 16.70 euro and cruise a few hours to Menaggio for our traditional lunch at Bar Costantin on Via Carlo Camozzi, a modest, hidden gem nestled in the uphill residential maze. This is where the locals go for thin-crust masterpieces. My go-to ‘Pizza Andrea’ has four cheeses, spinach and rucola. It’s rich and decadent, with crust as thin as a postage stamp. The sleepy boat back to Argegno at dusk is full of yawning passengers and the aroma of espresso as they try to wake up.

From the water ComoLake Treasure

The lake’s abundant trout and perch are readily available and must not be missed. We like Argegno’s Barchetta restaurant for traditionally prepared lake-fish that is delicious and enough for two. Add a bowl of rustic pasta like golden pachetti with butter and sage, plus a fresh insalata or creamy spinach. Barchetta means “little boat,” and with its prime lakeside location, this restaurant is as close to catching it yourself as it gets — without a Licenza di Pesca.

Sip and Savor

Aperol Spritz and FriendAs the sun dips behind our lakeside retreat, we enjoy a glass of wine or two on our terrace, overlooking the wonderful lake view. We reflect on the day’s activities, mostly honing our far niente skills (i.e., doing nothing). Sometimes we head down the 111 steps to Il Colombe wine bar, with its abbondanza of bar snacks and whose wine pours can sometimes seem stingy to tourists. Or head across the piazza to see Alberto at enoteca Pensavo Meglio whose bar snacks are a bit more restrained but whose pours are a bit more memorable. Try an Aperol spritz at Alberto’s — the festive orange color is my kind of lakeside sunset.

Como sky 2 Serenity

Every time you turn a corner here on Lake Como, there is another sunrise, sunset or breathtaking view that is not to be missed. Whether you are a spontaneous traveler or detail-oriented planner, reliable travel and tourism experts like FirstChoice offer transportation and touring options — even experienced travelers need a little help now and then. These beloved Como hills provide both inspiration and a feeling of accomplishment that is unique to travel — best described as utter and total satisfaction.

“Is there a land of such supreme / And perfect beauty anywhere?” – H.W. Longfellow  •

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Musical Mélange: Montreal

Random Recipe  by Marie Caire Denis

Random Recipe concert  by Marie Caire Denis

Lucky me. I’m just back from the 35th anniversary celebration at the Festival International de Jazz Montréal. As world-class talents Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, Tony Bennett and B.B. King agree,”It’s the best jazz festival in the world.” Oh, yes.

Yoann Lemoine also known as Woodkid, performs at the Montreal Jazz Festival, 2014.

Woodkid performs at Montreal Jazz 2014

Each year I discover new treasures, and this year it’s Woodkid, the versatile French artist who “popped” opening night with an emotional and electric performance that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

Two years ago, I was blown away by Sophie Hunger’s soul poetry. In 2009, it was Guy Bélanger’s harmonica genius, which sounds like an oxymoron until you hear him. This year I fell in love with Montreal trumpeter and singer, Nico Sarbanes, who has us on our feet in thunderous appreciation of I’m Through with Love.

harry_manx_dave_lindley

Harry Manx & Dave Lindley

After sunny outdoor sets by St. Luc high school jazz band, Concordia’s Willis Pride Quartet, and a passionate performance by beloved Streetnix, it feels great to chill at an indoor venue. Gesu Centre provides a cool respite from sun and outdoor crowds at with lap-slide bluesman Harry Manx, sharing the stage with virtuoso guitar-man Dave Lindley, whose distinctive guitar wail will take you back to the first time you heard Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty.

Dinan Krall July 2014 - Photo Marie Claire Denis

Diana Krall by Marie Claire Denis

Or you may prefer the star-studded outdoor spectacles that offer something for every musical taste and all ages. The ever-burgeoning festival includes over 500 concerts and events — both ticketed and free. The indoor and outdoor lineup this year includes the incomparable Diana Krall, Rufus Wainwright, Diana Ross, Keith Jarrett, Dianne Reeves, smooth native-son Michael Bublé, and so many more. Plus special programs like Piazzolla Plays Piazzola, Zappa Plays Zappa — terrific.

I’m lucky enough to see Dianne Reeves’ blues performance of jazz standards and her trademark scat. Tonight she pays tribute to the great Celia Cruz — azúcar!

Trixie Whitley July 2014 courtesy photo

Trixie Whitley July 2014 courtesy photo

Daniel Lanois, a Montreal stalwart, opens his set with the very romantic and familiar Tremeloe — moving and electric. His woo-woo guitar work is familiar and plummy. Just as I start to go into a Lanois-trance, he switches gears and is joined by blues-mistress Trixie Whitley t whom he refers as “adventurous heart.”

Whitley lights up the stage with Surely You Were Meant To Be Mine. Drummer Brian Beck is an old hand, relaxed and ultra-cool. Whitley plays along with him on a smaller set of drums. As she gains steam, her expression is pure cat-and-canary. Real-time B&W film projected above the artists grants us a fascinating bird’s eye view of their collaboration.

Musical bright lights continue to assemble onstage with the legendary EmmyLou Harris who croons Ma Jolie Louise to French-speakers in the audience who roar in approval. On the legendary Lanois — and his talented friends — truly soar.

July 7 2014 courtesy photo

July 7 2014 courtesy photo

Countdown to 2015 – 364 Days

I plunge back into the festival masses – wow. With the exception of the enormous marches on Washington of my youth, I have never been in a bigger, happier and more peaceful crowd. For a woman traveling alone, the Montreal Jazz Festival can’t be beat for safety and security — Montreal, je t’taime.

Whether you drive or fly, it is always worth the trip to savor our jazzy and sophisticated neighbors to the north. Treat yourself to a dazzling world of music, culture, saveur and savoir at the Jazz Festival set in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles in downtown Montréal. You have 364 days to plan for 2015!  •

©Festival International de Jazz de Montréal - Victor Diaz Lamich (panorama 2)UP NEXT: :  Epicurean Adventures in Montreal!

 

 

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Montreal Night Life, Art & Cuisine – C’est Magnifique!

Cool Cuisine

While Jazz Fest takes over the Quartier des Spectacles in the downtown core and offers a diversity of food and drink, restaurants and eating opportunities abound in the sprawling festival site. Find everything from haute-cuisine by world-class chefs to gourmet sandwiches and open-air food trucks in Old Montreal, less than a 10-minute walk away. Stroll to nearby Chinatown for tried-and-true Chinese dishes, dim sum, banh-mi sandwiches and pho soup, sushi, Szechuan specialities, and much more. My daughter loves the bubble tea.

Just north of the fest are gastro-pubs, casual bistros and quirky upscale dining spots along Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Montreal’s all-season nightlife must include bar-hopping, and there’s no shortage of watering holes nearby. Settle into one of the city’s wine bars, sip microbrews at Benelux on Sherbrooke, Cheval Blanc on Ontario Street, Brutopia on Crescent Street, L’amere a Boire and Le Saint Bock on Saint-Denis, and Les Soeurs Grises in the Old Port. Late nights bring drink specials, wow. Dance the night away to jazz, rock or soul classics at clubs in Old Montreal, along Saint-Laurent in the Plateau.

FIMA4MURAL Festival Transforms Montreal

With an international public art festival bound to the celebration of creativity and the democratization of urban art, MURAL transforms the Saint-Laurent Boulevard for a week into a real open-air museum, where local and international artists unite their talents for spectacular, hands-on results. Creativity and the visual arts await, now, June 12 to 15!

There is so much arty, foodie and jazzy fun to be had this summer in my favorite North American city – Montreal.  I’m on my way. Don’t miss it!  •

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Singin’ and Swingin’

The Great Wayne Shorter

The incomparable Wayne Shorter by Victor Diaz Lamich

35th Montréal Jazz Festival June 26-July 6

FIJM_logo_2014_nbLucky me — I’m heading for the 35th Anniversary of the Festival International de Jazz Montréal June 26. Blues titan B.B. King says,”It’s the best jazz festival in the world,” and I agree. Artists like Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, Tony Bennett, Charlie Hayden and Al Jarreau concur: there’s nothing quite like it in North America.

Esperanza Spalding © Denis Alix

Bassist Esperanza Spalding by Denis Alix

Each year I discover a favorite artist, venue or sound. Three years ago it was the the poetic mistress of  art and soul, Switzerland’s own Sophie Hunger. I fell in love with the magical Esperanza Spalding a few years ago, too. This year I’m looking forward to Woodkid, the versatile French artist who’s guaranteed to “pop” opening night. I can’t wait.

My husband loves the outdoor “spectacles” that are sprawling, joyous, and free. For an intimate experience, hit the smaller venues for jazzy trios and quartets; I will see the great Harry Manx at Gesú. There is so much going on in the ever-expanding Place des Festivals — something for everyone. And music fans of all ages will be happily surprised at how much is free.

The Stellar Array: A Glimpse of the 35th Edition

Wow. Diana Ross, Rufus Wainwright, Bobby McFerrin, Tom Harrell, Keith Jarrett, Trixie Whitley, Dianne Reeves, Escalandrum, Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion with Pee Wee Ellis, Bombino, Farruquito, Piazzolla Plays Piazzola, Zappa Plays Zappa, and For the Record: Tarantino in Concert. And this is just a small sample.

The full schedule (see www.montrealjazzfest.com), includes over 500 concerts and events, ticketed and free. Whether you drive or fly, it is always worth the trip to celebrate with our jazzy and sophisticated neighbors to the north. Treat yourself to a dazzling world of music, culture, saveur and savoir at the 2014 Festival lnternational de Jazz Montréal!

Saveur

This year I have been asked by RealFoodTraveler in Portland, Or., to explore the legendary saveur of the Montreal food scene. Jazz Fest founder and director Andres Menard was kind enough to share a few of his personal favorite bars and bistros with me. So stay tuned for every chewy, tantalizing and authentic bite of Montréal!  •

©Festival International de Jazz de Montréal - Victor Diaz Lamich (panorama 2)2014 Highlights:

  • Diana Ross –a true Diva if ever there was one, – is a showbiz icon and living legend. This is her very first visit to the Festival.
  • The brilliant pianist, daring composer, living legend and peerless improviser, Keith Jarrett, in a solo concert—it’s been almost 25 years since the virtuoso has treated us to a signature event.
  • Bobby McFerrin is a hypnotic performer and artist of a concert experience as dizzying as it is unforgettable—a jubilant musical pilgrimage.
  • Zappa Plays Zappa The fabulous, inspired and slightly mad project conceived by Dweezil Zappa: to revive his father’s wildly eclectic and ambitious repertoire.
  • Dianne Reeves has long since won her place in the pantheon of jazz singers; a flamboyant onstage performer loved by critics and audiences alike.
  • Ginger Baker with Pee Wee Ellis, Alec Dankworth and Abass Dodoo British drum-legend and rock titan, Ginger Baker, heads a quartet of major talent.
  • Farruquito One of the greatest male flamenco dancers of the century, Farruquito performs authentic, passionate and visceral flamenco.
  • Piazzolla Plays Piazzolla by Escalandrum Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla, Nicolás Guerschberg, Mariano Sívori, Damián Fogiel, Martín Pantyrer and Gustavo Musso bring together the best of all possible musical worlds.
  • Tom Harrell Colors of a Dream with Esperanza Spalding, Jaleel Shaw, Johnathan Blake, Ugonne Okegwo, Wayne Escoffery This high-voltage jazz summit unites legendary trumpeter Tom Harrell, fascinating bassist Esperanza Spalding, and Jaleel Shaw on alto sax.
  • For the Record: Tarantino in ConcertAn electrifying spectacle, this troupe of 28 dancers, musicians and performers serves up cult scenes from the modern master of American cinema.
  • Rufus Wainwright Solo Wainwright unveils his latest release two years after thrilling us in Place des Festivals. Montréal’s beloved native son promises a very special solo treat.
  • Trixie Whitley The daughter of late-lamented soul-bluesman Chris Whitley once again enfolds us in her incandescent blues-soul universe—an amazing performer.
  • Bombino The young guitar star blew us away with his Tamashek desert blues-rock, literally born of rebellion. He’s had huge international success, and we’re thrilled he’s back in Montreal!  •
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“Back In Montreal” by Leonard Cohen – Limited Edition Print – Hambleton Galleries

 

 

 

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Symphonic Dining

natalie-s-1-2-2014-5-of-51.jpg.1140x481_default chi-logo-rectangle-31.jpg.480x760Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn was honored Saturday with Diners’ Choice Top 100 Best Restaurants in America Award. The OpenTable Top 100 Award is based on five million reviews of 19,000 restaurants, nationwide – wow.

The celebratory luncheon created by Chefs Long, Stevens and Sturdivant featured wine pairings by Natalie’s poised and delightful sommelier, Micah Wells. My first course was Katama oysters with smoked potato, chorizo, creme fraiche and sofritto. My second was a gorgeous local farm egg, artichokes, gnocchi, aged goat cheese and a few pine nuts. Dreamy and unctuous, this is sexy food.

Dessert was equally decadent and included a take-home box with delicate swooshy macarons – my absolute favorite confection – how did they know?

Tianna Baker opentable_logofrom OpenTable presented the prestigious award inscribed on a sauté pan, and noted that Natalie’s is the only restaurant in the “Top 100″ located here in Maine.

Relais and Chateaux

New status for a historic Camden property

I was lucky enough to be invited to Daniel restaurant in December when Relais & Chateaux status was bestowed on Camden Harbor Inn over a yummy, first-rate luncheon by Bouloud himself. “First becoming Relais & Chateaux, and now this prestigious award!” exulted owner Raymond Brunyanszki yesterday, “It is an honor to be included on this list with so many incredible restaurants around the country.”

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Raymond and Oscar

And he’s not kidding – the other Top 100 recipients include The French Laundry in California, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park in NY, and the Girl and the Goat in Chicago – very distinguished company!

Raymond Brunyanszki and partner Oscar Verest, their chefs, managers, waitstaff and sommelier have made Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn a true culinary destination – both an amazing place to stay and a incomparable dining experience. Ms. Baker compared Natalie’s to a great orchestra, whose players have mastered their craft and work in harmony to create “a symphonic dining experience.”  Play on. •

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Executive Chefs Chris Long and Shelby Stevens

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A Big Bite of Broadway

Rana_BologneseAh, New York. We’re meeting at Chelsea Market, a former biscuit factory with a hipster vibe. It’s now a food and shopping court, just this side of touristy. I head for Giovanni Rana pastificio for a spritz, the sparkly cocktail that blends Campari and prosecco with a hit of orange. A spritz tastes like Italian summer and is a perfect way to celebrate the end of this dreary winter.

My companion arrives, predictably hungry. We savor Rana’s hefty artisanal charcuterie board with its tiny surprise of fried gnocchi — and save room for the Bolognese.

3penny_pageatlantic theater companyThe new production of The Threepenny Opera at Atlantic Theater Company reinterprets the 1928 musical by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill – a darkly funny, gritty piece by gifted director and choreographer Martha Clarke. Following the exploits of charismatic cad, Macheath, is a gas, and surprise! makes us hungry.

After Midnight

images-4A few blocks away is Mario Batali’s Otto pizzeria. Otto’s fennel and bottarga pie arrives steaming, with fluffy shaved fennel, mullet roe and delicate cheeses. Beautiful. If you’d prefer to skip Mario’s train-ticket schtick to Lucca, Roma, and Napoli (it just makes me homesick), go after 11:00 p.m. Cute doesn’t work after midnight.

llewynTime Travel

We’re in the mood for sentiment with a touch of social relevance. We head to Quad Cinema, an old-fashioned art house for  Inside Llewyn Davis. It echoes the NY weather, snowy and bleak, but is a wonderfully evocative trip to the 1960s.

DSCN0880Park Avenue winesThe Rock

Stop and admire the skaters at Rockefeller Center and the deco frieze that says,  “Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” Man, I hope so. I meander some more and take in as much of Times Square as I can bear. Expecting a guest, I conclude my ramble at Park Avenue Wines with midtown’s savvy wine guys.

Kefi-Grilled-Octopus-Bean-SConviviality

My old pal Stephen Z. knows a thing or two about great meals. We meet at Kefi, a Greek restaurant with a rustic menu and great prices. The word “Kefi” expresses the bliss of a bacchanal, and ours includes Yiayia’s meatballs, tzatziki and soft pita, plus warm feta and a robust charred octopus with chick peas – definitely my favorite bite of the week. Kefi’s minerally Greek wines balance her rich Mediterranean flavors. Sample their potent array of ouzos – gia sou!

    imagesCRI_147112Between meals, we snack on galleries and museums, large and small. It’s a short walk to MoMA‘s glorious collection of old friends Henri Matisse, Picasso, Braque and more. 80916_A2_Chemex_CoffeemakerDon’t miss MoMA’s magnificent shop where my taste is revealed to be a mid-century modern cliché.

vintage-french-poster-artists-135Take the  subway to SoHo images-1and The Drawing Center – a great resource where I learn a lot about drawing and a thing or two about myself.

Don’t miss the Chisolm Gallery’s collection of vintage posters in Chelsea. Surprise! I love the wine, food and travel images.

P1000703x‘Shrooms

Go straight to the top to Birreria for wood-fire roasted maitake mushrooms with pecorino and velvety green olive oil. Don’t be tempted by the fried shiitakes with sage which most resemble greasy baby cronuts. Enjoy the smoky maitakes, a few drinks and the view and call it a night. If you’re still hungry, head downstairs to Manzo for better choices and less racket. Or Pesce, where we’re obsessed with the sea urchin crostini. With a chilled glass of Vermentino – ecstasy.

Yo Adrian

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Rocky, the new über-sincere musical at the Winter Garden Theater, echoes the iconic film. Little has changed: Rocky trains on sides of beef, gulps raw eggs, and Adrian still works at the pet shop. “I ain’t no bum,” Rocky says, “I’m no loser,” and we feel it.

images-1The show opens with the stirring trumpet fanfare familiar to boxing fans and Penn grads, “Gonna Fly Now,” and segues to a new anthem, “Ain’t Down Yet.”  The new songs aren’t quite as strong as they could be, but yo, the show has major muscle. Rocky’s lonely and punishing training – running along the Schuylkill and up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – hits the stage with gritty, hi-tech black-and-white images of urban Philadelphia. The visual effects are stunning and by the end, we’re on our feet, yelling like the true boxing fans we are. This Rocky is electrifying. And yes – love wins. •

NY tableauPearsBeer casks at EatalyWisdom and KnowledgeNY breakfast II

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