Grand Central Centennial Celebration to Feature Cynthia Nixon; Plus Orphan Train Musical, Directed by Patricia Birch

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28 Jan 2013

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York (MTA) and Metro-North Railroad will open Grand Central Terminal to the public Feb. 1 for the celebration of its 100th anniversary. The year-long celebration will kick off with a performance from Melissa Manchester, an appearance by Cynthia Nixon and more.

The morning ceremony, set to begin at 9:30 AM on Feb. 1, will feature elected officials as well as performances by award-winning musicians and New York student performers. The event, hosted by Metro-North and partners, will include national award presentations to the Terminal, giveaways from sponsors, special deals from Terminal retailers and the opening of "Grand by Design" — a six-week exhibit that chronicles the history and impact of New York's greatest building and famous train terminal.

Performances and presentations will take place from a stage erected in the Main Concourse, including a concert by the West Point Brass & Percussion (which culminates in "Grand Central Centennial Fanfare," a new piece written for the occasion); a presentation of colors by West Point's Cadet Color Guard; and a 75-minute opening ceremony, hosted by WABC-TV's Sade Baderinwa, at 10 AM.

Speakers and performers include Tony winner Nixon (Rabbit Hole, Wit), who will talk about her experience as a New Yorker; former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, who will read an original poem commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit for the occasion; author and preservationist Caroline Kennedy, honorary chair of the Grand Central Centennial Committee whose mother Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is widely credited with saving the Terminal from destruction in the 1970s; Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and actress Manchester, who will perform solo and with a choir; members of the Vanderbilt family whose ancestor "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt was the visionary behind railroading's "gilded age" and inspired the construction of Grand Central; baseball MVP and New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez; the Celia Cruz Bronx High School Choir; and more.

Among the afternoon performers and activities are Dancing Classrooms, whose hundreds of youth performers were featured in the documentary film "Mad Hot Ballroom"; contemporary dance company Keigwin + Company; the Knicks City Dancers and Knicks City Kids teams; the Westchester Philharmonic Brass Octet; cast members of the upcoming musical Orphan Train; Staten Island's Susan Wagner High School Jazz Band; electronic violinist and Trans-Siberian Orchestra soloist Sarah Charness; New York City's Rhythm Collective; and Grammy Award-winning big band Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.

These events fall 100 years to the day that the first set of keys was handed to the Terminal's stationmaster on Feb. 1, 1913. (The first train left the Terminal just after midnight on Feb. 2.) Festivities will continue through 9:30 PM.

In conjunction with the centennial, Orphan Train, a new musical directed by Tony-nominated director-choreographer Patricia Birch (Parade, Music Is, Pacific Overtures, Over Here!, Grease), will perform in Vanderbilt Hall in September.

According to press notes, "One hundred years ago, a young minister in partnership with the Children's Aid Society of New York and the New York Foundling Home devised what was America's earliest attempt at organized foster care for 'surplus children' — nearly 250,000 urban youngsters sent West to live with frontier families in hopes of achieving a better life away from poverty and neglect. These 'orphan trains' embarked from Grand Central Terminal."

Orphan Train — the musical drama about these children — has been invited to play in Grand Central as part of the birthday year's events for three days.

The musical features a score from Emmy-winning composer Doug Katsaros (Altar Boyz) and depicts the birth of one of New York's most powerful and enduring movements for social change. At the Feb. 1 kick-off Manchester will perform "Travelin' Far" from the musical.

Following its Grand Central three-day run, Orphan Train will embark on a national tour through the American Heartland, retracing routes of the 19th-century Orphan Trains and serving as a catalyst for local nonprofit causes. The musical will be presented in site-specific venues such as railroad stations, transit museums, converted box cars, gyms and other public gathering spots.

Full details on Grand Central Terminal Centennial activities in 2013, including dates, times, ticket prices and reservations (if required), are available at Grand Central Terminal's website, GrandCentralTerminal.com.