It seems like it's always "showtime" in New York City. And one local theatrical enthusiast enjoys leading visitors there to show off The City That Never Sleeps, especially during the December holiday season.
St. Louis's STAGES associate producer Andrew Kuhlman will escort a group of wide-eyed, adventurous souls from the St. Louis region during Dec. 5-9 on a sold-out 2019 NYC Holiday Weekend.
"No city comes alive like New York during the holidays. Its atmosphere changes. It's magical and is such a beautiful place to be," says Andrew. "These trips are one of my favorite parts of my job because on them we get a chance to build community and friendships among patrons."
STAGES launched these special travel group visits in 2012, the same year he started with the organization. Since then, more than 300 patrons have taken part in at least 16 trips, including the Big Apple, for the ultimate theatre weekend.
"The best way to see the world is the STAGES' way," he proclaims.
He adds that there's nothing like tackling a new city with a 6-foot-5-inch tour guide (him) who smiles throughout the activities. "New York City is my home-away-from-home," says the St. Louis native.
For one package price, travelers receive roundtrip airfare, deluxe hotel accommodations, tickets to Broadway productions, meals at popular Theatre District restaurants, sightseeing opportunities, transportation, as well as special tours and experiences designed and offered only by STAGES. A portion of the package price is also designated as a tax-deductible contribution to the organization.
He says he's also created See/Stay/Eat/Perform packets for the cities into which he leads travelers. "Because free time is important when visiting new places, I always plan some periods during the trips when the guests can do what they'd like. But, because people's buckets lists are different, it's nice to have outlined options to choose from," he adds.
The trips originally were born from the concept of St. Louis STAGES patrons wanting to see Broadway executions in New York of STAGES executive producer Jack Lane, who produced some extraordinary theatre, including Peter and the Starcatcher (Tony nomination), Fun Home (Tony Award), The Humans (Tony Award) and The Play That Goes Wrong.
Andrew, also a Tony-nominated producer, says he thought the concept was fabulous and was glad to volunteer, given how well he knew New York's entertainment intricacies.
This year's New York December trip includes:
- Hotel: The Time New York
- Productions: A Christmas Carol, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Big Apple Circus
- Tours: Times Square, Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Bryant Park Winter Village
- Restaurants: Trattoria Tre Colori, The Plaza Food Hall, Tommy Bahama, Hurley’s Saloon
Andrew recently returned from taking a large group to London for eight days. Earlier this year, he's also escorted groups to New York twice and Chicago.
What travelers often notice during the New York trips, says Andrew, is that they've gotten used to Broadway-quality shows at STAGES in St. Louis. So, when they attend shows in the big city, those performances are done in very intimate, smaller spaces. "They come back with a whole new attention to details and better noticing all of the aspects of shows, such as choreography, makeup and costumes," he adds. "Each independent piece of the shows shine brightly."
Andrew hopes for another special December moment in New York during which huge, soft snowflakes begin falling on him and his group, such as they did previously one time at an outdoor market at Bryant Park Winter Village. "That's where the best hot chocolate in the world can be found, to be sipped in front of a giant Christmas tree, with people skating and laughing in the background. It doesn't get more holiday in New York than a perfect moment like that," he says.