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Coming and Going: Hot Broadway Shows, WiFi on the Rails and More

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

BROADWAY OR BUST

The Tony-est Shows

Tonight, the Tony Awards will bestow honors on the best play, musical, revivals, actors, score, choreography, etc. In the mood for some theater and dance, CoGo hit up New York producer Ken Davenport, whose Broadway productions ("Blithe Spirit," "Speed-the-Plow" and "You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush") received four nominations, for suggestions on shows worth our time (two hours, plus intermission) and money (for discounts, see http://www.broadwayspace.com or http://www.bestofbroadway.com). In the category of Best Reason to Take the Train to NYC for a Night of Theater, his nominees are . . .

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-- "Billy Elliot, the Musical" (Imperial Theatre, 212-239-6200, http://www.billyelliotbroadway.com): "It's the smartest show and is masterfully put together," says Davenport, who praised its "beautiful design." While some critics say Elton John's score is not very Elton John, Davenport says the music "sounds like British miners singing," which, unlike "Bennie and the Jets," hews to the plot. In addition, "America loves an underdog, and when it's put in the shape of a 10-year-old boy . . . ."

-- "Next to Normal" (Booth Theatre, 212-239-6200, http://www.nexttonormal.com): Davenport calls this musical "challenging and very moving." It also features up-and-coming composer Tom Kitt; "You can say, 'I saw his first work.' " (Even better: Maybe you can say you already saw it, pre-Broadway, at Arena Stage last winter.) As for the subject matter: "It's a modern family with modern problems, but deeper and darker. Electrotherapy and depression are not things usually musicalized."

-- "Blithe Spirit" (Shubert Theatre, 800-432-7250, http://www.blitheonbroadway.com): This is Davenport's show, so he's a bit biased, but he points out, "You are seeing an 83-year-old legend," referring to Angela Lansbury, who is nominated for her role in "one of the greatest comedies ever written."

-- "Chicago" (Ambassador Theater, 212-239-6200, http://www.chicagothemusical.com): Calling it an "old chestnut," the producer says: " 'Chicago' has become an institution on Broadway. It's like the Empire State Building or the Met. Every visitor to New York should see it." He also notes that among the 10 longest-running shows on Broadway, "Chicago," which opened in 1996, is the only musical revival.

-- Off-Broadway: "Off-Broadway is like the independent film of the New York theater scene," Davenport explains. Among his favorites: "Stomp" (Orpheum Theater, 212-477-2477, http://www.stomponline.com), Blue Man Group (Astor Place Theatre, 800-982-2787, http://www.blueman.com) and "Fuerza Bruta" (Daryl Roth Theatre, 800-432-7250, http://www.fuerzabru tanyc.com).

DEPT. OF PROGRESS

Net Gains?

Okay, let's see if we've got this straight. You can get WiFi on a $20 bus traveling the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to New York, but you can't get it on Amtrak. Really?

For years, travelers have wondered why the nation's premier rail company couldn't provide wireless Internet service to its passengers, especially on Acela trains, which are heavily patronized by business travelers. Most national train services in Europe provide WiFi, as does Canada's Via Rail.

But hey, don't give up hope yet.

"Presently Amtrak is testing systems on the Acela express train, and we hope to have some results on that front soon," said Cliff Cole, spokesman for the rail line. "Our goal is to provide WiFi service," he confirmed, although no launch date has been announced.

For now, passengers can use T-Mobile service in the train stations, including Washington's Union Station and New York's Penn Station. Stay tuned to CoGo for updates.

WORLD OF VOLUNTEERING

Armchair Peace Corps

CoGo was once young and idealistic, harboring fantasies of living in an African hut or Mongolian yurt, teaching the villagers about water filtration systems, health care or basket weaving. But alas, CoGo could never get beyond the multi-page Peace Corps application. However, those who did and are in the midst (or start) of their two-year commitment are sharing their experiences online through the recently redesigned Peace Corps Journals, founded by Peace Corps alumni. The online diary/therapy session aggregates the personal blogs, photos and videos of thousands of volunteers in nearly 90 countries. About 150 writings and 200 images are posted each day. Here are some excerpts, to be enjoyed from the comforts of your La-Z-Boy chair, by the air- conditioning unit and flush toilet.


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