There is something surreal about eating a steak while sitting three feet away from Bryan Cranston giving a gut-wrenching monologue on a Broadway stage. Yet, that’s the experience I had recently as a part of Foodwork, a unique dining experience on the stage of the Belasco Theater during Network starring Bryan Cranston.
“Network” is based on the 1976 film by the same name but has been adapted for a slightly more modern take for Broadway. Bryan Cranston plays television anchorman Howard Beale, a guy at the end of his rope who unravels on live television. The themes of greed, voyeurism, angst and political turmoil the original film are just as timely today as they were back in 1976.
As great as the play and Cranston’s performance was, that’s actually not the reason I bought my ticket. If you notice in the photo above, the stage is uniquely designed to put everything on display. To the left is the television control room, center stage is where most of the action takes place and to the left, those were my seats in an extremely intimate dining room.
Patrons who bought a Foodwork ticket for “Network” on Broadway were ushered via a backstage entrance to our seats. There was a complimentary coat check and within seconds, we are literally standing on stage at the Belasco Theater.
Foodwork guests are allowed to arrive roughly one hour before curtain. This is specifically so you can take your time, take photographs and watch the actors warm up. The idea for the entire production of “Network” is to make just about everything visible to the audience, including warm-up. While getting acquainted, we got to watch the actors for the show bring out yoga mats, stretch and do vocal exercises.
Not only that, but many of the cast are quite friendly and come over to chat before the show. It’s a surreal experience interacting with them as audience file in to their regular seats before the show starts.
The menu is a preset three-course extravaganza that is served throughout the show. Drinks from the bar are also included as well as a “welcome drink”.
The Foodwork menu has been curated by former White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. He held the position for seven years during the Bush and Obama administrations. Most recently, he created the menu for the off-Broadway run of Sweeney Todd where patrons noshed on pies while watching the show!
Appetizers are server prior to showtime. However, entrees and dessert are timed to come out during parts of the show where the action takes place on the opposite side of the stage.
It’s a strange experience eating a meal while sitting across from a Broadway show right in front of me. Can the rest of the audience hear my silverware clinking against my plate as I cut my steak? What if I choke on something? You become hyper aware of even the slightest movements as thousands of eyeballs looking at you. Even though they really aren’t paying attention. However, they kind of are.
Is it dinner theater? Not really. Is it immersive theater? In a way, yes. There are scenes that take place in the dining room and bar on stage and you’re as close to the action as you’ll ever be on a Broadway stage. It’s a one of a kind experience and if you’d like more info, follow this link!
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