Allysa Dequino, it was her love for Broadway that led to her fascination with the city.— these are just some of the few things we immediately associate with when we think about the city of New York. For university student
She was first introduced to the world of theatre at the age of six, influenced by her elder sister who is a fan of Filipino music icon, Lea Salonga (of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and Disney's Aladdin and Mulan fame). At seven, she watched her first non-Broadway live stage show performance, Cinderella. At nine, her first Broadway musical experience — outside of Broadway — was actualised when the Hairspray musical was brought to Manila. Then, 11 years later, at 20 years old, Allysa caught her first Broadway musical "ON BROADWAY".
As someone who has dreamed of this destination since childhood, did Broadway — and New York — match up to her expectations?
Hello, New Yorkers
Expectation: "A lot told us that the people in New York are rude and obnoxious..."
Reality: "...but my sister and I experienced quite the opposite. I mean, we still got cat-called and one of the homeless people told us we were 'bitches for not giving money'. But otherwise, everyone was friendly and quite amiable."
The real Broadway
Expectation: "I've always wanted to go to Broadway and see the amazing world of theatre everywhere. Sure, here in the Philippines, we'd get a billboard or two. But on Broadway? It's everywhere. I want to finally walk on the place where my favourite actors and actresses had walked on. It would feel surreal to watch an actual Broadway show on Broadway where the productions are 'authentic'."
Reality: "Before I watched My Fair Lady on Broadway, I was excited to see Laura Benanti live —finally! —and saw my first actual Broadway show. I was already aware that the productions on Broadway are — and I say this bluntly — better than the productions in the Philippines (except for tours). So no, I didn't doubt that I would feel amazed.
My sister ended up watching 10 and I watched nine shows. Some of the highlights are:
Cher Show. My sister and I love Cher and Stephanie J. Block. So to find a musical about Cher played by SJB, well, needless to say, we were quite excited. I love the storyline and I love how intelligent the show is since it's a type of time-travel narrative. The three Cher's were amazing! Plus, it's fun that there are a lot of people in the LGBTQA+ community watching Cher show. When the blackout happened, everyone was saddened that the show is cancelled (although my sister and I managed to watch Cher the next day, a few hours before our flight). When we watched it, the Cher said, 'You bitches survived the New York blackout!' and everyone went wild!
Moulin Rouge. We watched the preview of Moulin Rouge and Karen Olivo (who plays Satine) is a friend of my sister's. The whole theatre was decorated as if it was the Moulin Rouge. Before the opening number, there were 'prostitutes' just dancing on the sides of the theatre. It was amazing! They incorporated new songs into the show by Lady Gaga, Adele — songs that weren't in the original film. Plus, we saw Patti Lupone — one of the iconic Broadway actresses ever — just a few seats in front of us!
And of course, we watched Wicked. I was looking forward to watching Hannah Corneau, but we got the understudy instead. She was good but not the Elphaba we were looking for. Of course, we loved the production. The whole theatre is wicked. But I have to say that the Elphaba we got was lacking. Since we watched Wicked three times in the Philippines, we felt like we were watching another one, and not a Broadway one since it wasn't Hannah Corneau. So, it felt like we didn't get the show we were hoping for."
The transport system
Expectation: "I've never encountered a train ride with the homeless in the Philippines. I was [also] told that taking the bus and the trains are easy..."
Reality: "...but I have to say that only the train is easy and the bus is hell. There are a lot of chances one might miss the bus stop. The train, though, I love the train. It's so easy to navigate. There was not a train ride my sister and I have been in that there were no homeless people asking for money. But then again, in New York, it's easy to get in without a card since there are no guards around."
Out in the streets
Expectation: "My aunt told us that New York is smelly and dirty."
Reality: "She was right — partly. There were places where everything is clean but then there are alleys where trash is thrown carelessly, and the smell of marijuana is present. I was shocked at the latter, mostly, because I've never encountered marijuana before. I was also surprised that New York is actually dirtier than the Philippines."
All the bright lights
Expectation: "With all the billboards and the city lights, we've always envisioned New York as a bright city."
Reality: "New York had a major blackout when we were there, and though it stopped us from watching Cher on time, we were having fun with how New York handles their blackout. A group of people wearing typical party clothes went out of their way to help with the traffic and that's some show of Bayanihan (communal helpfulness) that I got to witness in America. It was so cute! My sister and I walked home instead of taking the train and we managed to breathe in the feeling of 'well, we're not tourists anymore.'"
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