Our kids enjoy theater. Suburbia provides plenty of opportunities to catch regional and traveling shows. We often attend as a family, and the kids’ grandmother likes to treat them as well. But, none of the kids experienced a true Broadway show until this weekend’s trip to New York. Once they got a taste, they didn’t want to stop.
As I mentioned, we saw Rock of Ages early in the trip–fun show, light entertainment with great music, especially for those of us who grew up in the 80s. Then, we decided to catch a Saturday matinée show. It’s hard to beat the half-price tickets available at the ticket booth in Times Square on the day of the show. The kids and I souvenir shopped while Adventure Guy took his turn waiting on line. Our instructions: try for The Addams Family, then In The Heights, then The Scottsboro Boys. As we wandered the shops, each of us had different hopes in regard to the potential ticket purchasing results. The girls particularly wanted to see In The Heights with Jordin Sparks. I found myself torn between The Addams Family since it’s starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth and The Scottsboro Boys because of the fabulous review I’d heard for it on NPR recently.
When we made our way back to Adventure Guy, we learned he had chosen The Scottsboro Boys based on seat availability. The history teacher in me cheered. It’s not every day that the disturbing events of America’s past turn up in a Broadway musical, and it’s certainly not often that it’s done as well as it is in this show. With what I knew about the overall message of the performance, I’ll admit to surprise as we arrived at the theater entrance to find protestors. I’d already explained the historical background of both the plot events and the minstrel show format to the kids, but I also had to explain the reason the show would draw objections from some in the African-American community. Yes, the show is performed in the format of a minstrel show–that old Southern tradition filled with racist caricatures. But, this is a minstrel show turned on its head. The cast, with the exception of one narrator, is black. This includes the actors who play the racist Southern lawmen. It includes the actors who appear for one scene in black face. And throughout the show, the audience is left with absolutely no question as to the injustice that took place in Alabama in the 1930s. It’s incredibly moving, and about as far from racist as I can imagine.
We did indeed score fabulous seats as promised–right in front with a view of the orchestra as well as the stage. The Lyceum Theater, Broadway’s oldest continuously operating venue, provides a fabulous setting, a piece of artwork serving as an ornate backdrop for a minimalist set. The show’s near two hours flies by with no intermission. We all left amazed with the actors’ talent and impacted by the story they told.
The kids loved the show so much that Adventure Guy couldn’t resist offering up a surprise. He would spring for one more show if we could get tickets to The Addams Family. His logic? We’d seen the fun show, we’d seen the serious show, and The Addams Family would round out things nicely with a big-name, big theater production. I found it hard to argue with this logic, and soon we were in possession of five tickets to the evening show. We killed the time in between with some fabulous pizza from John’s Pizzeria.
I’ll admit that I enjoyed the musical more than I’d even expected. Never a particular fan of the original television series, I went mainly to see the big name stars playing the lead roles. Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth did not disappoint. Even better, the show offered plenty of laughs and some great staging.
As we walked home to the hotel, Soccer Boy asked, “Can we pleeaaase see another one tomorrow?” Though we’ve exhausted the Broadway budget for this trip, I think we have a convert on our hands!