Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Creating a Broadway Kid

Yup, she's mine.

In case anyone was confused, Madison is definitely my kid. She may have started off looking like Adam, but now the most popular reaction to any picture shared on social media is how much she looks like me. She loves her bath and would stay there indefinitely. She loves to read and devours any book set in front of her. She will watch a show over and over again and enjoy it just as much as she did the first time.

Or maybe I have the personality of a toddler....let's not think about that too much.

And now she's started to become a little obsessed with musical theater.

When I was little, I picked up this bug early. I remember playing my parent's original Broadway recording records on my Fisher Price record player, and then putting on impromptu shows. I had all the songs memorized and started acting them out. The first show I remember seeing was a community theater production of the The Music Man and I was hooked. There were kids in that show! Acting and singing and dancing! I could dance! I could sing! I was a kid! I could totally do this! 

For the next twelve to fifteen years, I did as much performing as I could. My town had a summer drama program that I adored. I took dance classes. I took voice lessons. I was in every elementary school play they offered and angled for the lead (my crazy memorization focused mind gave me an edge). When I was old enough to realize it was out there, I started reading the audition listings in the Sunday newspaper and coercing my parents to drive me to auditions and, ultimately, rehearsals. I was in Annie more times that I can count. I spent one summer in two different productions of Bye Bye Birdie, playing the teenage lead in a "youth theater" that included young adults and the adult lead in a "children's theater" that topped out at 18. I listened almost exclusively to musical theater soundtracks. My best trips were the ones I took to see shows on Broadway. I loved it. I saw Les Mis several times. Phantom on the rainiest day. Rent. A Funny Thing Happened. Beauty and the Beast. Wicked. I loved them all. When I was eighteen I got my "dream role" as Maria in the Sound of Music - the perfect culmination to my "Broadway Babe" youth before heading off to college to pursue the more practical, yet still artsy, fulfilling career as a music teacher, which I did for ten years before my move to still practical, much less artsy, yet still fulfilling career as a stay at home mom and occasional writer.

Now, in the days of iPods, Madison hasn't seen my stash of musical soundtracks. We often save her educational DVDs for the car, occasionally playing some Kidz Bop. She knows every song to all the Disney cartoon musicals and can sing every word, but she hasn't attended her first community theater production or seen "real people" singing and dancing on stage.

Until recently.

There's a long story leading up to this, but basically, I was inspired to look up a performance on YouTube. I'd read a description of this particular musical number, and I vaguely remembered seeing it performed, and I wanted to refresh my memory. And in the days of YouTube, that's pretty easy to do.

So I was sitting on my couch, watching it on my phone, smiling at the memory and realized that Madison was watching over my shoulder, mouth agape, eyes locked on the little screen.

She was hooked.

We quickly started watching all sorts of clips, following YouTube's suggestions, occasionally my own brainstorms. We stumbled into some clips of Matilda, and Madison was even more hooked. She knows the story (we read the book a few months ago) and she was fascinated by those four Matildas, singing and dancing with attitude. She wanted to watch them all the time.

We checked the soundtrack (along with a few others I thought she'd like) out of the library, and added those into our car rotation. Before long, they were added to her iTunes playlist, and became a regular part of her dance performances.

Yes, she choreographs dances to the music on her iTunes list and performs dances regularly. She improvises and adjusts until she's happy, occasionally changing things up if she's seen the older girls at her studio doing a new move, and then performs them several times a day with consistent choreography. How I didn't see that "dance performer" would easily leap to "musical theater performer" is beyond me.

And in the days of tablets and WiFi and browser suggestions, she found out about performances much more quickly than I did. It wasn't long before she was running up to me with the Matilda page open on her iPad, saying "Mom! It says tickets available!"

That's great, honey! Good reading and good searching. Did you happen to read the part about how much a Broadway ticket costs?

Clearly, the interest was there. We went to see a middle school production of Seussical as a "test run", and she loved it.

So maybe we will be walking the New York streets soon, Playbills in hand, ready to experience one of my favorite performance mediums. And I'll experience that first love through her eyes, and see if the bug bites her too.

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