In Which I Take the NBC Studios Tour

Note to self: Don’t attempt to take an hourlong tour during a lunch hour. As I should have known from my past tour guide job- it will run long and then you’ll be rushing back to your building in 75-degree heat. But I digress.

As promised, folks, this is a special recap post of my journey through the innards of NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Incidentally, you probably noticed that my blog has a brand new look, too! I didn’t actually plan for these two to coincide. Anyway, entry into my 1:20pm tour cost about $30, which wasn’t too bad for a single person…but I can see how a large family might run into problems with that admission.

After checking in at the gift shop, I was given a really pretty pin to wear for the duration of the tour (and keep after it was over). There were about three different stations of security check as well- understandable. There were 12 of us in the group, and we were then introduced to our guides Ariel and Deborah, both students in the elite NBC Page program.

The tour officially began with a short video (hosted by Al Roker, of all people) that explained some of the history and significance of NBC. After heading up the stairs, we were in the rotunda; this is where audiences for the live broadcasts are corralled. This rotunda is a throwback to the original Art Deco designs of 30 Rock.

The first studio we visited belongs to Nightly News with Lester Holt. It was a cozy, sleek room with wood panel floors and plenty of lights and cameras. Ariel and Deborah explained that this studio is also the one that gets used for breaking news stories, as its technologies are well-suited for change on-the-fly. As we left, we saw a glass casing that memorializes NBC journalists who died in their line of work.

To balance this somber moment, we next rode an elevator to what the girls called “the comedy floor.” Sure enough, they had an entire hallway dedicated to Saturday Night Live, including production stills from past and present seasons. When we entered the studio where the show is filmed, I was surprised at how simple it looked! Indeed, a lot of behind-the-scenes magic occurs on the three parts of the SNL stage. Sets are assembled and taken apart in the span of a commercial break! And did you know that “Weekend Update” is the only sketch that occurs every single week?

As we proceeded, Ariel and Deborah mentioned that we may or may not get to see Jimmy Fallon’s studio for The Tonight Show. But we were lucky enough to catch them on a lunch break, so in we went. Fallon’s desk and his announcer’s podium looked very different than on television; as we learned, this is all due to great camera tricks. The Roots band gets their own “pit” on the opposite side.

After another short elevator ride, we arrived at the control floor, where hardworking production people manipulate the technology. We saw rooms at work with cameras, audio, and music mixing (one guy even waved at us). It was also time for the zenith of the tour: an interactive mock talk show, starring us tour guests.

We were each assigned roles- I volunteered to play the celebrity guest, because it was the only part that wasn’t totally scripted. And, well…let’s just say I hammed it up like a butcher shop. Don’t believe me? Just watch!

All in all, The Tour at NBC Studios was a really cool way to spend my lunch hour. I had fun, I learned some interesting information, and- perhaps best of all- it enabled me to get one more notch on my NYC adventure bedpost. Well, so to speak!


Two Minutes with…Valerie Ferris

She’s danced for the robe, been thrown into an oven, and donned a mustache as a member of the “Barnabaes.” No, it’s not Jefferson Mays as Salome D’Ysquith- it’s Valerie Ferris, one of the most well-known teen dancers on Staten Island. She’s currently enrolled at the University of Rhode Island and fast approaching triple threat status, having played Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and a principal dancer in both Aida and Hello, Dolly! This weekend, Miss Ferris and I conversed on Facebook. Our Puccini thanks go out to her for being this week’s TWO MINUTES subject.

~Your birthday: April 4th

~Coffee or tea: Coffee

~Favorite Sondheim showSweeney Todd

~Favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein showCinderella

~Favorite Lady Gaga song: “You and I”

~Favorite operaAida

~Favorite playwright: Arthur Miller

~An underrated showOn the Town

~The dream role to end them all: Veronica Sawyer from Heathers

~Last movie you sawInside Out

~Was it any good: Yes (and she cried)

~The best ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip

Two Minutes with…Jay Montgomery

“Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all and my dear, I’m still here.” This lyric from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies can sum up any thespian’s career- but it seems particularly apropos for Jay Montgomery. This Georgia-born gentleman has been in the biz for quite a while and worn many different shoes- a dancer, an actor, a singer, a director, and now an Artistic Director for Harbor Lights, an Equity theatre company on Staten Island, NY. In this sophomore segment of TWO MINUTES, we asked Jay about everything from directing to beverage preferences to dogs. Many thanks go out to him!

~Your birthday: March 27th

~Coffee or tea: Coffee

~The best roles you’ve ever played: Marvin in Falsettos, Bobby in Company, and Anatoly in Chess

~Favorite Stephen Sondheim musical: Sweeney Todd

~Favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical: Oklahoma!

~Favorite Opera: La traviata (Verdi)

~That show you wish you could direct1776

~An underrated composer or lyricist: Andrew Lippa

~Favorite playwright: Harold Pinter

~Last movie you saw: BIRDMAN

~Was it any good: Yes

~Favorite breed of dog: Boxer

Two Minutes with…Seth Christenfeld

At the York Theatre in NYC, Seth Christenfeld is the literary coordinator; his job is to review script submissions and offer creative input when it comes to the off-Broadway house’s productions. He’s also got an incredibly vast well of knowledge when it comes to the performing arts. You want the year that Mary Beth Peil did The King and I and in which theatre it played? Seth is your guy. Today, I’m pleased to announce the new Puccini’s Chronicles column TWO MINUTES, in which we ask some rapid-fire questions to some of the arts scene’s best and brightest.

~Your birthday: September 1st

~Coffee or tea: Coffee

~Number of cast recordings you own: Uncountable

~Favorite Stephen Sondheim musical: Sweeney Todd

~Favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical: South Pacific

~Favorite Opera: Little Women (Adamo)

~An overrated classical composer: (Subject opted to pass on this question.)

~That show you’d see multiple times: Good revivals of Sweeney Todd

~Favorite playwright: Arthur Miller

~Last movie you saw: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

~Was it any good: Yes

~Favorite Wife of Henry VIII: The one who sings “As Once I Loved You” in the musical Rex