The plot felt rather compressed again, barely able to fit into the alotted 22 minutes. Granted, there was a lot more plot than most other shows would try to fit into a 22-minute episode in the first place; compare it to, say, the Simpsons' The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson, and you'll find that while the latter manages to tell several stories at once without ever feeling rushed, it also doesn't actually have much in the way of a grand overarching story with exposition, climax, denouement, moral lesson for the target audience, a song, and so on.
Speaking of the song, I quite enjoyed it, and I liked the fact it had a reprise with a different mood. And of course, it was very amusing to see Rarity start singing right after Dashie commented on musicals and ponies spontaneously breaking into song.
BTW, it seems that Equestria is definitely the USA after all, then? At the very least it's clearly influenced by it, and this goes far beyond pun names: Manehatten is obviously Manhattan not just in name but also in terms of architecture, landmarks etc.
Rarity is still a bit of a drama queen, isn't she? :) But she's also able to recover quickly and go back to her usual hard-working dedication when it's necessary, so that's not a bad thing. (And it's certainly better than hiding your feelings, anyway!) And she still has Spike wrapped around her hoof as well. Heh, I wonder if he'll ever grow tired of it. (Unlikely; just one look at her with a wet mane, and he'll be all lovestruck again!)
I liked the episode's lesson, and the emphasis on friendship and treating your friends – and everyone else! – well. Too many folks aren't heeding that lesson; not just in Manehattan, but also in the real world. And there were other lessons: a secondary one that while being generous is great, there is such a thing as going too far with it as well, and that not all people have your best interest in mind, and not all people play fair. And, indeed, a tertiary one: that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
Speaking of treating others well, I liked that Coco Pommel (Suri Polomare's assistant) showed up in the end, having quit and telling Rarity the truth about the outcome of the contest; I'm glad that she was inspired by what she saw in the Mane Six. And Rarity deserved to win the contest: her new "hotel" line really was very cool, certainly a bold and unusual new fashion statement. That she was able to produce it on such short notice is testament to her ability as a designer — and the willingness of all the Mane Six to give their all to support each other in times of need. How many people do you have in your life who'd do this for you?
But yeah, Coco Pommel. Heh, there's another pun name that'll fly right over the heads of the target audience! :) (And Prim Hemline rather reminded me of Mrs. Harshwhinny, although I think the latter's still nicer, deep down.)
Random other thoughts: ponies clap by stomping their hooves. Makes sense, and rather reminds me of the habit of knocking on the desk to applaud after a university lecture.
The carrot-in-a-bun was a nice little touch. They ARE vegetarians, after all!
Then there's the rainbow thread. Another loose end to add to this season's growing collection? I wonder if all these are gonna be related to the box from the Tree of Harmony in the end.
Also, I wondered, what did Suri Polomare expect to do after winning the contest? The fabric she used for her new designs came from Rarity, and Suri wouldn't have been able to make more of it. After winning, she'd have had to admit as much, and I doubt Rarity'd been willing to help her out by making more of it, much less showing her how it was made.
And what did the guy who hired Rarity as a costume designer in exchange for the exclusive musical showing think when Rarity gave the job to Coco Pommel instead without consulting him? And wasn't it just said that this design job'd be an important milestone in her career, in addition to being a favor she owed? Well, I suppose she needed to be brought back to Ponyville for the rest of the season — just like Rainbow was ultimately not allowed by the powers that be to stay in the Wonderbolts Academy for more than one episode.
All in all? A very good episode.
Elsewhere: discussion in broniesaremagic.