23 March 2008

Then and Now

My first Broadway show was Shenandoah, starring John Cullum (and Penelope Milford, who played the oldest daughter, who was of course the character I fixed on). My mother took me, just she and I, into the city for a matinee. I loved going into the city with my mother, who is a rather shy and naive woman. The city transformed her into someone who walked fast and purposefully, who took control, who was in charge. My father--also city-born and city-bred, albeit in Queens, while my mother grew up in Manhattan and worked there for many years as well--is curiously cowed by the city, and that reversed their usual dynamic. Not that my dad is an overly domineering sort, but in matters of logistics and transportation, he was usually the one leading the way. But not in the city.

Shenandoah just blew me away. I'd always been drawn to narrative songs. Among the belongings in the basement that I need to decide what to do with is a box of records, including my childhood recording of Cinderella, and probably Danny Kaye singing Hans Christian Andersen. As I got older, I practically wore out my copies of Jesus Christ Superstar and 1776. I loved the vocabulary of songs (I learned rubicon from a song in 1776 and grippe from Guys and Dolls, e.g.). I loved the stories of the songs. So I went to the theatre expecting to love it, and love it I did (click through the link above and you'll hear selections from the touring production starring Cullum--very cool to see him as I recall him).

Magpie posted recently about the smell of Penn Station. I love the smell of Manhattan, generally. The pretzels, the people, the trains. I love the memory of walking along the city streets with my mother, and I love the magic of my Shenandoah memories. I thought the songs were amazing, the costumes so beautiful, and the story just gosh darn romantic.

So that was my introduction to Broadway. I don't know when Curious Girl will see a Broadway show on Broadway, living as we do quite far from the city. But today I took her to her first Broadway-ish show: H.igh S.chool M.usical's national tour came through. Maybe someday she'll be blogging--or writing in whatever technology she will have available--about her memories of her first show, comparing them to what her child's first big show will be. CG was transfixed (as much by the fact that her favorite teacher and her daughter came with us as with the show). We've seen the movie too many times to count, so CG knew the plot (but sometimes, I think, got a little confused by the rearranging necessitated by the move from screen to stage). Not all the songs are the same, and I found myself nitpicking about the sound system, which just sounded so electrified. Am I just getting old and crabby, or is more amplification reducing sound quality?

We had a good time (although I think the movie is better than the play, which plays up stereotypes more sharply and more meanly, and is less emotionally subtle than the movie). And for all I know, Curious Girl fell asleep as entranced as I was by John Cullum, Penelope Milford, and the rest of the cast sometime in the mid-70s. Sweet dreams, my theatre-going girl.


Songbird said...

Wonderful memories, Susan.
My first two Broadway experiences came on the same weekend, and both were Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing (with Sam Waterston) and Two Gentlemen of Verona, that wonderful musical version. Those memories are still so vivid!

Arwen said...

My mom used to take me to shows at the University in Ottawa. I saw Pirates of Penzance, the Tempest, A Winter's Tale...
They made a huge impression on me. I still remember snuggling against my mom, my hand against my mouth, tense with excitement.

Magpie said...

Sweet post of memory. I am looking forward to taking my child to things...we've gone to the Nutcracker and she's seen other dance, but not yet the circus or a Broadway show.