12/13/2007 07:03 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Queens, Booze and Show Tunes: The Secret New York Alternative to the Broadway Musical

If you're visiting NYC with the kids and they have
their hearts set on seeing a real Broadway show at a
real Broadway theater, you're gonna have to do the
right thing and camp out at TKTS (The Drowsy Chaperone
was pretty good, btw). But if you're in town with a
musical theater loving crew of "adults" who appreciate
the nuances of cast recordings, you won't have a
better night out than at Marie's Crisis Cafe.

As I mention in Secret New York, the 59 Grove Street
bar is named for Thomas Paine's 1776 pamphlet "The

There are two shifts: 5:30-9:30pm and 9:30-3am, and
most show tunes are played, but Gypsy, Cabaret, Chorus
and Anything Goes are played the most. Friday
night, when Dexter's on board, is the liveliest and
the most crowded (he also plays on Saturday). Darren,
who plays on Thursday and Sunday, is known for being
flexible and smooth, and Jim Allen, who works Monday,
Wednesday and Thursday is the choice of the
cognoscenti, one of whom is my twinkly-eyed friend
David, who is a double heart breaker for being gay and
being taken. If you're lucky enough to be there the
same night as him (statistics are on your side) you'll
find that he knows every word to everything, and he
knows how to sing.

The other name you should know is that of the
waitress, Maggie, who occasionally puts down her tray
of drinks and breaks into a suspiciously professional
rendition of "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," "Bye
Bye Blackbird" or "Fifty Percent."

On Monday evenings you're likely to get a young crowd
singing contemporary musicals (Wicked, for example). I
was once there with a group of Juilliard students who
took requests. Had I known then what I know now, I
would have requested the Spring Awakening soundtrack
in its entirety. I'll just have to go back.

Before he died in the back room of this quaint little
bar, Thomas Paine said, "It is dearness only that
gives every thing its value." But perhaps David sums
up the experience best with, "Queens, booze, and show
tunes. What else could you want?"

Marie's Crisis Café

59 Grove Street (at 7th Avenue South)

(212) 243-9323