Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Musicals on My Mind

Well, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer wrapped up on Saturday afternoon. We struck the set and partied at a cast member's house till late...then whooped it up some more at the recognition event, the Strike Party, on Sunday afternoon. (Then we paraded with Peter Roskam on Monday morning and entertained friends for dinner on Monday night!) My kids still have the Director's Party to look forward to, which is a reward for kids who sold a minimum number of tickets, but Tom Sawyer is officially over--always a bittersweet time (as I posted about at the end of our last show, Annie, reflecting on the time, the work, and the rewards).

I remember well my first musical--I was 4 years old, and my parents took me to see Peter Pan at the high school where my dad taught biology. I was transported by that production. My imagination was completely captured. I was Princess Tiger Lily for weeks and weeks afterward, and I remember telling an adult that when I grew up, I was going to be an Indian princess. (It was memorable because the adult tried to explain to me that I couldn't be, and I refused to believe it.)

Since then I have been to concerts, straight plays, the opera and the ballet--but musical theater is absolutely my favorite. It's got everything--solo singing, choral singing, instrumental numbers, drama, comedy, solo dance, ensemble dance, gymnastics, poetry and wit! Nothing tickles my fancy more than really clever lyrics.

These things come together in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. I've heard that Martha Graham, the famous choreographer, was once asked about the meaning of one of her dances. Her reply was, "If I could tell you what it was about, then I wouldn't need to dance it for you, would I?" (or words to that effect).

As I watched eighty kids singing and dancing their hearts out in one of the big ensemble numbers of Tom Sawyer, I found my eyes filling with tears. It was not just pride in my own two kids who were part of that group. It was not only the culmination of many weeks of practice. It was more than great pleasure in all the kids and their hard work (and my own). All these things moved me, but beyond that, they were expressing with words, movement, and their whole beings: Exuberance. Life. Joy. Youth. Energy. Fruition.

I am so grateful that my kids have the chance to be involved in this Christian theater program. Everything they do is dedicated to the glory of God; it's one of the primary values they communicate. In such a positive environment, these kids just thrive. I have watched my own, through five shows now, become less and less inhibited and more expressive and comfortable before an audience. A little over a year ago, I could not convince Bantam 10 to audition for Robin Hood, though it was full of sword-fighting--because he just wouldn't sing a short solo for the audition. In this show, he strutted out there singing a two-line solo in front of hundreds every night, wishing it were the whole song!

I've seen them stop worrying (so much) about looking or sounding stupid--even off stage. Being yourself and being expressive is a high value in theater! What a contrast to when I was their age, in a public school setting, becoming more and more inhibited and fearful of looking stupid and being laughed at--and what a long struggle it has been for me to get over those shaping experiences.

So here's to musical theater! And here are a few more shots from the final performance.


Islandsparrow said...

My kids love to be in theatre too! They haven't had much chance to do musicals though. I know that they would love it. Your productions look fabulous!

pianomum said...

Hi there--sure is wonderful to see these px--just like we were there! Hope you have a video or something we can see later. The bat dance is fabulous, & Bantam 11 sure has done himself proud! See ya soon