the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Broadway

Three Photographs

I bought an inexpensive Canon camera on Amazon during Black Friday and I received it in the mail last week.  As usual, I ignored the suggestion to read the manual and started to play with it without knowing what I was doing.  Why are there so many buttons and menu selections on a camera?

But so far, I haven’t broken it.

I’m not a true photographer at heart.  I don’t get tremendous urges to capture a moment in time or to shoot a scene on film.  I do like photos.  Especially your photos!   I would love to take more photos of people — quirky individuals doing funny or incongruous things, like nuns eating hot dogs, but I’m too shy to ask them if I can photograph them.  It seems rude.

Here is my first shot with my new camera:


I was in a very nice cafe at the time, by myself.  Most normal people might have taken a photo of the pretty cafe or the people in the cafe.  Or ME sitting in the cafe.  I didn’t think about it.  I’m not 100% aware of my surroundings.  I am more of a “storyteller” in my own mind, than a photographer interacting with the real world.   As I sat alone, sipping my over-priced coffee in this trendy Manhattan cafe, I created a story about the girl sitting in the corner.  She was wearing a black-and-white striped dress and a red beret.  In this homespun New York City tale of romance and adventure, I strutted over to her table and joined her.  We talked and laughed for an hour; the time passed as fast as the sun setting in the Pacific on a summer day.   As she cocked her head to the side and smiled, the light in her eyes…

…well, anyway, it was only a story.  And it was sort of cliched.   I never finished it.  Besides, she left.   It didn’t bother me too much.   Her table was a mess.  She left behind crumbs and crumbled napkins.  It was a big turn-off.   I probably should have just photographed her, so I would always remember what she looked like.   Already, her image is fading, like an old Polaroid.

I need to figure out how to use my zoom lens.  That way, I can take photos of people without them knowing.

Here’s my second photo:


It is from Thursday night.  It was pouring outside, but my mother and I schlepped into Manhattan to see the play “August: Osage County.”  This is the play that won the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize last year.  It is excellent, a skillfully written and acted drama about a dysfunctional family.  If you can, you should see it.  I know most of you can relate to the subject matter of the play, since so many of you are nuts or on anti-depressants.

I told Victoria, a blogger in New York, that I was going to the theater.

“Are you going on a date?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure what to answer.  It seemed pathetic to tell her that I was going out with my mother.  But with 2009 coming soon, and my #6 upcoming resolution being, “Never Lie to a Woman,” I decided to tell her the truth.

“I’m going with my mother.”  I said.  “She wanted to see it, too.”

“Oh, that’s so nice that you’re going with your mother.”

At first, I was taken aback by her positive response. Then, I remembered this Oscars ceremony from a few years ago, where Leonardo DiCaprio walked down the red carpet with his MOTHER as his date.   The pre-show host (Joan Rivers, maybe?) was all over him, saying how wonderful it was that he was bringing his proud MOTHER to the Academy Awards.  So, rather than hiding the fact that I went to the show with my mother, I am proudly making it into a public announcement.

I WENT TO SEE AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY WITH MY MOTHER, much like the handsome, extremely talented Leonardo DiCaprio, who clearly could have brought any gorgeous women in the world with him to the Academy Awards, including that hot Israel model he was dating — but he chose to pick his mother out of love and respect.   So, don’t assume that I went with my mother only because she is the only woman who will talk with me.   I just didn’t feel like going out with ANOTHER Israeli model!

This is my third photo:


It is from a large toy train display in the lobby of the Citicorp Building (soon to be renamed The Tower of Broken Financial Dreams).  I went with my childhood friend and his wife, and their two young boys.  The older boy, K, is obsessed — OBSESSED — with trains.  He can tell you about every episode of Thomas the Tank Engine.  He owns DVDs of famous train lines speeding through Europe and Asia.  One of his favorite activities is going to Grand Central and watching the commuter trains take off to New Jersey.  Even though K is only in pre-school, he is an expert on the New York City subway system.  When we were on the subway, he announced the stops before the conductor.   K can also point out the differences between the old trains and new trains on the “R” and “6” lines.

On Sunday afternoon, we were all traveling by subway to the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art (only in Manhattan do parents bring their kids to see the Tibetan art as a fun activity).   As we took off from the station, K pressed his face against the window, watching as the train noisily sped through the mysterious subway tunnel.  K does this every time we enter a subway train.  This makes me smile, because we are kindred spirits.   I used to do the exact same thing when I was his age!  I would sit between my parents, knees pushing against both of their legs, peering out at the passing blurry lights, and I would imagine that I was a NASA astronaut in a spaceship speeding through the emptiness of space.

I thought this was a perfect way to bond with my friend’s son.  I sat next to K, facing the window, much like I did in my youth.   Together we sat, young and young-at-heart, both facing the dirty subway window, both of us directly under the “Drink Stolchinaya!” advertisement.

“I see you like looking out.” I said to K.  “It is dark out there… and all those lights.  You like that, right?”


“You know, I do that too.  I look out the window and I see all the darkness and I imagine that I am in a spaceship passing by all these stars and galaxies.  Like I am astronaut on an Apollo mission or on the Starship Enterprise!  Doesn’t it look like space?”

He gave me a WTF look, as if I was speaking another language.  Mentioning the Apollo mission and the Starship Enterprise was like my late Uncle Morris talking to me about Joe Dimaggio’s skill as a batter.

“It is space,” said K, finally responding to my statement.  “There’s space there so the express train can pass by on the other side.”

Smart ass.  I was dissed by a pre-schooler.

But I learned a lot from my young friend through that statement.

I’m not 100% aware of my surroundings.  I am more of a “storyteller” in my own mind, than a person interacting with the real world.   K will be a better photographer.

My Hit Broadway Musical


On of the most anticipated New York theater pieces this fall is the opening of Dog Sees God:  Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.

"Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’ is an "unauthorized parody" that follows the Peanuts gang – all grown up. Set approximately ten years after the events in the fifty-year-running comic strip, ‘Dog Sees God’ begins with Snoopy’s death, and things for the introspective "CB" go downhill from there. Still trying to understand life’s darker meanings, still plagued with his endless identity crisis, CB talks to his gang of friends to find answers to his many questions. Of course, this gives us the chance to laugh at seeing what became of these well-loved and recognizable characters.

Clearly, producers are trying to mirror the success of "Avenue Q," where the characters are modeled after the former-happy-go-lucky creatures of ”Sesame Street.”

It’s a perfect formula to appeal to the media obsession and ironic tendencies of the younger generation.   Take some old time childhood comfort and throw in some modern edge.

Was this the same formula that was used to update everyone’s favorite childhood movie, "The Wizard of Oz," into Wicked?

"Wicked," which has won 10 Tony nominations, finds good and evil reversed. Glinda the Good is a ruthless alpha girl, embodied by Kristin Chenoweth as the queen of spiteful, popularity-obsessed perk. Her nemesis, Elphaba (Idina Menzel), the Wicked Witch of the West, is an idealistic do-gooder and social pariah with a scary green complexion, who is fanatically intent on liberating Oz’s caged animals.

Of course, Broadway isn’t as predictable as most Hollywood movies.  There are other ways of capturing nostalgia without destroying our memories of childhood classics.  How about reliving the favorite songs of our past in a musical with no plot?  Let’s see, there have been musicals based on the music of Billy Joel, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Queen, Abba – am I missing anyone?

Today, I sat down and decided to develop a Broadway hit.  What if I could create a show that combines the characters of a childhood favorite (using a edgy gimmick) with a lively musical that features the hit songs of a popular singing group?  And I found it! 


Broadway’s next hit — Alvin and the Chipmunks! What other cartoon characters also have a #1 Billboard album?  Sit back and watch as Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, now middle-aged, deal with divorce, tummy tucks, and Alvin’s pornography addiction (with plenty of their old songs to rock the house!)

(All right you Chipmunks)
(Ready to sing your song)
(I’ll say we are)
(Let’s sing it now)
(Okay, Simon)
(Okay, Theodore)
(Okay, Alvin, Alvin, ALVIN, Where’s ALVIN?)
(He’s online downloading photos of MILFs again!)

Tradition, Tradition


With Broadway all abuzz with the casting of Rose O’Donnell as Goldie, Tevye’s prototypical Jewish wife in the revival of "Fiddler on the Roof," top Broadway producers have quickly added "crowd-pleasing" but inappropriate stars to their upcoming shows:

Carrot Top is "The Wiz"

Fran Drescher is "Evita"

Lindsay Lohan  is "The Man of La Mancha"

Louie Anderson in "A Chorus Line"

Dave Chappelle in "Oklahoma"

Phyllis Diller is "Annie"

Paul Reubens is "The Phantom of the Opera"

Shaquille O’Neal in "Hair"

Carson Kressley in "The King and I"

James Earl Jones in "Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk"

Margaret Cho in "1776"

*NSYNC in "Beatlemania"

Patrick Stewart is "Funny Girl"

Dennis Miller in "Grease"

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