Thursday, March 15, 2012

My First Musical...

As many of our patrons know, we thoughtfully consider the age guidelines for all our shows. Our current production of Lucky Duck is recommended for those as young as 4. But that recommendation got me thinking back to my 4-year-old self and asking, what show did I see at that age? What was my first musical?

I have strong memories of seeing Oklahoma! at an early age – it’s practically required viewing for those of us from the state but I also have distinct and clear memories of West Side Story in the amphitheater of Jewel Box Theatre and Sound of Music produced by Lyric Theatre. But I believe my first musical was Peter Pan. I was mesmerized by the music (and the flying) and promptly wanted to emulate the kids I saw on stage as much as possible. I went so far as to record a broadcast of the version produced for NBC in 1960 starring Mary Martin. That recording, on VHS, was required viewing any time I was home sick as a kid. Though I admit that I would sometimes fast forward to get to the final fight sequence that features all the characters, with the added bonus of the giant ostrich and kangaroo (whose presence I've never entirely understood, even as an adult).

I asked some of my colleagues at The New 42nd Street about their own “My First Musical” stories and have shared their responses below. Please join in and tell us about your own child's (or your very own) first musical theater experience in the comments!

My first musical was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was 7 years old. I was so excited. The show was playing at the Minskoff Theater, and we were in the very last row. I recall going up what felt like an endless escalator to our seats. I remember thinking the set was so huge, and the production was such a spectacle. Even though the theater was really big and the actors looked really small from where I was sitting, I still felt like the show was just being performed for me.
– Jonathan Shmidt, Assistant Director of Education

I don’t remember how old I was, but my parents took my twin sister and me to see Pippin. I was so moved and thrilled by the music – and especially the dancing – that it scared me a little. I know that sounds strange, but the intensity of it all was a little overwhelming. I didn’t really understand the story, but I didn’t need to. And I’ve never forgotten it.
– Laura Kaplow-Goldman, Director of Press Relations

The first musical that I went to see was Cats on Broadway when I was in 6th grade. My teacher read us T.S. Eliot poems and explained where the concept of the musical came from to prepare us to go see the show. I remember that the Winter Garden Theater was transformed into a garbage dump to fit in with the set design. We sat in the mezzanine house right and there were cans, tires, and garbage bags all over the walls. When the lights went down and the music started I was amazed. I was so excited to see all these beautiful people dressed in intricate costumes and makeup dancing around the stage like cats. I remember thinking, adults can do this for a living? From then on I was hooked. I bought the musical score and learned to play every song on the piano.
– Renata Melillo, Education Associate

Though probably not the very first musical I saw, the first show that I clearly remember was a community theatre production of Gypsy in Biddeford, Maine. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time and I remember the whole thing vividly. I was fascinated to watch a show on the same stage that I’d had my first ballet recital on. Everything about the show enthralled me from the lights to the music. When the scene with “Small World” came up I was enchanted since we’d been using the music in my ice skating classes and now I found out the song had words! The actor playing Herbie was a friend of the family, but I didn’t realize it was him until after the curtain came down, I was so caught up in the story. I don’t remember the details of the sets, but I remember gasping when Electra’s costume lit up. And as to that infamous strip number, I can tell you with photographic detail that Miss Gypsy Rose Lee pranced across the stage holding a cardboard red heart that she lifted up to reveal nothing more than silver tassels.
– Shiraz Biggie, Associate Production Coordinator

My first musical was Evita. My dad took me to see a college production of it when I was 7 or 8, and he bought me the soundtrack afterwards. We would sit in the backyard listening to it; he would sing the Che parts and I would sing the Eva parts. Incidentally, here at The New Victory, many of our offices are located in the New 42nd Street Studios, so often we can hear rehearsals of Broadway shows before they open. For several weeks, the upcoming production of Evita was rehearsing above me, so I constantly got to reminisce about my first musical experience.
– Caroline Hendrix, Development Associate

When I was 16 my mom took me to see the tour of Les Misérables in Dallas. For both of us, it was our first musical theater experience and I remember crying as Fantine sang “I Dreamed a Dream”. I loved the song and bought the soundtrack the following week (on cassette, of course). I would drive around town playing that song over and over and belt my lungs out to it – I played it so much that I wore out the cassette. But, the most powerful moment in the show for me was at the end as the set rotated and the audience saw all the carnage of the battle. I was so moved that I literally sat there sobbing uncontrollably. It also made me aware of the importance of set, sound and lighting design and how those designer-magicians impact the audience. I already dreamed of working in theater before seeing the show. After that, I knew there was absolutely no other career option on the planet that would make me happy.
– Mara Richards, Education Manager

My first Broadway show was a musical – Lorelei starring Carol Channing. I was 6 years old and vividly remember taking our seats in the front row of the mezzanine. Everything enthralled me immediately – the red velvet seats and curtain, the gorgeous classic decorated theater (just like The New Victory). I remember feeling like I was sharing something very special with my parents. Then the music and Carol Channing, singing, covered in jewels. It literally paved the way for the rest of my life. The thrill and joy of live theater is unique and I have never stopped loving it.
– Melissa Kalt, Development Manager

I was in first or second grade when Theatre IV, a local children’s theater company in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, put on a musical production of Hansel & Gretel. I remember that the candy house was brightly colored and “opened up” to reveal the home’s interior. It was actually a really simple set, but things changed sizes and moved like a giant pop-up book and I thought it was magical. Of course I couldn’t articulate this at the time, but I remember walking away sort of mesmerized - not as much by the performance as by the experience of discovering stage magic and how much I loved believing it was real, even if it wasn’t.
– Allison Mui, Assistant Director of Press Relations

I watched my Mary Poppins VHS tape at least twice a week as a child and I would always ask my mom if there was actually a place where people just started singing and dancing together, because if there was, THAT’S where I wanted to be. I finally found that place when I went to see my first musical, a touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I sat on the edge of my seat for the entire show. It was a revelation! There really was a place where people sang and danced all the time! By the end of that week I had convinced my mom to enroll me in a tap dance class and I was staying late after school to sing through every song in my newly acquired showtune book with my choir teacher. From that day forward, my life has been filled with singing and dancing, just like Mary and Burt in my old worn out VHS of Mary Poppins.
– Erica Reinsch, Education Assistant

The first musical I ever saw was Oklahoma! when I was 5. My dad heard that one of the local high schools was performing it, so he bought us two tickets to a matinee. Unfortunately, neither I nor my parents can recall many details about the production, but I haven't missed an opportunity to be involved—onstage, offstage, or in the audience—in any piece of theater that's come my way since.
Jamie O’Brien, Marketing & Communications Manager

When I was in 5th grade, our local high school did a production of Brigadoon. They did a preview performance for the middle school students (and any interested senior citizens) and somehow, I ended up in the front row. I can remember exactly where I sat, but once the lights went down, I was transported to another place – not just to the magical village of Brigadoon, but that special “other world” that you go to when you are absolutely absorbed by a piece of theatre. When the show was over and the lights came back up, I literally had to remember who I was and what I was doing sitting in the high school auditorium. All traces of my former self had been wiped clean for the previous two hours and coming back to reality was one of the most painful emotional experiences I can remember. I consider this to be one of the two seminal experiences of my life as an artist and writer – the other being when a visiting mime came to our school when I was in 8th grade. Looking back on it, I guess my two options were to either become a musical theatre writer or a mime. Ah, the road not taken.
– Michelle Elliott, Development Associate

1 comment:

  1. Does operetta count? If so, my first experience was a Gilbert and Sullivan production in my home town, with my mother as Katisha, when I was about 4. I don't remember much about it -- being on stage was, I guess, what mothers do. (Mum sang a lot.) My first time in a musical myself was a school production when I was 8. I've loved musicals ever since!