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

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 . . .

-- "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.

From Namibia: "The garden is to help provide an improved healthy diet for the ladies and their families. With HIV attacking the immune system, the improved diet helps the system to be a little stronger. It is amazing to be working side by side with these ladies. Despite their status, many are upbeat and actually pretty funny with their humor."

From Zambia: "Electricity has been very sketchy. It seems to go out at the most inopportune times. Like when we are about to put lasagna in the oven, sit down for dinner, watch a movie, or have a dance party. At which point someone calls the company and tells them that they are ruining our party."

From Fiji: "It has been almost two weeks and man what a long couple of weeks it has been! I have had three yaqona (kava) ceremonies, many, many meals with dalo, some time at the Vidividi board, and lots of heat rash on my arms!"

From South Africa: "Just in case anyone was wondering if I had gone off the deep end after those last few (horribly depressing) posts, I'M STILL HERE!!!"

For more tales from the Peace Corps, visit http://www.peacecorpsjournals.com.

TRAVEL TICKER

Make way for Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of a female hominid who was uncovered in Ethiopia and is coming to New York this summer. From June 24 to Oct. 25, "Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia" will be on display at the Discovery Times Square Exposition at 226 W. 44th St. The exhibit includes other fossils and Ethiopian artifacts. Info: http://www.discoverytsx.com/lucy.php . . . Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that during three weekends this summer, entrance fees will be waived at more than 100 national parks. The weekends are June 20-21, July 18-19 and Aug. 15-16. In addition, some parks are offering discounts on tours and promotions. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

South African Airways has sale fares from Washington Dulles to

Johannesburg. Round-trip fare for travel through June 30 and Aug. 11-Sept. 11 starts at $1,237, including $93 taxes; fare July 1-Aug. 10 is $1,522, including taxes. Other airlines are matching on some dates. Book by June 16. Info: 800-722-9675, http://www.flysaa.com.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs and Scott Vogel

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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