In case you’ve been stuck in the Catskills the past few years or so, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a hit television show which chronicles the adventures of a woman stand up comedian in the late fifties and early sixties. Starring Rachel Broshnahan, the series was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino and takes place largely in New York. It follows the adventures of “Midge” as she pursues her calling in an industry and era dominated by men. Alongside her is her agent Susie, her divorced husband Joel, her beleaguered parents Abe and Rose and a virtual army of other highly talented actors who have helped make the show into one of the surprise success stories of recent years. And now fans of the show can share in the fun as a tour is being offered (in a 1957 Studebaker no less!) of some of the places and haunts frequented by the characters in the show. Stephanie Windland, a charming and knowledgeable actor, portrayed Mrs. Maisel for this trip and gave us a glimpse into this magical world.
While Midge and her clan live on the Upper West Side, much of the action takes place in and around Manhattan’s famed Greenwich Village. It is here in the Gaslight Cafe that Midge, after learning of her husband’s adultery, gets drunk and first realizes she can make people laugh with her wit and delivery. The Gaslight was a real music place, frequented by the likes of Lenny Bruce, Alan Ginsberg and more. Located at 116 Macdougal Street it is now a cocktail lounge called Up and Up, but the entrance is unmistakable. One of the many interesting facts you learn on the tour is why jazz audiences snap their fingers instead of applauding. Apparently it came about for two reasons. In the first place the club is located among a string of apartments where people lived and because the music sometimes went late in the night they didn’t want to wake the neighbors. The second and possibly more important reason was so they could hold their wine in the other hand.
Washington Square Park is another memorable locale for Midge and the show. Based on a real life incident, the historic building planner Robert Moses once planned to pave over the park to make way for a highway. Jane Jacobs organized a rally to protest the move and is joined by hundreds of ardent supporters. This was not the first or last time Robert Moses was involved with controversy; many remember his public fights with Joe Papp on allowing Shakespeare in the Park to be free of charge. In the show Midge comes across the protestors by accident and in keeping with her spontaneous nature, she uses the crowd as an opportunity to try out her stand up material. In spite of this totally off the topic but hilarious interruption, the protest prevails and Moses abandons his idea, both in the show and in history.
Another place which is still with us these days is The Music Inn, located at 169 West 4th Street. This incredibly popular music store opened in 1958, the same year that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel begins her tale and the owner then is still the owner now, Jeff Slatnick. Walking into it is like walking into another world as you are transported back to the 60s. You can just imagine the impromptu and legendary jazz sessions which sprang forth. It’s filled with thousand of items such as sheet music, strings, records, drum heads and every musical instrument you can imagine. In Season One, Episode Four, Susie brings Midge to The Music Inn to listen to some comedy albums, a fairly new concept. Midge buys one from a relatively unknown comic at the time by the name of Redd Foxx.
Finally, we make our way to the historic Caffe Reggio, located at 119 Macdougal Street. Still operating today, with tables set up both inside and out due to covid, here is where Midge’s father Abe (played by the superb Tony Shaloub) shares a cappuccino with a lawyer. This is only appropriate as Caffe Reggio boasts having the first cappuccino maker ever in the United States, which they keep on display for the public.
Nor is that the only part of history that Caffe Reggio has to offer. The ceiling fan inside the cafe will be familiar to many classic movie aficionados as it just so happens to be the original ceiling fan used in the movie “Casablanca”.
Other famous New York hot spots on the tour include: La Bonbonniere
Old Town Bar
McSorley’s Old Ale House
And of course, the Butcher Shop
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a hit show for several reasons. It has a frantic and irresistible pace, combined with memorable characters and top notch actors, beautiful costumes and lively music. Its tale of a married female comic trying to make it against all odds is clever and unique. It also offers a look at New York the way it was more than sixty years ago and it’s sharing at least a part of that look with fans for a limited time. The tour started December 3rd. For more information, please contact: https://onlocationtours.com/new-york-tv-and-movie-tours/mrs-maisels-marvelous-tour-of-new-york-city/
All photos other than On Location Tours by T Sportiello