Saturday, 10 June 2017

The (poor student's) Guide to Broadway shows in New York City

Those who know me well are aware that I'm a HUGE fan of Broadway shows. I relish sitting in the theatre and listening to these amazing performers sing their heart out — especially since music has always been a part of my life. As a result, I think I've spent a neat $500+ on Broadway shows in this one year alone.

The cast of Anastasia, June 2017

I don't claim to be an expert at all — just a poor exchange student in NYC trying to watch as much as I can... especially before I head back to Singapore. (Seriously doubt I'll be back in the US anytime soon)

So yes, I've had quite a few people asking me questions about which shows are the best to catch within a limited time, and how I can afford to watch so many despite living on such a meagre income here. Here are all the answers!

____________________



1) Where do you find cheap Broadway tickets?

Good seats for Broadway shows can come up to $200 for the big name ones, and $100 for the less famous. Just for reference, I have been paying an average of $40+ for my tickets, with seats ranging from the front rows in the Orchestra section, to back rows of the Mezzanine area or standing tickets.

Seating chart that's typical of Broadway theatres in New York, in case you catch no ball

After watching so many shows, I've come to realise that being able to look at the actors up close, along with their expressions, really adds to the whole Broadway experience as compared to when I'm watching ants waving their feelers around from the very last row. It's all up to personal preference though — the singing and plot's just as good no matter where you are seated.

There are a few ways you can get cheap tickets, depending on when and how long you will be in the city for (for example, if you'll only be here for a couple of days, you obviously won't win your tickets in the daily lottery).

a. Broadway Week
Sometimes, seemingly randomly, Broadway show producers all band together and offer a 2-for-1 deal for tickets. I tried doing some googling, but there doesn't seem to be fixed dates every year — you'll just have to do a search yourself when you're coming over to New York.

I watched three shows: Wicked, Matilda and Phantom of the Opera and got good Orchestra seats at around $90 each. Yes, they are quite pricey if you're a student, so I don't particularly recommend this method, but it's a good way to get close-to-front seats for the bigger shows at a discounted price if you happen to be in town. (Ironically, Broadway "week" always lasts for more than a week.)

b. Broadwayforbrokepeople.com
This is my FAVOURITE site of all time. All time!

Basically, most Broadway shows have something called a digital lottery, which gives a lucky winner the chance to buy a pair of tickets at super cheap prices. They pick only one person a day, so by that virtue, only people staying in NYC for extended periods of time have a chance at winning. (If you're only here for a week, don't bother.)

I say this because me and my friends have only managed to win tickets after applying at these lotteries consistently (read: every single day) for a few months. Yes, we set daily reminders to enter these lotteries. Meanwhile, all my visiting friends have tried applying for a few days and haven't had any luck. Maybe it's a simple case of probabilities, but we truly believe that they have some algorithm behind the selection, so just putting your name in for a couple of days won't work at all.

Shows watched with this method: Hamilton (yes, at $10), Wicked, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera (sold them at a profit), Aladdin. It's a good mix of wins by me and my friend, Ben.

c. Rush tickets
Some Broadway shows don't have lotteries, but instead have rush tickets — last minute tickets which nobody wants to buy. If you head to the box office, they'll sell you tickets for the same day, either at the last row of the mezzanine section, or standing row tickets. Fair warning though, standing row tickets are SUPER popular and sell out real fast, so you have to be there early to queue.

Rush ticket shows I watched: Jersey Boys, Book of Mormon ($27 for standing row), Waitress ($49 for last row).

d. TKTS Booth in Times Square (...no)
Throughout my time here (about 1 year), I have never gone to the TKTS booth to get my Broadway tickets.

Why? Because even though they claim to give half-price discounts, my friends who bought their tickets have consistently been paying upwards of $90. There are a couple of good shows that you can catch at half that price, even if you are only in town for a night or so. Contrary to popular belief, Wicked isn't the only great show in town — go for Waitress, Miss Saigon, or something with rush tickets.

____________________


2) Which shows should I watch?

Now, I have to say that this is very subjective — what I like may not be your cup of tea, and vice versa. Take my rankings with a pinch of salt, and know that to me, it's all about the music, singing and childhood-factor (the sob-story factor, if you will).

Also, I would totally recommend reading the sypnosis for the show before heading down — it's very helpful for understanding what's going on because sometimes, the plot moves a little fast with the need to condense the whole story into 2 hours.

Here are the summarized answers; skip to the bottom for my thoughts on each show.

a) If you have no time and no money:

Watch Waitress — get rush tickets from the box office on the day of the performance itself.
If it's not available, try Miss Saigon (haven't watched it, but heard it's good).*

*Do NOT buy tickets online, they charge a hefty service fee.

b) If you have no time but have money:

Watch Wicked — it's a classic and embodies all the qualities of a good Broadway show.

c) If you have lots of time and money:

Apply for digital lottery and/or watch the top five shows of the list below...




Despite how ridiculous the photo above looks, it was pretty cool in real life. I watched this from almost the last row, and despite not being able to see the lions' faces clearly, loved it all the same.

The biggest reason why this is my favourite show so far is mainly because the Lion King cartoon is a huge part of my childhood, and I remember every single song like it was yesterday. The storyline, needless to say, made me cry and from the sniffling I heard beside me, I'd say many others were into it as much as I was too. Maybe it's something about parental love that gets us all emotional.

Despite ranking at the top of my list, I wouldn't say the singing stood out particularly — it honestly wasn't anything noteworthy. Although it was one of the most memorable shows for me, some might find it childish (you snob!) and it's pretty hard to get cheap tickets for. I certainly wouldn't recommend it as the introductory Broadway experience for noobs.

#2 Wicked


Before I caught this show, I had no idea the story of Elphaba even existed (don't pretend like you did, you snob!). This was the first ever Broadway show I caught in New York, and arguably one of the most famous among the 'new generation' titles — and for good reason. The acting, comedic timing, singing, storyline was a great introduction to the Broadway scene for me.

Not to be a downer, but when I watched the show for a second time seated further back in the Orchestra section, it just wasn't super appealing to me anymore. This could be a combination of reasons: 1. watching a show for the second time is just a bad idea, and 2. you can't really see their expressions from too far back, which diminishes the strength of the emotions that they are portraying, and 3. the person you watch with. HAHA the first time I watched it with Xinyee, my friend who has produces very good reactions and appreciates the little details in Broadway shows, while the second time with Ben who isn't easily impressed about these things.

So yes, I'd say it's above average in all the areas I can think of, and you would be suitably impressed if you catch this as your first Broadway show.



Straight up, I'll say that the plot isn't fantastic. It's a very... basic, sob story type about being strong throughout the ups and downs of life, and can be inspiring to er, some people (I suppose).

However, the lead singer — WOW. Jessie Mueller is out of this world. She sounds like a freaking angel, and was able to channel the emotions of her character so effectively that I teared simply from listening to her sing. I would go as far to say that being able to hear her sing live is a privilege and a steal at $49, and NO I am not being a drama mama about it. Waitress is a must watch, if just to catch her phenomenal singing.



I know, I know — this is an immensely popular show, and it's super hard to even get tickets to watch it. They're always booked months ahead, and normal tickets cost up to $300+.

So why'd I rank this so (relatively) low? Two main reasons: firstly, I don't know much of American history, so even though I read the sypnosis, the plot didn't mean much to me at all. It was cool seeing the producer's interpretation of how characters acted at that point in history, but it felt kind of "oh, okay" to me (compared to the other Broadway shows). Secondly, nearly the whole show was done in rap, and even though it was very unique, it just wasn't my thing — no chills, no wows from vocal runs. Just "oh, cool".

It's a great show, and I enjoyed it, but it's just not worth the hype for non-Americans. If you can get tickets priced at $10 from the digital lottery, I would say go for it, but otherwise, don't bother.



This was the most recent show that I watched and yes, it's another childhood favourite of mine! Unfortunately, I can't attest to the accuracy of the story because I can't remember much of the cartoon, but I'd say while it tries to stay true, there are some nuanced parts they left out to cram everything in.

Right up front, I would say that the female lead was the best singer out of everyone in the cast. The rest were good, but nothing particularly groundbreaking. The first act was reaaaallllyyyy boring, especially when the guys took the stage, but the second — oh wow, the second. I loved every single moment of it! There was both laughter and tears and the older performers really stepped up to bring it to another level. Overall, I would say it's definitely worth a watch.

Of course, it helps that the main guy lead is pretty cute haha.



I really liked this show because it was a throwback of all the songs by Frankie Valli and The 4 Seasons. I went in not expecting anything — imagine my surprise when they started singing Sherry! All the nostalgia just welled up in me at that moment and I was soooo happy.

Unfortunately, my friends who watched the show too didn't like it as much, mostly because of the plot, I guess. I personally liked watching the story of how they got together and got quite a few laughs out of it, plus think that it's really cool that the original members are contributing to the musical, but if you're not a musically inclined person I don't think you'd appreciate it very much.

As of now, Jersey Boys is no longer showing in NYC, but I'm sure they'll make a comeback someday and recommend people who like old school music to watch it when it does - it'll be a treat.



Went for a standing row ticket because it was unbelievably cheap, so I stood in minor discomfort throughout the 2 hours or so. (Still worth it.) Even then, it didn't detract from how hilarious the show was, which was a given seeing that it was produced by the creators of South Park.

The low ranking isn't indicative of how good it was, just that I much preferred the others over this. It's an all-around belly laugh kind of comedy show, but there isn't much in terms of meaningful plot, which is something I really like in Broadway shows. Don't watch this if you're looking for a tearjerker, but do watch it if you're in tears and are looking for a pick-me-up. Ha.

#8 Matilda


Personally, although it had a nice storyline (I mean, it's Roald Dahl), Matilda felt a little too childish for my liking. It was obvious that the show was geared towards kids, and even the singing seemed a bit too Hi5-esque for me.

I don't mean to blast it, like I said, it would definitely be a good show if you went with your five year old kid. The cast, as usual, was impeccable with their acting and singing, and there was a good amount of humour injected throughout, but that's about where the appeal ends (to me).

#9 Aladdin


Gosh. This was THE ultimate disappointment out of all the shows I have watched — I had relatively high expectations because it was one of my favourite childhood stories, and... how can you screw up something like that, right?

I personally felt that everything, from the singing to the set, was subpar and didn't have that awww or wow or boohoo factor at all. Sure, there were a few laughs here and there because the genie was pretty funny and interacted with the audience a little, but everything felt a bit meh at best. At worst, I don't even feel like it was worth my thirty bucks.



I'm going to be totally honest, I only hate POTO because I couldn't understand what they were saying at all. Naturally, as in the title, they sang in opera mode, but even the normal talking scenes were done an opera tone which made for 99% garbled articulation.

My english isn't poor, but sometimes, I do struggle to catch nuances when listening to caucasians talk — especially if they have a strong accent. However, this wasn't a problem at all with the eight shows above, so I'd like to think the problem isn't me.

I paid $90+ to watch this, so imagine how pissed I was when I fell asleep during the show. Haha. I must say that the set was very grand, with the falling chandelier and boat on a lake, but it wasn't my cup of tea at all. In fact, it reminded me of the opera show I caught at the Met lol.

____________________


Hope this brief guide is helpful to whoever's visiting New York, be it for a long or short period of time. I really love Broadway shows and hope you will be as inspired by the performers as I always am. Feel free to shoot me your questions at keniteh@gmail.com!

Ciao! :)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

2016

Wow, it's been 7 months since I last posted in this space. Time really disappears.

By the Schuylkill River, Philadephia.

What did I do in 2016?

Honestly, I'm not sure. Traditionally, I would come up with a list of what I've accomplished the previous year and talk about what I gained from it.

But the it seems as if the whole year has been consumed by this program I'm on, called NOC (short for NUS Overseas Colleges). From applying, going to interviews, working night shifts to earn enough cash, flying over and starting at my internship - it started in the beginning of 2016 and it's spilling into the following year.

It certainly was an experience. It still is, definitely. I have learnt a whole array of things - both in terms of technical skills, and also about myself.

But deep down, I know what's the single, most important lesson that I gained this year. Sure, it doesn't invalidate all that I've done for the past year. But it has certainly cast a shadow on my journey.


My support system - my friends and family - are so important to me. All these new experiences surmounted to nothing, nothing when I was having a hard time and didn't have people I love and trust right by my side.

So here's to (belatedly) welcoming the new year with gratefulness to my friends and parents who Skyped me, listened to me, and kept me sane. Life hasn't been easy. But at least I'm still sane enough to get through the next couple of months.

Ciao.

Friday, 12 August 2016

T-2 to New York

Currently in hall right now, after a night of laughter with the Acers and talking with Pris on her bed for forever hahah. It feels really melancholic right now because I know it's one of the last times I'll be seeing these faces for a year. And *touch wood* maybe forever.

(We gotta acknowledge that possibility eh?)

Honestly, I'm scared to leave this familiarity and cocoon of warmth in Singapore. Even though I can foresee myself being okay, it still feels a little crazy still, being so far away from everything I've known my whole life.

Gotta brace myself for a brand new adventure in two days.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Module Review: 2015/2016 Semester 2

End of a semester is here, so review on new modules! Hooray!!

Despite the upbeat note I'm starting this post on, I didn't cope too well this time round - so the happiness is solely because of relief that I didn't do as bad as I expected. I guess I should just be grateful haha. Here's a warning to everyone that yes, you need to make time for yourself to study even throughout the semester. I actually failed two mid terms this time round (because a packed schedule during recess week) and was soooo scared of failing I studied extra hard for finals.

Lesson learnt.

Ok enough preaching, let's get started!
_________________________________

NUS BBA Year 2

FIN2004 Finance; B
With 30% of the grade attributed to class participation, sectionals were a nightmare for me. Although the concepts were interesting and relevant, and the professor was really nice, I just didn't enjoy lessons at all. Most of the time I was just worrying about what questions to ask when we were taught such basic concepts. You can try preparing beforehand about how real life examples and theories tie in to the things you're going to learn, but that's gonna take some consistent work and time lol (which obviously I can't do).

The only tip I have to score better in this module is just to be shameless and ask about anything if you have to rack up some marks. Don't worry about looking stupid, because if you're scared about how others look at you, you lose out - and that's a life lesson in itself too.

For exams, the content is pretty much similar to other math modules. Practice, make sure you understand the theory and you'll do fine. The reason why I failed my midterms (12/30) was because I rushed through each chapter in an hour, without trying out the tutorials at all. So ensure that you have enough time to study!

MNO2009 Entrepreneurship; B

This module is pretty similar to how a case competition or startup module would be conducted - find group, come up with business idea, flesh it out using the BMC and present your business. Cut and paste. In terms of actual techniques, it's not gonna give you much experience - though I wouldn't know about the theory, because I tried going to the one and only 8am lecture and walked out thirty minutes later.

Make sure you start early for the project because it takes up a big percentage. Try to be creative with your presentation (come up with videos, make prototypes etc.) because the competition is CUT THROAT. The weekly tutorials require regular readings but it can be done quickly. Overall, it's pretty much a hit and miss, you don't have much time to come up with a good business idea - maybe a couple of weeks - so if your group sucks at thinking of ideas, say goodbye to the big A.

DSC3203 Service Operations Management; A

Err honestly this module is quite fluffy, though there were a few concepts of note in there. You'll learn about things like yield management, identifying failure points in the service process etc. In general, it was quite chill and I would say even the projects were an enjoyable experience.

My advice would be to compare answers for tutorials to make sure you maximise the points you're gonna get (don't leave it to chance, that's for the project lol). Huge thank you to my friends for helping me out cause I was so lost in the middle of the semester. For the learning journals, make sure you follow the instructions to a T. If prof uploads a list of questions, think of possible and relevant answers and include them in your journals.


BSP2001 Macro and International Economics; B-
WHAT CAN I SAY. Did so badly for this module, scoring 19/40 for midterms. I just felt so lost throughout the semester! It's a miracle I even managed to pass it, because I was just as confused during the final paper. I guess everyone else was just as lost LOL. It's not that the concepts are hard - they're understandable, but I've never been good at applying them and linking macroeconomic theories to the end results. 

Almost cried with relief when I saw my grade, so nope, no useful tips here... Project groupmates are by luck... Your grades are also by luck... All the best.


(Just mug like everyone else, maybe you'll pass)


SSS1207 Natural Heritage of Singapore; B-

Best module in the whole of NUS. I swear. It's interesting and minimal effort if you're looking to SU it. I attended a grand total of 2 or 3 lectures, reading the textbook only a day before both exams and did well enough to exercise my SU option. Open book MCQ papers, with a single poster design project that's 25%. Better find good groupmates who can take nice wildlife photos.

Though I didn't go for lectures, I still managed to learn about Singapore's native species and greenery. Who knew that the thick foliage in Kent Ridge was a secondary forest? Heh. The only drawback is that if you want to scrape an A, you probably have to be pretty immersed in these stuff and actually know what animals can be found in what type of habitat, and blah blah. The bell curve is pretty much impossible to beat because everyone has the same materials during the exams.



_________________________________

CAP this semester is  3.6 , with an overall of 4.06 after taking away my natural heritage grade.

Also, I've been accused of showing off my grades online. All I can say is, if you're here to refer to my notes, and have the gall to mock me in my face, then please... check out the irony in what you're doing. I only want to help because I was once the clueless undergraduate searching for reviews online (in fact, that's me every semester). So I would really appreciate if you keep your thoughts to yourself and present me with a polite thank you.

Once again, feel free to email me with questions. Ciao :)

Monday, 30 May 2016

NOC New York (Jul 2016)

Haven't been updating for a long, long time and just wanna put this new phase of my life on record. I'm now enrolled into the NUS Overseas Colleges program and will be flying over end July/early August, doing an internship and studying part time for a whole year. Both components will be graded of course, and I'll be working on a separate start-up project as part of a module too.

NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering
How do I feel about it? Honestly, this development wasn't what I started out with in mind. I'm sure I've told some of my closer friends that I was intending to enroll in the Singaporean version (called iLead), then graduate and work in a startup without going on exchange. Why the huge change then? I do recognise that this is a great opportunity, not just to further my skills in terms of work, but to interact with foreigners and learn how to thrive in a distant country. So I'm glad I have this chance to work in the US... but still pretty nervous taking such a huge step out of my comfort zone.

Right now, I've already been placed in a company and am waiting for my visa application to get through. I had some doubts initially - whether this is the right way to go, or whether I'd be wasting my time for a full year - but sometimes in life, you can't really plan for everything. I've made up my mind to go with the flow, make the most out of things. Well, I have been pretty lucky so far and I think everything will turn out ok in the end.

Here's to a new path, new direction and new experiences in my life. Cheers.

"The most successful people set a goal for themselves, and never stop trying to achieve it" - Daniel haha
"You have to want success as much as you want to breathe" - Some random fb vid

Ciao. :)

Monday, 14 March 2016

NUS Business Camp 2016 - Legacy


It's March and that time of the year is coming again... SUMMER!
Which means freshmen orientation projects galore :-)

I won't be taking part this year (OGL or otherwise) but I hope this helps clueless freshies-to-be on where to find information about signing up. It's advisable to sign up early as slots are really, really limited. So do indicate your interest on this page to get quick updates!

Feel free to email me at keniteh@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Ciao!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Beach


I want to be there with someone who can sit down with me quietly, and appreciate its full beauty. I want to sit on the shore, right where the waves are, and feel the water lapping at my toes. I want to feel not a care in the world, as I take in the endless horizon.

I would love an endless holiday. Hahah. But who wouldn't?