Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Love of the Theater

Broadway musicals have long been a passion in my life. Since I was a little girl the stage, the music, the costumes, and the stories stoked the fires of my imagination, and took me away to a fantasy world of unparalleled beauty. From Peter Pan and Annie to Dreamgirls and A Chorus Line I was luckily and thankfully exposed to the theater at its best. I was also equally thrilled to see local theater and high school productions as well. Upon becoming a mother I decided that my own children would be shown theater in all of its forms and hopefully I would foster a love and appreciation for musical theater in them.

As a little girl my mother took me to Peter Pan with another family and we had an amazing experience. I neither remember who the star was (Sandy Duncan?) nor the entire story, but I do remember vividly the feeling I got in the darkened theater watching Peter Pan sail through the sky and the magic I witnessed at every turn. Not long after I was taken to see Annie and I was overjoyed with the entire production. I knew a couple of songs and adored the rest of the score. I identified, strangely enough, with the young Annie although I had my biological parents who loved me, it was not the era of the Depression, I didn’t have red curly hair and FDR was no longer president! But I identified nonetheless and made room for Annie in my heart from that day forward! My mother loved musical theater as well and was enamored with Patti Lupone as Evita. She played the soundtrack constantly and I became a staunch fan of that show as well. As I grew older, but long before I was a teenager, my parents told me to choose a show I’d like to see from the “twofer” tickets available in my elementary school office. I watched television a lot in those days and where I grew up Broadway shows were constantly being advertised. I knew what I wanted to see and obtained the “twofers”; it was Dreamgirls. To my parents’ credit, even though they and my brothers were rather uninterested in seeing the show, I was taken. I loved the entire show and they all admitted it was excellent even though it wasn’t necessarily their taste!

Throughout my childhood I was taken to local theater and saw shows like Brigadoon as well as nonmusical theater like Death Trap and Equus, all of which I enjoyed immensely. When my brother became involved with the drama department in high school, (he was a sound engineer), I was exposed to Pippin. This solidified my lifelong fandom of theater. I saw young performers not much older than I bring characters to life in such a way that I became nearly obsessed! I saw the production numerous times, wrote a fan letter to one of the principles, and decorated my room in every bit of literature and paraphernalia from that specific production. I saw everything the high school put on each spring: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Barnum, and, when I finally was a student at the high school, The King of Hearts (a rather miserable show, but the one during which my husband and I finalized our romance).  Even after my parents moved and I was enrolled in a different high school I stayed involved in the drama department and worked on South Pacific and The Pajama GameI was continuously lucky to be taken to shows on Broadway while in high school like A Chorus Line and Me and My Girl. During college I was gifted tickets to one of the hottest shows on Broadway, Phantom of the Opera. It was good, but not until I saw it a second time a few years later did I truly understand all of the well-deserved hype. While living in Virginia for college I saw Fiddler on the Roof for the first time and instantly loved it. After college and back in the New York metropolitan area, I saw Big River, Three Penny Opera starring Sting, and Rent. Rent became an all-time favorite and I am still passionate about this musical; so much so that I am sure it deserves a blog of its own.

The show that takes this story full circle is called Les Miserables.  It was ten years old when I was able to see this on Broadway, but it still was dynamic, epic, emotional, and awe-inspiring. The music is brilliant, the staging impressive, and the cast talented beyond compare. From the moment the show started to its all too quick conclusion (it’s actually a rather long show, but I never want it to end) I was completely wrapped up in the world created. I saw the show twice before it left Broadway and was overjoyed when PBS aired the Tenth Anniversary Celebration Concert of Les Miserables. I have been and always will be a rabid fan. Now, twenty-five years after the debut of Les Miserables, a concert honoring that distinction has been performed and captured for audiences of PBS. This time my husband and I were able to share it with our three children. We were not sure what to expect as, at ages 8, 4, and 1, they are far too young to understand the many themes and nuances of the show, but they really liked it! My oldest keeps singing the opening strains of the show as he goes about his daily business. I love it! Through a shared love of theater and Les Miserables specifically, we can continue to welcome the theater in our home and expose our children to one of our strong passions.

I thought about using this as one of my Simple Joys entries, but as is evident, there was too much involved. My love of theater and the exposure of my children to such is obviously too much for a simple paragraph. I hope that whatever your passion is – racing, football, theater, etc. – you are able to enjoy it now and expose your children to it as well. There is little in this world more gratifying than sharing what you love with those you love!


  1. I haven't seen very many Broadway shows, but I have enjoyed each one. I would encourage you to take your older ones to see Mary Poppins. The story is a little different from the movie, but the sets are incredible. The music is wonderful, and the little surprises throughout are fantastic.

    I loved that a little girl a few rows down from me (who had clearly never seen the movie), with the awe and wonder of a child said loudly, "How did she DO THAT?!" when Mary takes her mirror and floor lamp out of her carpet bag.

    My favorite most anticipated part of the play was each time Mary "flew"... I get emotional every time. It is just magical to me. I can't even watch a commercial for the play without getting emotional. Mary Poppins has always held a special place in my heart and the play just brought it more to life for me.

  2. musicals i saw included Fiddler on the Roof with Topol in the lead role, Hanzel and Grettel, Pirates of Penzance, Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar in about '72, our headmaster at school was big on Gilbert & Sullivan scholl performances where I was a props guy included The Mikado HMS Pinafore and The Gondolliers, imagine 15 adults on a mocked up Gondollier mounted on no more than a pair of spindly pram wheels !

    I once had a partner who worked on all the big shows in London in costumes and props she worked on Cats, The Lion King and Miss Siagon amongst many others during the 5 years we were in London I did not get to see any of them, somehow we were both too busy !

    I much prefer spoken theatre but that's another blog all together :-)

  3. I adore spoken theater, too. I saw ART (right up your alley!) and The Dinner Party with Henry Winkler and John Ritter (shortly before he died). I've always wanted to see Our Town. I think I may be the only American theater lover who has NOT seen it!
    Being that you love music so well, it always surprises me you don't care for musical theater more. I have seen Miss Saigon (so not my favorite), Jesus Christ Superstar (fantastic, with Dennis DeYoung as Pilate), and many others. We took ML187 to see The Lion King and it was spectacular.
    Yes, I could write several blogs about theater! Look for one about RENT eventually. Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your thoughts!

  4. I took my husband kicking and screaming to The Lion King. Before he was out of the theater he said, "we need to take the kids the next time it comes here."

    The next time it came around we took the two older ones. ;) So I had the privilege of seeing it twice and I would recommend it to ANYONE!