Broadway Musicians in a Hell’s Kitchen Studio


Mr. Borth, joining the interview via FaceTime on Ms. Avery’s phone, offered that while living apart is not ideal, it shouldn’t be for too much longer; he plans to live in New York full time with Ms. Avery as soon as his time with the tour is over.

Photo

Some of the 23 woodwind instruments Ms. Avery plays, in the living room.

Credit
Emon Hassan for The New York Times

“Having this apartment has made touring that much more difficult,” he admitted.

The pair moved into the alcove studio in February, along with Ms. Avery’s Havanese poodle mix, Bella, paying $2,830 a month. Previously, Ms. Avery had been subletting in the South Bronx, mulling what to do after opting not to renew the lease on her Upper West Side one-bedroom on the ground floor. The place on the Upper West Side, while serviceable, was dark and strangely laid out, and lacked counter space — there were no counters in the kitchen — a major drawback given that cooking is one of her preferred pastimes.

With the sublease coming to an end, she and Mr. Borth decided it was time to move in together. Mr. Borth had most of his things in a storage locker, living in temporary accommodations wherever the tour stopped.

Agreeing on a neighborhood was no problem. Mr. Borth had rented in Hell’s Kitchen before joining the “Phantom” tour, and Ms. Avery had dreamed of living there since moving to New York in 2013. In fact, she had looked at an apartment in Gotham West, the building on 11th Avenue where they now have a two-year lease, when she first relocated from Los Angeles, but prices were too high on just her salary.

Hell’s Kitchen, she said, is ideal for a Broadway musician. Though the Upper West Side is only a quick subway ride away, she had to build extra time into her commute to account for potential train delays. And convenience is paramount when carrying bulky instrument cases — Ms. Avery plays 23 woodwind instruments, which range in size from a piccolo to a baritone sax. She often plays five or six instruments, depending on the score for the production, and regularly hauls them between the theater and home.

“Here I can control everything,” Ms. Avery said. “I have a lot of friends who live in Jersey, but being able to come home between double shows, see the dog, entertain on the roof deck, it makes all the difference.”

Names: Deborah Avery and Michael Borth

Ages: Both in their early 40s. Rent: $2,830 a month. Occupations: Broadway musicians. Ms. Avery is first reed for “Groundhog Day,” which opens this month; Mr. Borth is an assistant conductor and keyboardist with the national touring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Unpacking: Is pending. Ms. Avery started rehearsals two weeks after moving in. Though schedules are hectic, she said that she loves working on Broadway: “It’s what a lot of the new music is being written for now.” Closet space: Is ample. Which is fortunate, as Ms. Avery needs space for the 23 woodwind instruments she plays, including alto sax, flute and oboe. They are, meanwhile, trying to figure out where they can fit a piano for Mr. Borth in an alcove studio. Apartment research: Despite being bowled over by the new appliances and location, Mr. Borth read through online reviews of the building and Ms. Avery chatted up residents in the market downstairs to make sure things were as nice as they seemed. Their thoughts after two months: “Sometimes when you live in a building, you just get the feeling, ‘This is the right place,’” Ms. Avery said.

Living in Hell’s Kitchen, Mr. Borth said, “allows you to fill your days more fully.”

Finding an apartment, however, was more difficult. They assumed a newer building would be too pricey; all the shabby apartments with less-than-ideal layouts within their budget seemed to confirm it.

But Ms. Avery was concerned about pests in some of the older buildings — at a previous apartment, mice ate the oboe reeds she had labored over. And landlords weren’t always eager to rent to a pair of musicians with a dog.

Frustrated by the search, Ms. Avery decided to check out Gotham West anyway and was delighted to find that rents were, in fact, comparable to many of the dumpier places they’d seen.

In a tone of mild astonishment, she ticked off their studio’s virtues: good light, central air, a real kitchen with full-size appliances — and countertops, no less — and a dishwasher and a washer and dryer.

Mr. Borth laughed. “We fell in love with the new appliances.”

“And the separation between rooms!” Ms. Avery added, since the alcove for their bed is down the hall from the living area. “One day he was practicing conducting in one room and I was in the other room practicing my flute and bari sax and it was fine.”

In most studios, Mr. Borth said, “you just have a single room and you’re stuck.”

They agreed that their apartment was deserving of what is, perhaps, the highest compliment a New York apartment can receive: It feels like the kind of place you’d find in another city.

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