Clarence Brown boosters: big time in the Big Apple

Clarence Brown Artistic Director Ken Martin and supporter Pandy Anderson during a group lunch at Sardi’s.

One of the best things about being a supporter of the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Theatre is going on the annual trip to New York City the staff organizes. About 30 supporters made the trek earlier this month, along with a sizeable group of grad students and faculty members.

 The assemblage saw four Broadway productions selected by Clarence Brown’s artistic director Ken Martin and his team. The day before the trip, the 2024 Tony Award nominations were announced and we were delighted to see that three of those four plays received multiple nominations: The Outsiders (12 nominations); Mother Play (4); and Mary Jane (4). The fourth, the revival of The Wiz on the 50th anniversary of its original production, received a lot of publicity for being noticeably snubbed.

A key to the success of this trip is that there are a number of group activities scheduled including a lunch, a brunch, and a happy hour with UT alums who now live in the Big Apple. But there’s enough free time to fit in your own plans. Because the entourage stays at the InterContinental Times Square, located in the Theater District, everything is easily accessible.

Here’s a recap of the fun, fun excursion. You should consider it next year!

On our first night, we had no plays scheduled. But our friend Margie Nichols had selected the famous Gramercy Tavern for some of us to have dinner. Here’s our gang in the bar. From left, Margie and John Gill, Ginny and Bill Morrow, and Alan Carmichael in the back.

At Gramercy, you can eat in either the tavern or the dining room. We picked the dining room, where a five-course menu is served. Each course has two selections from which you can choose. I am a sucker for china and I loved this pattern.

The room was beautiful. It’s located at 42 East 20th Street in the Flatiron District.

The eatery, which has earned one Michelin star and won nine James Beard Awards, is famous for its bread service, among other things. These are sweet potato rolls and they did not disappoint.

The amuse bouche was a delicious carrot puree in flaky little crusts. It was out of this world, if you can believe I’m saying that about carrots! Might have been my favorite bite of the night — and there were a lot of good ones!

First course was a choice between hamachi with snap peas, coconut, and lime, left, or marinated beets with pistachios, maple, and sorrel. I enjoyed the beets while most of the others loved the raw fish.

Second course was a choice between squid ink lumache pasta with lobster and mussels, left, or mushroom tortellini with snow peas and black garlic. Folks raved about both. (I can vouch for the tortellini!)

Third course was a choice between caraflex cabbage with peanuts, nori and chili, top, or pan-seared skate with caulifower, shitakes, and bok choy. Again, both got high marks.

The only disappointing course in my book was the fourth. A choice between roasted duck breast and bacon, top, or roasted sirloin, which I had. The duck orderers were happier than those of us who chose steak. But, at this point, I really wasn’t hungry anyway!

But despite being stuffed, we all did manage to polish off both of the excellent desserts: a Meyer lemon tart with strawberry, buttermilk, and Limoncello, top, and chocolate brulee with coconut, cacao nibs, and mandarinquats. (Never heard of mandarinquats before, but they were delish!)

They sent each of us back to the hotel with these fantastic poppy seed coffee cakes. That’s what I had for breakfast the next day!

We always go at least once per trip to Marseille, a cute French brasserie located a block from our hotel.

Here’s the interior. Coincidentally, I had just started reading a great new book by one of my favorite authors: “The Paris Novel” by Ruth Reichl. So, this was perfect for me! We were the first ones in for lunch!

Alan at our window table.

Hands down the best Eggs Benedict I have ever had. The smoked salmon on it was incredibly fresh and delicious.

Alan had a different preparation of salmon and really liked it, too.

Love the bread service at Marseille — butter AND olive oil!

Here’s the sign you are looking for! It’s at 690 Ninth Avenue.

Lucky for us, the famous Birdland jazz club is located across the street from our hotel at 315 W. 44th Street. We had early reservations to hear the High Society New Orleans Jazz Band.

We thought the piano player looked just like our good friend Bruce Hartmann! (We sent him this photo and he agreed!)

The pizza wasn’t bad!

And then, off to see “The Wiz!”

Poor Alan. He’s usually the most available person to pose!

You can’t take photos during Broadway shows. So the curtain call is about the only shots I could get. I figure if I get thrown out at that point, who cares? It was a fun production — even if the Tony Awards folks didn’t like it!

Back at the hotel, our folks were congregating in the bar called “The Stinger.” That’s Julie Howard, left, and Ginny Morrow.

From left, Carol Beilharz, Myrwood Bessozi, Neil and Maureen Dunn McBride.

From left, Knoxvillians Ted Flickinger, Bill Morrow, and John Gill.

From left, Pandy Anderson, Shelly Payne, David Ratliff, Margie Nichols, and Lisa Carroll.

The next day: group lunch at Sardi’s! Tom Cervone, the Clarence Brown’s managing director is speaking with Pam Given at left; Susan Creswell and Alan Carmichael are at right.

Margie Nichols had a starter of melon and prosciutto.

I had delicious tomato soup.

Here are some of the entrees: clockwise from top: Alan thought his orange teryaki-glazed salmon and sauteed spinach were great; my crab cakes were a little dense and leaden; a lot of folks ordered spinach ricotta lasagna and loved it.

Pandy really enjoyed her tiramisu torte!

After lunch, several of us ventured to the Morgan Library, located at 225 Madison Avenue, a nice walk from Sardi’s. Alan, who has taken up painting, wanted to see the Beatrix Potter exhibit there. Others wanted to see the gardens, which had been featured in several recent full-page ads in the New York Times.

If you are reading this post to help with planning an upcoming visit to New York City, my advice about the Morgan Library is this: skip it!

Alan and Beatrix Potter.

A young Beatrix Potter and her dog. She had more than 90 pets over her lifetime.

Beatrix Potter’s famous bunnies.

Given my penchant for china and place settings, I was more interested in the work of Beatrix’ father, Rupert, who made this plate for her when she was a child.

There were a lot of books in Morgan’s library.

Now, about those gardens. Not much to see when we were there. Smaller than Krutch Park in downtown Knoxville, with not as much in them.

Here was the best thing in the gardens.

On a brighter note, the evening held the second-best best play of our trip, “Mother Play,” starring Jessica Lange, Jim Parsons, and Celia Keenan-Bolger at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Alan blending into the family!

Curtain call. The character that Jessica Lange plays ages more than 40 years during the 105 minutes of the play. By the end, she was in her 80s and suffering from dementia.

Our late dinner that night was at one of our favorite spots, an Italian place called Becco. Neil and Maureen Dunn McBride with Alan Carmichael, right.

Becco is another place with great bread service. Love the hummus, too.

Neil was hungry! He ordered the osso bucco and really enjoyed it.

I have a go-to dish at this restaurant: baked shrimp with spicy tomato sauce. It’s really an appetizer, but with a Caesar salad we all split, it was plenty. Love, love.

Alan’s gelato sampler.

Chocolate brownie sundae!

Here’s a picture of Becco during the day. It’s located at 355 W. 46th Street.

I thought the best play of the trip was the new musical, “The Outsiders,” playing at Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th Street. We saw the matinee.

Curtain call for the large cast. It was about “the haves and have-nots” in 1960s-era Tulsa. The choreography and visual effects are fantastic.

The happy hour with Clarence Brown Theatre alumns living in New York was at Backstage Tavern, 346 W. 46th Street.

From left, Allison Bucher, Michaela Lochen, Sophie Smrcka, Lauren T. Roark, Joe Payne, and Amoirie Perteet. All are students except Roark and Payne who are faculty members.

Here’s Alan with our friends Mark and Amanda Shell Jennings. Amanda worked at Moxley Carmichael as an intern and then as an account executive and senior account executive over her five years with us. They are loving living in New York now.

From left, Shelly Payne, Margie Nichols, and Jessi Arnidis. Payne is external relations manager for Clarence Brown Theatre; Arnidis is senior director of advancement for the UT College of Arts and Sciences.

Pam and Jim Given, left, with Bill Morrow.

Kenneth Stark, Nancy Voith, and UT alum Grant Currin, right.

From left, Susan Creswell, Ted Flickinger, Julie Howard, and Tom Cervone.

Great Mexican eats were on the buffet.

Ken Martin offered greetings to everyone.

The final play, “Mary Jane,” is the one most of our group liked the least. Actress Rachel McAdams was excellent, but the play itself was just dark. It’s about a single mother with a severely brain-damaged toddler trying to deal with the medical system — and keep a job.

The set of “Mary Jane.”

From left, Karen and Brooks Clark, UT alum Sage Behrens, Nancy Voith and Kenneth Stark.

Adam Schneider and UT alum Christina Germaine Eddlemon.

The next morning: a group brunch at the hotel before heading to the airport.

Ken Martin leading a discussion about the trip.

An obligatory shot of Alan at Times Square.




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16 Responses to Clarence Brown boosters: big time in the Big Apple

  1. Rusha, on May 14th, 2024 at 11:37 am said:

    Another great trip! Thanks for your candid appraisals and lots of pictures of people and places. If I could pick one dish to dive into — well, I couldn’t pick just one!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on May 14th, 2024 at 11:38 am said:

    Rusha: Haha! I know what you mean! I can’t believe a carrot dish is even in the running — but it is!

  3. Gina, on May 14th, 2024 at 12:00 pm said:

    What a wonderful post. Enjoyed it all. I thought of you when I read recently Ruth Reichl has a new book. I love her books too.

  4. Barbara Bernstein, on May 14th, 2024 at 12:05 pm said:

    Oh, Cynthia, that really looked like a trip I would have adored. Thanks for letting me enjoy it!

  5. Dawn Ford, on May 14th, 2024 at 12:19 pm said:

    Becco is one of our favorites as well. Have always wanted to try Grammercy Tavern. Glad you had fun.

  6. Carol Bradley, on May 14th, 2024 at 12:29 pm said:

    Wasn’t the outsiders fantastic? My sister Brooke and I saw it a month or so ago. Had no idea it was considered the first YA novel, written by a 17-year-old.

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on May 14th, 2024 at 12:39 pm said:

    Gina: Thanks! I do love me some Ruth!

    Barbara: You need to come next year!

    Dawn: Let’s go back!

    Carol: We loved “The Outsiders.” I didn’t know it was considered the first YA novel! Interesting!

  8. Cal MacLean, on May 14th, 2024 at 2:27 pm said:

    Great food, great friends, great time! Glad you all had fun. Best to you and Alan.

  9. Cynthia Moxley, on May 14th, 2024 at 2:35 pm said:

    Cal! How the heck are you? We miss seeing you! Let’s get drinks sometime soon! The trip was fun. You should come next year. You might enjoy not having to be the one to plan it all!

  10. Kathy Brennan, on May 14th, 2024 at 2:43 pm said:

    I truely enjoyed my trip down memory lane reading this article.
    Jim and I lived in NYC late sixties, seventies. Went to plays and dinners at Sardis afterwards. Love the City, would have loved this trip! we lived at 71st and Central Park W.

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on May 14th, 2024 at 2:48 pm said:

    Kathy: I didn’t know that about you! What a fun time to live in New York City! You should go on this trip next year!

  12. Gay Lyons, on May 14th, 2024 at 3:11 pm said:

    That looks like so much fun! I didn’t know about Ruth Reichl’s new book. Must read!

  13. Cynthia Moxley, on May 14th, 2024 at 4:10 pm said:

    Gay: It’s hot off the presses!

  14. Kathy Brennan, on May 14th, 2024 at 4:44 pm said:

    I would love to go next year. I’ll look into it

    Thanks, love the Blue Streak! Fun

  15. Eric Smith, on May 15th, 2024 at 10:26 am said:

    Looks like a grand time was had by all! The Wiz! 50 years? No way! I was in the opening night audience of the Wiz back in 1974! It was a glamour-filled audience! And a great show!

  16. Cynthia Moxley, on May 15th, 2024 at 10:39 am said:

    Eric: You are kidding me! I can’t believe that! But, what a great experience that must have been. Lucky you!

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