Sfoglina: Pasta Pasta Pasta House

Sfoglina Pasta HouseRESTAURANT:  Sfoglina Pasta House

ADDRESS: 4455 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

GENRE: Italian

AFFORDABILITY: Most entrees are in the mid-20s or more and the portion sizes are filling, but not huge.

PARKING: Paid street parking available and they will validate up to 2 hours in the nearby Colonial Parking Garage (4445 Connecticut Ave). Also a very short walk from the Van Ness metro station (Red Line).

VENUE: The restaurant has a very nice, cozy, upscale wooden interior that provides a nice intimate setting. However, it’s not too formal that it could serve as a great restaurant for a fancy meal or a nice lunch to catch up with friends.

GENERAL: We did not come in with a reservation but were seated quickly. Offered complimentary bread and our waters were refilled often. The food came out quickly as well – overall good service!

THE FOOD:  It’s a pasta house so a majority of the items are (shockingly) pasta, but there are some non-pasta items as well. Everything on the menu looked absolutely delicious. While portion sizes are not huge, it seemed that each entrée would be filling which was great. I was torn between ordering a couple of pastas, but I finally decided on the Neopolitan Macheroni (Pesto Genovese, Artichokes, witih Pine Nut Crumble).

I really did not know what kind of pasta to expect (I saw Macheroni and thought Kraft Mac’n’Cheese pasta size) and ended up with these large looped pieces that were great. The pieces might have almost been too large, but that also could have been me still recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction. The pasta was cooked the perfect amount and the pesto was delicious. The artichokes were nice and soft (but still had a firmness to maintain its shape) and did not have an overpowering flavor. The pine nut crumble added a nice crunch, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Part of that could have been due to my dental procedure, but the change in texture was still much appreciated from the overall softness of the dish.

I definitely would recommend it, and I hope to try some of the other pastas and seafood pastas they offer soon!

ACCOMODATIONS: A large array of vegetarian options available. Like surprisingly large array.

OVERALL: I was satisfied! It’s a fancy restaurant so definitely on the pricier side, and the portions won’t stuff you, but you won’t leave hungry. The quality is really high and it was a good meal. Everything look delicious on the menu that I really wish I could order it all. It’s definitely a cool restaurant with great vibes to try out and bring friends to.

Be sure to follow me on instagram @ananteaterblog or subscribe to the blog’s email updates! Check me out on yelp too!

Advertisements

Nick’s Riverside Grill: Dining on the Georgetown Waterfront

20180615_140225

RESTAURANT:  Nick’s Riverside Grill

ADDRESS: 3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 (On the Georgetown Waterfront next to the fountain)

GENRE: American – Seafood

AFFORDABILITY: More on the expensive side for the quality and quantity of food you receive, but that’s probably to be expected given that you are eating on the water in Georgetown. You are paying for the view.

PARKING: Limited street parking available not too far away, but there are plenty of parking garages. A little less than a mile from the closest metro station (Foggy Bottom – GWU).

VENUE: The main reason to eat at Nick’s is the Georgetown view that can’t be beat. Right on the Potomac River with views of the Kennedy Center and the Georgetown Fountain. There is quite a bit of outdoor seating and an outdoor bar. For those who don’t want to deal with the heat, there is also indoor seating and an indoor bar.

GENERAL: I came here for lunch and drinks with coworkers on a sunny June day, ready for a good time with great company. We had a group of over a dozen and did not come in with a reservation. Arriving in the early afternoon on a Friday, we did not expect to have too much trouble finding an outdoor table. There were plenty of open tables but it seemed to be a bit of a struggle for them to combine multiple tables to accommodate our group (we definitely needed to add another table to accommodate everyone and it came to the point where we were going to ask if we could move the table ourselves…) The Hostess and our Server, however, were both kind and service was good – no complaints there.

20180615_143728

View from the outdoor bar

After the meal, we moved to the outdoor bar area and the bartenders were great – social, conversational, and they made some quality drinks. The outdoor bar itself is a little bit closer to the fountain; you still get a great view of the water but it’s a little bit cooler with some shadier spots.

THE FOOD:  As far as appetizers go, we ordered the Chicken Wings, Charcuterie Board, Crispy Calamari, and the Chicken Nachos. The wings were a solid choice – crispy and flavorful and a decent portion. The Crispy Calamari was standard, fulfilling your deep-fried cravings. The Charcuterie Board was kind of disappointing. It just felt lacking in quantity for the price and tasted pretty average. The Chicken Nachos was this colossal dish of nachos with a ton of toppings. Honestly, it could have been a person’s meal. It was definitely delicious and a worthwhile appetizer.

There were several intriguing options to order from for my entrée. I was so tempted to try one of the Indian or Asian dishes; but I realized they would probably be subpar. I ended up ordering the Crab Cake Sandwich (I was by the water, the seafood had to be great, right?) I didn’t come in with high expectations, and was pleasantly surprised with how good the crab meat was. The sandwich itself was pretty great. I’m not a huge fan of coleslaw and the slaw that came with the sandwich did not convince me otherwise. The fries were super disappointing; among the worst I’ve had at a restaurant. Definitely frozen and they gave so many and they were just not tasty or filling. Another thing that disappointed me was that I think seven people at my table ordered the Crab Cake Sandwich and only about half of them came with the white dip/spread for the sandwich.  But overall, the crab meat was absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend ordering the crab cake sandwich or something with crab meat.

For drinks during the meal, I ordered a Ketel Crush and a Dark’n’Stormy. Both were solid cocktail choices. Later on at the bar, the bartenders did a great job of making a variety of drinks

ACCOMODATIONS: They have vegetarian options available.

OVERALL: To quote my coworkers paraphrasing me, “The view was good. The service was pretty good. And eh, the food was pretty good.” Jokes aside, I really did love the crab cake and the venue/bar facilitated a great time with a large group. And of course, the view was phenomenal. It definitely wasn’t the best meal overall, but for the view and experience with friends, Nick’s is definitely worth coming to!

Be sure to follow me on instagram @ananteaterblog or subscribe to the blog’s email updates! Check me out on yelp too!

Meokja Meokja: My New Favorite DC-area KBBQ

20180618_194733

RESTAURANT:  Meokja Meokja – Korean BBQ (“Let’s Eat”)

ADDRESS: 9619 Fairfax Blvd Fairfax, VA 22030

GENRE: Korean BBQ

AFFORDABILITY: This is a pretty tough question to answer for Korean BBQ – it really depends on how much you order and how many people there are. But for the amount of meat and sides my party ordered, Meokja Meokja is comparable to other KBBQ restaurants in the area. Meokja Meokja is in the style of Honey Pig in that it is not all-you-can-eat. However, they have really great deals on their combos.

PARKING: Limited parking in front of the restaurant, but plenty of parking in the lot behind the restaurant (in the bigger shopping complex). Note that Meokja Meokja is not in the bigger shopping complex!

20180618_192253

VENUE: The venue itself is a lot bigger from the inside than it looks from the outside. They have a cute little waiting area with booths, a fun sign, and mesmerizing TV display of futuristic traffic (It sound weird, but I could not stop staring), and a complimentary coffee machine.

20180618_192359

Mesmerizing never-ending traffic video

It was nice that it bright inside and the music was good and not too intense for the atmosphere.

GENERAL: I went with a group of friends who are very experienced with the KBBQ options in the area, from Iron Age to So to Honey Pig to Kogiya to several others. It was cool to find a quality place not in Centreville or Annandale.

The service was absolutely phenomenal! Hopefully it continues past their soft opening. David Y. was our server and he was great. Friendly, conversed with us, refilled our side dishes that we were demolishing quickly before we even asked, answered our questions, had perfect timing in beginning to cook more meat for us: he was just on the ball! The other servers and hosts were also extremely friendly. The service alone definitely was better than any other KBBQ restaurant I have been to, so I very much appreciated that. Reading other reviews, it seems like other people also agree that the service here is by far the best compared to any other KBBQ restaurant in the area.

20180618_194427

THE FOOD:  For four people we order the Large COMBO 2 and a Seafood Pancake.

20180618_193101

The water came out in a bottle that was really cool (almost thought it was complimentary alcohol). The cups were super small (could be bigger, because we were constantly refilling), but they were also kind of cool at the same time.

20180618_192614

The meal comes with Banchan which are Korean side dishes that are usually free at KBBQ joints. They vary per restaurant, but Meokja Meokja had a ton, which was awesome (makes you wish you had one of those spinning tables to keep passing them around). The Kimchi, Kale, and Mashed Potatoes were alright. A ton of onion, which was nice. I think the highlight for me was the radish and the other dipping sauce with the onions (not sure of the name), which I thought were extremely delicious. I think my biggest recommendation for them would be to provide everyone with the sesame oil, or at least one for each pair of people. I think that seems to be a more common practice at other restaurants (but they were super expedient in bringing out more for us and gave everyone that sauce with the onion).

Soybean Soup and Angry Egg are complimentary for orders over $30 and the Kimchi Pancake and Corn Cheese are complimentary with all COMBO orders. I didn’t really care much for the soup, but the Angry Egg was nice and fluffy, the Kimchi Pancake was solid, and the Corn Cheese was so good. They kept the cheese gooey by putting it on the stovetop and I couldn’t get enough. Some of my friends wished the corn was roasted, but I was fine with it the way it was.

The Seafood Pancake was really good. Compared to Honey Pig’s, it was crispier, had more veggies, and was less doughy. It was great; I think I liked Honey Pig’s more, but still very happy we ordered it (and it was super large and filling).

COMBO 2 was definitely a good decision. At first, we didn’t think it would be enough meat, but it definitely was.

gif 1

Meat!

The Galbi (Marinated Short Ribs) were some of the best I have had at a KBBQ place. It had a nice sweet and savory flavor and was just chewy enough. I could not recommend this meat enough and I really hope they keep getting the same high quality meat.

gif 2

MORE MEAT!!

The Bulgogi (Sliced Marinated Ribeye) was really nice – perfect amount of chewiness and had a great flavor.

gif 3

Meat again!!!

The Thick-Cut Unmarinated Pork Belly was fantastic – just fatty enough and nice and filling.

gif 4

So much meat!!!

And the Thin-Sliced Brisket – also nice and savory.

Again, I loved all the meat and the order they cooked them for us was perfect. The Galbi was by far my favorite, but the others were still really good too. My biggest fear is that like many of the KBBQ restaurants in the area, quality might go down over the years. But right now, the meat quality is really high and definitely worth every penny.

Almost wish they had some sweet ice cream or iced coffee to wash down everything afterwards. That would have been the cherry on top.

ACCOMODATIONS: Wheelchair friendly. Restrooms (nice quality ones, by the way) are not labeled as gender neutral, but there are two individual single-occupancy restrooms.

20180618_192643

OVERALL: Other than some minor food-related recommendations, the only area for improvement would be that because of the size of the tables I guess, occasionally a sizzling hot drop of water(?) would fly off the middle and briefly hit our arms. Could be the tables were too small, and it only happened a handful of times to me, but definitely a safety concern. In terms of safety though, they had all the safety sprinklers and everything above each stove top – that’s probably standard but for whatever reason I have never noticed that at any other KBBQ restaurant, so that was nice.

20180618_203339

safety!!!

So yeah, there were definitely some issues, but overall the experience was so great I can look past all the issues. The meat was phenomenal and hopefully the quality stays this high through the years. The service was expedient and friendly. I’ll definitely be back and I could not recommend trying this restaurant enough if you’re in for a KBBQ fix! My new favorite KBBQ in the area!

Be sure to follow me on instagram @ananteaterblog or subscribe to the blog’s email updates! Check me out on yelp too!

American Tandoor: The Indian-American Fusion Restaurant That Was Better Than I Expected

American TandoorRESTAURANT: American Tandoor

I want to preface this review by saying I am an extremely harsh critic of Indian restaurants given the fact that I can get any authentic Indian food made amazingly well at home and I’m often eating at these restaurants with those very chefs.

ADDRESS: Tysons Corner Center 1961 Chain Bridge Rd, Tysons, VA 22102 (2nd Floor next to entrance near Chipotle, McDonalds, Shilla, etc… They have some pretty heavy advertising in that section of the mall so you can’t miss it! Just don’t get it confused with the Indian Street Kitchen right outside of it)

GENRE: Indian (though I would say it’s an Indian and American fusion restaurant)

American Tandoor Venue

VENUE: The venue was very nice, with lots of traditional Indian décor and ample indoor and outdoor seating. Clearly a lot of effort went into it and it was elegant but not too formal. There was a view into the kitchen, which was also cool. The AC was blasting, but the warm Indian food quickly solved that problem!

GENERAL: Seating was quick and service was phenomenal. If you get a chance, definitely ask for Aly as your server, she was fantastic and my family very much enjoyed her energy and thoughtfulness. It was pretty busy for a late Sunday afternoon, which is always a good sign.

AFFORDABILITY: Although we ate at the same time as the Sunday brunch buffet, we opted not to go with the buffet option. $25 per person was a ridiculously high price for an Indian buffet (sorry, but Tysons Corner is not DC and I wasn’t willing to risk paying those prices), especially for an Indian restaurant that we had never tried before.

The entrees aren’t too expensive – mid-teens to $20. The quantity of food is appropriate. It’s pretty comparable to other Indian restaurants in Northern Virginia

American Tandoor Food

Food Spread

THE FOOD: We ordered the Chicken Tikka Naanwich, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Chops, and two orders of Traditional Naan. Our server implied that many guests order Naans as breads to be eaten before the meal, but we made sure to request it to be brought out with the meal to eat with the Chicken dish. Kudos to the server for checking with us as to when we wanted it.

American Tandoor Chicken Naanwich

Chicken Tikka Naanwich

The Chicken Tikka Naanwich (clever name!) was essentially a marinated chicken wrap in naan with masala aioli. It was honestly really good and I think it is probably one of their more popular dishes. It was simple, and really not too difficult to recreate at home. I will admit the masala aioli was kind of flavorless and very much overpowered by the marinated chicken, but it added a nice moistness to the naan. The fries that came with out were above-average as far as restaurant fries go. It came with an “Indian Ketchup” which was a tamarind-based ketchup that was very sweet with a spicy after taste. Tasted good and was especially useful as a dip for the Naanwich (again, the aioli didn’t really add much flavor and the chicken wasn’t with a curry in the naan so it was a bit on the dry side). It was a simple Indian-American fusion item (almost to the point that I almost wish I ordered something I bit more complex), but it was filling and delicious. Definitely something I would recommend!

American Tandoor Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

The Chicken Tikka Masala… was good. But it was most certainly not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala. Just a curry chicken. It was a good quantity to share between multiple people and tasted decent. The chicken were breast pieces that were a great size and not overcooked – being a chicken thigh fan myself, it was great to find an Indian restaurant that cooks breasts the right amount and cuts them to the right size. I don’t think there were any major complaints from my family – a good chicken curry dish, just not an authentic Chicken Tikka Masala… (which is a common problem with many Indian restaurants in the area).

American Tandoor Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops

We ordered the Lamb Chops well done. They were good and had a really nice Dijon sauce with it. The quantity was a bit small, but it came with two sides so we ordered Cumin Potatoes and Dal Makhani. The Dal Makhani was really nice (soupy with a great lentil flavor). The Cumin Potatoes, as our server suggested it would, tasted like home-style fries. It was not spicy which was exactly what we were looking for. Overall happy with this dish.

American Tandoor Dal Makhani and Cumin Potatoes

Dal (Lentil) Makhani left and Cumin Potatoes right

ACCOMODATIONS: They have vegetarian options available. They are also able to control spice levels for many of their dishes.

American Tandoor Fries

Fries with Sweet-Spicy Indian Tamarind Ketchup

OVERALL: Honestly we were satisfied. The three entrees we ordered were filling for four people. I’m a pretty harsh critic of Indian restaurants, but the venue was really nice, the service was phenomenal (ask for Aly!), and it was reasonably priced with good food. I also appreciated the amount of effort they put into presentation – some of the food items seemed to have some more traditional presentations that take more effort, and I definitely noticed that. This is definitely one of the few Indian restaurants I would feel comfortable bringing back my friends to (both Indian and non-Indian).

Be sure to follow me on instagram @ananteaterblog or subscribe to the blog’s email updates! Check me out on yelp too!

Girlfriend: The Feel-good Musical “I’ve Been Waiting” For

20180616_195500

MUSICAL: Girlfriend

WHERE: Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA)

Girlfriend is a summer love story set in 1993 Nebraska in which the high-school jock takes an interest in the school’s gay kid in the final days of high school and the summer after graduation. A two-man show, the musical takes us back to our high-school days of nervously talking to our crushes, the awkwardness from the first (and second and third…) date, and all the emotions that go along with falling in love.

In a time with movies like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon and plays like Angels in America, The Boys in the Band, and Afterglow on-and-off-Broadway, Girlfriend plays an important role in showcasing the LGBTQ+ experience. Topics such as homophobia and coming out are referenced and acted out throughout the musical. However, none of the complexity of the topics are thoroughly discussed. I was initially confused as to why this is – there were multiple moments in the show to really drive home a deep topic through emotional conversation. However, I soon realized that just by alluding to and showcasing the characters’ reactions to the homophobia they face and the complexity of the coming out process, there is a beauty in the lack of complication in the show.

Given all of this, the show is extremely relatable for all audience members, regardless of their sexual orientation. And that’s another reason the show is powerful. We have all had crushes. We have all felt like we have not belonged. We all have experienced lows after feeling great highs. There is really something for everyone in this show to grab onto and connect to.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: Jimmy Mavrikes stars as the fabulously awkward Will – a boy constantly bullied for being queer who is still trying to figure out what he is going to do with his life. Lukas James Miller stars as Mike, the handsome high-school jock going to college in the Fall who faces pressure from his Dad to follow a certain career and spend time with his girlfriend.

The chemistry between Mavrikes and Miller is amazing. During the musical numbers, their energy was infectious. During the relatable date scenes, the two expertly created awkwardness that was palpable. Mavrikes provided excellent comic relief throughout the show while updating the audience of Will’s thoguhts and expertly shows the roller coaster of emotions Will rides throughout the show. Miller does a great job showing the progression of Mike becoming more and more comfortable with his sexuality and gracefully balanced being both the humorous pursuer of Will and the strong-alpha that his friends and family expect him to be.

THE MUSIC:   The show features 10 songs from musician Matthew Sweet’s 1991 album Girlfriend. The arrangements for the songs are genius – they are fun and lively and the harmonies between Mavrikes and Miller are spectacular. The friend I saw the show with put it best when she said that “each successive song became my new favorite one” and I couldn’t agree more. “I’ve Been Waiting” and “Looking at the Sun” were the two songs that stood out to me, but all of the tunes were super catchy. I went home that night wishing there was a recording of Mavrikes and Miller singing so I could jam out to those awesome harmonies again and again (fortunately I could still listen to Sweet’s version of those songs on his original album!)

A cool dimension of the show was that the four-person all-female band played behind an orange glass behind the stage, visible to the audience the entire time. It felt like they were in a recording studio, providing the music and backup vocals to complement Mavrikes and Miller. The band sounded amazing, and it was great to not only see them rock out during the songs, but also react to what was occurring on stage. They were just as invested in the story as the audience was.

OVERALL: Girlfriend wasn’t the show I thought I was going to watch. It wasn’t the heavy 90s rock musical I expected, but there was so much beauty in its straight-forward message. It was insanely relatable and although not a complicated story, there was much to process, think about, and discuss after the show – this all just added to the power of the story. The music was a real jam and actors were extremely talented. My only regret is that I wish I saw it before its closing weekend so I could bring more friends to watch it again!

P.S. Shows at the Signature Theatre in Arlington are great – awesome venue in a great location (Shirlington) and there are $25 student tickets.

Bright Star Tour Review: My Trip to North Carolina, Literally

Bright Star Playbill

MUSICAL: Bright Star (First US National Tour). Ticket info here. Student tickets may be available!

WHERE: Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, NC (At Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX June 12th-24th and Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC June 26th-July 1st).

Bright Star is a musical set in the 1920s and 1940s by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell inspired by their 2013 album (a song in which won a Grammy!). It follows the story of a young soldier returning home from WWII, his interactions with the editor of a literary magazine, and the unearthing of a life-altering truth.

I enjoy Bluegrass music, but I have to be completely honest that when Bright Star was on Broadway, watching a bluegrass musical wasn’t at the top of my list (I had my doubts about a bluegrass musical). But when the opportunity arrived for me to go down to North Carolina to see this musical set in North Carolina, I jumped on it, and I am so glad that I did. The music was phenomenal and the story was moving (inspired by the true story of a baby who fell from a train in 1902).

One of my favorite parts of the show was how as the story unfolds on the stage in the 1920s and 1940s, you can see ensemble members in the background and sides of the stage watching it happen, as if they are also watching a story being told. It was powerful and just a really cool dimension to add to the show.

20180421_132351

THE CHARACTERS and CAST:  Lead actress Audrey Cardwell does an insanely great job as Alice Murphy. Not only does she play both a convincing teenager and middle-aged adult, but also she remains full of energy and emotion on stage for almost the entire show. Patrick Cummings plays Jimmy Ray Dobbs and transitions back and forth between playing a 20-something-year-old Dobbs and a 40-something-year-old Dobbs with finesse. Henry Gottfried plays Billy Cane with much gusto and charisma. Jeff Blumenkrantz continues from Broadway his role as Daryl Ames and provides the audience with numerous moments of comedy and great chemistry with Kaitlyn Davidson who expertly plays Lucy Grant. The rest of the cast was also amazingly talented.

THE MUSIC: Mainstream America doesn’t know Steve Martin for his music, but they should. The music is catchy, moving (emotionally, but also some of it will quite literally get you moving on your feet) (I advise you to resist the urge to actually stand up and start dancing in the middle of the show, however), and the harmonies are great.

One of my favorite songs was “Asheville”. Insanely catchy tune with an emotional performance by Liana Hunt that will have you thinking of your one that got away.

Henry Gottfried gave a vocally strong performance in “Bright Star”, another catchy tune from the musical. The choreography of the song with its many moving elements was especially impressive. Gottfried’s drunk and fun dancing in “Another Round” was also a highlight.

Speaking of “Another Round”, Kaitlyn Davidson and Jeff Blumenkrantz deserve several rounds for how fun they performed that song. It’s another tune that you’ll be singing for days!

One thing that I absolutely loved in the show were the southern accents the characters used. But Patrick Cummings especially knocked it out of the park (accent, vocals, and all) in “Whoa, Mama”.

My favorite songs of Audrey Cardwell were during the over-energetic teenager she embodied in “Firmer Hand/Do Right” and the raw emotion that brought me to tears in “Please, Don’t Take Him”. “So Familiar” was another song that was catchy and gave the audience a lot of hope and excitement.

The “Entr’acte” was also especially catchy and a fun start to Act II. An extremely talented band.

I think you’re starting to get the idea that I really loved a lot of the songs. They all told a great story and I’m still listening to the recordings of the songs to this day (if only there were a recording of the tour cast singing the songs too!

20180421_133909

View of the moving set and stage from my seat!

THE SET and COSTUMES: Another really cool aspect of the show was the set. The band was on stage throughout the show in a moving wooden house. Throughout the show the house would move around with the band in it (while they were playing music) as it served different purposes as a set piece on stage. It was something I had never seen on stage before and it added yet another cool dimension to the show.

Another notable moment was during “A Man’s Gotta Do (Reprise)” when the ensemble put down train seats to beat of train tracks, making it sound like a real train was going through the stage. It was a really cool aural effect that when you realize what’s happening, you’re just like “whoaaaaaaah”.

Oh, and the mini train across the top of the stage was definitely super cute.

Henry Gottfried

OVERALL: So sad this show is no longer on Broadway, but thankful for the tour and the opportunity to see this bluegrass musical. Go and see it while you can. The set is really cool, the cast is incredibly talented, the music is super catchy – you definitely won’t regret it!

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Review: Corporate Life Here I Come!

MUSICAL: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Tickets available on the Kennedy Center website and discounted tickets may be available on TodayTix

WHERE: Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center (as part of Broadway Center Stage)

Being a business student myself on the job hunt, no show could be more aptly timed than this one. And I will say, it definitely has prepared me to climb the corporate ladder (and taught me that advertising may not be the best route for me, unless of course, I want to do some trying).

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical that first opened in 1961 winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical. It’s been on tours since and has had two revivals, most recently in 2011 starring Danielle Radcliffe in the lead role.

For me, watching this show was especially exciting because it was the first professional production I have seen of show that was not written in the 21st century. And I was definitely glad I bought tickets. The show was hilarious and what was fascinating to me was how relevant the themes in the show still are today. Director Marc Bruni put it best when he discussed in the playbill how usually there is difficulty in revivals from that age of musical comedy because “contemporary sensibilities clash with worldviews from a times of different sexual politics”. The show “both identifies sexual harassment as a common workplace occurrence and offers real consequences for transgressors: ‘they fired him like a shot/The day the fellow forgot/A secretary is not a toy.’ Even now, in a world with daily #MeToo revelations, it’s still clear not everyone is subject to the same rule.” Moreover, the show explores climbing the ladder in many different ways (from a businessman’s point of view to a secretary’s point of view), which I think makes the story especially powerful for the audience.

Even more interesting were the audience responses to the lines about the inefficiency of congress or how the President of the US should watch out for his job. While not necessarily meant to be as funny in the mid-20th century, given our current political climate (and a likely more politically conscious DC audience), there were large uproars of cheers and applause after the lines.

THE MUSIC:  The music was insanely catchy and had harmonies and memorable tunes that you would expect from a Tony-winning 20th century musical. Equally exciting was the 17-piece orchestra, which is uncommon even on Broadway. Personally, my favorite songs from the show were “Paris Original”, “Coffee Break”, and “Been a Long Day” – filled with humor and catchy beats that I’ve been humming over and over again. The other songs, however, were all really good and the “Brotherhood of Man” was especially spectacular – an amazing high-energy way to (almost) end the show.

THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was spectacular! For me, Michael Urie as the villain Bud Frump stole the show. The voice he chose and the mannerisms he used were hysterical, entertaining, and extremely effective in portraying the character. His mic stopped working for a few minutes and he improvised with finesse, holding a physical/traditional mic for a scene of the show. After the show, Becki Newton was telling us how this was her first stage performance and how she had never done anything like this before – no one could even tell, she was wonderful as Hedy LaRue. John Michael Higgins was hilarious as J.B. Biggley. Skylar Austin played the part of the corporate-ladder-climbing protagonist J. Pierrepont Finch extremely well and Betsy Wolfe was phenomenal as Rosemary (funny and killing the vocals). Sean Bell also stood out to me as extremely funny in his character.

The standout vocalist to me was Nova Y. Payton who absolutely brought the house down in “Brotherhood of Man”.

Watching this show was also a col experience for me because this was the first show in which I had seen some of the performers in other shows – It was awesome to see Kaitlyn Davidson (Bright Star Tour) and Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) again!

IMG_20180607_114055_957

THE SET and COSTUMES: I really appreciated a few things about the set. First was the screen in the background, the created a really cool effect when the characters went up and down the elevator. The executive washroom in “I Believe in You” was staged extremely well and it was a very cool setup in how the bathroom mirrors were created on stage. Also, I especially appreciated how the orchestra was visible to the audience and how the actors had the opportunity to interact with the orchestra at certain times.

The set and costume choices made me feel like I was in the 1960s, but it wasn’t drab or boring at all.

STAGE-DOORING: It was crazy to me how much more popular stage dooring at DC shows has become in recent years. The Eisenhower Stage Door is on the right side of the building (when facing the main entrance) on the side closest to the Watergate Hotel. There were really no organized lines and it became more of a mob around the actors, which was probably a bit crazy and overwhelming (for both actors and fans alike).

The cast was incredibly gracious and kind – they had to have been exhausted from rehearsals and long recent days in tech. But they were conversing with fans and extremely friendly and that was very kind of them. I had several great conversations with the performers that were all much appreciated.

OVERALL: Going through the job hunt, this show was a funny way to think about how I may “climb the corporate ladder” myself. I think every student who is on the job hunt or may be soon can definitely appreciate the show. How to Succeed is funny and the cast is extremely talented. The songs are super catchy. And of course, it’s always great to see some of your favorite Broadway and Television stars on the stage. If you’re in the DC area over the next few days, I could not recommend watching this interpretation of a musical classic enough. It’s at the Kennedy Center through June 10th!

20180606_194945

View from Kennedy Center Plaza the night of the show