When it comes to icons of New York City theatre, there’s Broadway—and then there’s Marie’s Crisis.
The piano bar located on Grove Street just off of Seventh Avenue has long been a gathering place and watering hole for musical theatre aficionados—and those who create and star in musical theatre. Liza Minnelli dropped in one night; Parker Posey held a birthday party there; and Cynthia Erivo sang the house down on her visit.
But with the ban on mass gatherings, the Christmas lights–strewn bar is closed for the time being. What’s a show tune lover to do sans piano? Go online, of course, where Marie’s Crisis is now holding nightly sing-along sessions on Facebook via its private group (think of it as a speakeasy and you know the password).
“We started off with 250 people before this pandemic, and now we have some 21,000 members,” longtime Marie’s piano player Kenney Green says. “And that happened in a week.”
A funny thing happened as everyone started staying inside: culture and theatre got democratized. Suddenly, patrons who may have been put off by the long lines outside the door can enter Marie’s Crisis virtually, and enjoy the same show tunes, banter, and camaraderie as they would have in the tight confines of 59 Grove Street.
“We’ve got a lot of newcomers who have definitely heard of us from celebrities and press, so people know about the bar but they don’t actually know about the bar, you know what I mean?” Green says, laughingly pointing out the discrepancies between the reality and the fictional portrayal of Marie’s Crisis. (Younger got it right, filming within the actual venue; The Politician, starring Ben Platt, filmed only the Marie’s exterior, then cut to an interior that featured a piano and a small band. “It’s not even physically possible!” Green says.) “So it’s great in that aspect. I was playing on Friday night, and someone said hi from Sweden and someone said hi from Australia.”
What can you expect from the “new” Marie’s Crisis? The same songs you’d probably hear irl, with old standbys Les Misérables, Chicago, and Little Shop of Horrors well represented. As always, tips get your request to the top of the pile. And now, you can submit requests in advance to hear your song at the start of a shift. “A lot of us are taking requests in real time as if you’re in the bar,” Green says, “and all of our Venmos and PayPal accounts are pinned to the group, and a lot of people are sending in requests that way.”
As for what newcomers need to know about Marie's? “I’d like people to know we’re here for your entertainment; there’s no such thing as a bad musical; and just sit back and relax and eventually we’ll find something you know,” Green says. “And everybody’s really thankful that people are even watching and taking part.”
So pour yourself a Marie's-potent cocktail, queue up your requests, and sing your heart out. Like every other family, Marie's Crisis has found a way to stay connected during self-isolation, but everyone is welcome to join in.