There’s thousands of bars in New York City, and they all have something for everyone. Rooftop bars, hipster bars, drag bars, dog bars, and...showtunes bars?
Listen. Coronavirus has made it a little difficult to cross anything off of my New York bucket list. Work with me here though, because Marie’s Crisis has made it possible to have a little bit of normalcy in all of...this.
Marie’s Crisis is the famous gay bar located on Grove Street in the West Village. Like other piano bars, there’s plenty of music to go around - but here, it’s 100% showtunes, 100% of the time. The “Crisis” in the name came from The American Crisis by Thomas Paine (you know, the Common Sense dude you learned about in American History class), who died in the building back when it was a small wooden house.
They have one of the best happy hours in New York City, and there’s typically a long line to get in. The premise is simple: tip your piano player (and bartenders, door staff, and the amazing singing waitstaff!), sing along to even the most obscure showtunes, and no video recording (especially if you’re lucky enough to be there on a night a celebrity pops in!)
I was first introduced to Marie’s Crisis a little over a year ago. I was instantly hooked, despite having a voice that doesn’t even begin to compare with the regulars who make their way to Grove Street. I came a few times, but without anyone to go with, I avoided being “that” person that goes to a bar alone.
I was at Marie’s on one of the last nights before the shutdown started, and I remember leaving with a fear that I’d never again be able to sing (or in my case, wail) on Grove Street again.
But somewhere in this crushing world of unknowns, Marie’s Crisis made one thing known: you really can’t stop the beat. Pianists have started live-streaming nightly sets on Facebook and Instagram, setting up their Venmo accounts as a virtual tip bowl. And so now every night I don’t go down to the Village - I settle in with some comfort food instead. And I listen.
There’s a reason Broadway resonates with so many people. It’s more than the costumes and dancing. Maybe it’s that showtunes are a symbol for life itself. For every “It’s Quiet Uptown” there’s a “Put on a Happy Face.” Every heartbreaking “He’s Not Here” is followed up by a “Welcome to the 60’s.” Even when things are out of key or the lyrics are all wrong, somehow they're still perfect. Whatever the reason, life keeps going on. And now, so does the music.
(But really, when this is all over, get down to Grove Street and gather around the piano. I promise it’ll change your life.)