In 9th grade, I earned the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in our high school musical. That role spurred me to become a nut about musical theater. I watched musicals, acted in them, listened to their soundtracks endlessly. I remember standing on top of our stereo console, where I could see our huge gilded full length mirror above the fireplace, belting out show tunes with my hair brush as microphone.
Even more than singing, though, I loved the stories told through musical numbers. There’s the poetry of the lyrics, the narrative, the playful way that songs create new dynamics between characters and so on. I had the good fortune of growing up outside of Los Angeles, so my mother (who was a theater major in college) took me to plays and musicals from the time I was two years old until I was old enough to take myself. Starting at 16, I went to the theater district in LA and saw A Chorus Line, The Wiz (twice!), and Pippin while in high school.
Musical theater has always signified for me a joyful treat that goes beyond the usual movie and dinner or overnight at a bed and breakfast.
I wondered if my kids, growing up as homeschoolers, were likely to discover musical theater for themselves. We had less money, less opportunity to get to the big theaters where touring companies would come. I figured they would possibly see a musical at the local high school at some point and that would be it until adulthood. I purchased Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George as videos to expose the kids to what I considered great shows. Then something happened on the way to high school… The kids caught the bug through a little show called Wicked.
I don’t know who told them about Wicked. What happened, though, is that a voracious appetite for musical theater was unleashed in our home and every day now, I’m pelted with show tunes coming through iPod speakers or the nearest computer’s iTunes. Caitrin can’t do math without singing “No One Mourns the Wicked” or “Seasons of Love” from Rent.
Jacob has two huge Disney posters on his walls to commemorate his passion for all music Disney, Tim Rice and Alan Menken. So far, the kids have seen live shows of Beauty and the Beast (twice), Lion King, Wicked, Little Women, Wind in the Willows, and 42nd Street. I took Johannah to see Les Miserables for her 16th birthday.
There are loads of reasons to jump on our musical theater bandwagon:
- The lyrics tell a story.
- The productions are live (what a difference to television and movies!).
- The story lines are usually exceptionally compelling. They have to be in order to sustain the attention of a media saturated audience.
- The music is catchy and singable.
- Actors are multi-talented.
- Set design and transformation is magical.
- The orchestra is live!
- You enjoy the experience as a group, with an audience that claps and laughs and participates.
- Cultural literacy is enhanced.
If you haven’t taken the plunge to spend the money and energy to check out musical theater, I urge you to do so! If you live in a remote location, you can at least order musicals via Netflix. See how your kids like them. Then figure out a way to get to a live performance. You’ll be glad you did.
Funny you would write this post today. At 9:30pm tonight, I asked my 12dd to get off the phone with her friend and try to settle in to bed. She pulled the “Just a few more minutes MOM” answer with me. I asked what was so important and she replied,
“My friend and I are writing a musical. We have the basic plot line down, but are working on our first song, and it’s going to be fabulous!”
She also just today started singing the lines of a song from “Wicked,” a show I hadn’t even heard of. But this is a refreshing change from the past four months of “Cats” Showtunes.
Thanks for your inspiring blog.
PS. If you ever get to St. Louis, The Muny opera, in Forest Park offers several musicals and plays each summer in it’s outdoor theatre. There are free seats too. I must have seen 12 or more musicals during my childhood all in the free seats.
Thanks for the insight. My daughter brought home a copy of the soundtrack of the Sound of Music from grandma’s this week. It is good to be reminded that every time we listen to it, re-enact it, and have a costume change, that it is reinforcing positive synapses.
We’ve done copywork from lyrics when my kids have been in youth musicals—This works for us because the kids are very immersed in the music!
I took all three of my kids to see Phantom of the Opera in 2006 thinking it would be only myself who enjoyed it (had to try right?). Instead my children (aged 4-15 at the time) became obsessed with Phantom! Even to this day my youngest would rather listen to and sing the lyrics to a Phantom song than anything else.
It was a great experience for us made even better by the fact that it was the Toronto group I had ALWAYS dreamed of seeing myself. 🙂
Thank you for this wonderful post! I have two comments: One is that our favorite local radio station, WERS (Emerson College radio) broadcasts a show called Standing Room Only every Saturday from 10a-2p (EST) and Sunday from noon until 2. It is possible to stream the audio from their website, wers.org. I highly recommend it, and I have WERS to thank for my five year old’s ability to sing all the lyrics from “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”
Second, if you don’t live near a large city or if you don’t have the $ to see the large productions, SUPPORT LOCAL THEATRE!