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Broadway’s Guide to NYC: Life of Pi’s Andrew Wilson

Broadway’s Guide to NYC: Life of Pi’s Andrew Wilson

Seeing a Broadway show is one of the best things you can do on your trip to New York City. If you’re searching for other things to do, the best way to find suggestions is by talking to an NYC local. Luckily, Broadway’s superb entertainers like Andrew Wilson are among the city’s numerous locals. We talked with the performer about his favorite places in New York City and his role in the newly opened production of Life of Pi

Tell us about your current Broadway role! 

Wilson: I am one of the puppeteers that bring the role of Richard Parker, the tiger, to life in Life of Pi. We are a team of 8 puppeteers that not only perform the role of Richard Parker but also puppeteer Orange Juice, the orangutan, Black and White, the Zebra and many other wonderful puppets in the show. Fun fact: this is my second time performing as a cat on a Broadway stage! Richard Parker, the tiger in Life of Pi and Tumblebrutus, the acrobatic and energetic cat in Cats. Oh, and both were performed on raked (angled toward the audience) stages!

Andrew Wilson in Cats (Courtesy Andrew Wilson)
Andrew Wilson in Cats (Courtesy Andrew Wilson)

How did you get your start in performing, and what other shows have you performed in?

Wilson: I am from a very small town in Western Pennsylvania (Grove City, PA), where theater opportunities were rare and limited to my high school’s fall play and spring musical. I had an aunt from NYC who gave me my shot at becoming a professional actor. She came to visit my mom and me during the week of my spring musical (Footloose: The Musical), and she noticed that I had a lot of potential. She offered me a chance to come live with her and give NYC a shot for a year, so I moved from my hometown of around 8,000 people to a city of over 8,000,000 people. A few months later, I was on my first national tour (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) at the age of 18, and I never looked back. This incredible industry has afforded me the opportunity to perform on Broadway in Life of Pi and the recent revival of Cats. I spent many years touring North and South America with Seven Brides, Cats, Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan and Newsies, where I was the dance captain and swing and also got to perform in the live capture for Disney+. I’ve also performed on four cruise ships, opera companies, numerous regional theaters, commercials, motion capture performances, industrials and more.

What is your favorite Broadway show to see as an audience member?

Wilson: I have a secret trick that I use on occasion to help keep my motivation and energy levels up when performing eight shows per week: (Shh! Don’t tell our stage management team!) I sign in on the callboard at the half-hour, then I walk back outside and stand in line with that performance’s audience. I love feeling their excitement and experiencing their journey into the theater, which helps to remind me how much of an honor it is to be doing what I’m doing—telling stories and sharing real connections between the stage and the audience. So, I guess ANY show!

If you are coming to see Life of Pi, however, I believe you are in for a uniquely personal experience. The story and the staging lend themselves to letting your imagination run wild and picking a theme or two with how you relate to the story. The interpretations I’ve heard of the “meaning” of Pi range from a story of survival to a journey of discovering self-love to immigration, etc. I think, in a lot of ways, every audience member will see some part of themselves within the story.

If you’re going out for a night on the town in New York City, where would you go?

Wilson: A fun and unique evening can always be found in Bushwick, Brooklyn or the Lower East Side of Manhattan. For Bushwick: I love taking the L train to Jefferson Street, grabbing drinks and dinner at one of the many local spots, catching the latest production that Company XIV has created, then dancing the night away at House of Yes. For Lower East Side: I love starting my night in Chinatown. I find that area of the city intoxicating in the best way. Then let your eyes, heart and feet meander and find their own journey for the night.

Chinatown (©Luke Stackpoole)
Chinatown (©Luke Stackpoole)

What are your favorite NYC local tips?

Wilson: Get out of your comfort zone. Try to only shop and dine locally (No Starbucks, please!). You can visit all the chains you want in your hometown, so why not branch out? Change and growth are inevitable, so why not grab life by the reins and lead the charge into new spaces, places, experiences and cultures? Everyone in NYC (tourists included) has a story. Feel free to ask how someone’s day is or if they have any recommendations. Oh, and also—ALWAYS TIP YOUR BARISTAS.

Where are your favorite spots to send family and friends when they visit?

Wilson: I live in Washington Heights, and I think walking or biking the George Washington Bridge is one of the best experiences in NYC. Start by grabbing a coffee at Taszo Espresso Bar on W. 157th Street, bike/walk along the Hudson River to the little red lighthouse underneath the bridge, then trek back up to street level. From there, cross the bridge – on a clear day, you can see Lower Manhattan to the south, all the way up to Tarrytown to the north. Bike/walk down to the Hudson River along Palisades Park on the New Jersey side and soak in the views. If you’re feeling bougie or need relief from all that exercise, bike or take a cab down to Sojo Spa for an unbelievable evening of rest, relaxation and pampering. (Who doesn’t want to be floating in an infinity hot tub with the Manhattan skyline across from you?

Q: What is your favorite meal to enjoy in NYC?

Wilson: The happy hour deal at Zizi in Chelsea is amazing (182 8th Avenue). The best burger in the theater district is at Landmark Tavern (626 11th Avenue). My favorite cocktail is the Old Fashioned at Gallagher’s Steakhouse (228 W. 52nd Street). A nice vegan meal can be found at Blossom (507 Columbus Avenue). My two favorite coffee shops are St Kilda Coffee (328 W. 44th St.) and Taszo Espresso Bar (5 Edward Morgan Place). 

(Courtesy Zizi)
(Courtesy Zizi)
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