This post is brought to you by Broadway Musical If/Then.If/Then is a love letter to New York: the places, people and moments that change our lives and link us together. If/Then’s “A Map of New York” series documents the pivotal, overlapping locations of its stars and creators.
Last week: Idina Menzel.
This week: Writer Brian Yorkey and stars Anthony Rapp, LaChanze and James Snyder.
BRIAN YORKEY (BOOK AND LYRICS)
W. 106th St. between Columbus and Amsterdam
“It’s a story I’ve told before, but I was sitting in my apartment when [Next to Normal Producer] David Stone called me to tell me we’d won a Pulitzer Prize. I knew that whatever else I did or didn’t do in my life, my name would be in the almanac.”
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St.
“[If/Then Director] Michael Greif and I met—and I don’t know if he remembers this—in the aisle of the Lucille Lortel Theatre, long before either of us knew we’d do so much exciting work together. He continues to teach me about theater, writing and human behavior every day we work together.”
ANTHONY RAPP (“LUCAS”)
Somewhere on the Upper East Side
“My only survival job in the city was at Starbucks. I worked very briefly as a barista. There were only four or five locations open in the whole city at the time; it was when they were just rolling them out twenty years ago. To be able to say ‘I’m not coming in to work because I got this Off-Broadway musical [RENT]’ was, you know, satisfying.”
New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
“RENT started downtown, and that’s the soul of it, and then it lived in the Nederlander Theatre for so long that it became the body of it. Both of those places have enormous resonance for me. When I go to the East Village, I always walk down East 4th Street. Whenever I’m with anyone who’s visiting, I always take them past the Workshop if we’re down there.”
“It feels like Broadway is an alien creature. It’s gotten so insane here in Times Square. I miss the great video game arcades from when I came here in 1982. There were three big ones up on Broadway between 47th and 48th, 48th and 49th, and right by 52nd St. They were kind of sketchy, but it was still great. It’s almost like a foreign land now. It’s never been this bright. All the light generated by those screens.”
The High Line
Gansevoort St. to 34th St.
“The High Line is such an amazing example of what Beth [Idina Menzel’s character] talks about in If/Then: Reclaiming and making something beautiful out of something that was considered decrepit or an eyesore. I’ve always loved when places can have both old and new together.”
IDINA MENZEL (“ELIZABETH”)
The Plaza Hotel
768 5th Ave. at 59th St.
“My first job in New York was a wedding singer. I used to come into Manhattan to sing at people’s weddings and bar mitzvahs. It was either the Plaza or the Waldorf! That whole phase of my life taught me how to perform, how to grow a thicker skin, how to perform when people don’t listen to you. It taught me how to sing all kinds of music.”
Riverside Drive and 106th St.
“I’ve taken voice lessons here for twenty years. My voice teacher really wanted me to sing as close to how I speak as possible, because that’s how you find the true identity of your voice and your individual sound. She taught me how to be a professional and how to ask for what I need in the right way. She’s good at keeping me disciplined even at this time in my life, keeping me balanced, knowing when I’m doing too much, so she’s a real pillar for me.”
New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
“I was sitting in the New York Theatre Workshop [RENT’s Off-Broadway birthplace]. They sat us all down and said ‘We’re moving to Broadway!’ and we all flipped out.”
Jezebel Restaurant (now closed)
45th St. and 9th Ave.
“I was a coat check girl there. There was a host of characters that used to come there all the time—the Knicks, Denzel Washington. I used to check all of their coats. I had to check Patrick Ewing’s coat, and he was so tall, I had to put it on a really high rack. Now Jezebel is a Five Napkin Burger.”
44th between 9th and 10th
“I used to commute from Jersey City to New York, so the owner of Jezebel let me rent her little pied-à-terre for all of $265. There was a guy on the street—I’m not sure if he was homeless, but he definitely had a drinking problem. One day he yelled at me: “Ninety-nine!” I saw him periodically and he would yell out a number: “Eighty-seven!” The numbers got lower and lower. Eventually I said, “Why are you yelling all these numbers at me?” And he said, “I’ve been counting down from one hundred, and when I get to one, you have to go out for a cup of coffee with me.” I was like, what? One day he got really close up behind me and he whispered, “Nine.” After that, I started going down another street. I saw him years later and he was completely cleaned up, clean-shaven, sober, clear-minded. I said, “Hey!” He said, “How you doing?” He knew who I was, and he knew that I knew he was the crazy guy with the numbers.”
JAMES SNYDER (“JOSH”)
75 9th Ave.
“My aunt and uncle were just in town and I took them to Chelsea Market. My aunt got really good ramen, and we went to that Vietnamese sandwich place and it was so good. The trick is, you start in the Meatpacking District, you do Chelsea Market, go up through the High Line, then, at the end of the High Line, you get a cup of coffee at Pushcart Coffee.”
228 W. 47th St.
“I got into a fight with one of the managers. I had two friends from college visiting, and we were going to get a quick coffee and matzoh ball soup because I was between [matinee and evening] shows. I asked if we could sit in a booth and the manager said, “No.” I was like, are you kidding me? I would eat there once a week. I said, “You guys know me!” And she said, “I don’t know you.” So I diva-ed out. I never went back there. And now it’s closing.”
“When my wife was pregnant, we went out on a rowboat in Central Park. I was like, this is amazing! We were taking pictures of all the uptown buildings we could see from the boat, and now we live up there. So we have all these pictures of our future home.”
SUBMIT YOUR #IFTHENMAP MOMENT
If/Then is looking for your best New York moments to put on the map. Tell them about a pivotal place in your life and what happened there, from falling in love to getting a job to meeting a lifelong friend for the first time.
Check back on Jan. 7 for a new map featuring your stories.