No, no, I don’t mean those tawdry movies–I mean the musical theater productions put on by many real-life high schools every spring. My family sees at least one every year, and we always have a great time, for just $3 to $10 per person with all the profits going to a good cause.
The amazing energy and enthusiasm of teenagers can make these productions almost professional quality. Even in the shows that aren’t so great, there’s always at least one kid whose comedic timing or spectacular dancing or astonishing singing voice makes us glad we went. Most schools don’t use recorded music but have student musicians in the orchestra pit, producing all that complicated music live and usually doing it so well that my jaw drops when the lights come up for intermission and I remember that they’re a bunch of kids who’ve been playing those instruments for only a few years!
One of the many things we love about living in Pittsburgh is that high school musicals are an especially valued tradition here, with schools competing for at least three awards programs, so there are lots of shows to choose from and they tend to be pretty good. Here’s the schedule of this year’s Pittsburgh-area musicals. Last weekend, we saw the boys of Central Catholic High School and the girls of Oakland Catholic High School perform Fiddler on the Roof, and wow, it was great!! We plan to see at least two more musicals this spring, possibly up to five if we can find the time.
I actually took Nicholas to a high school musical his very first spring, when he was not quite four months old. Allderdice High School, a few blocks from our house, was putting on Seussical, and the ticket price was so low that I felt it wouldn’t be a big deal if he was fussy and we had to leave early. I took an aisle seat and sat him on the armrest, propped against my shoulder, so that he’d be able to see. First we were in the dark listening to music; he enjoyed that. Then the lights came up, interesting characters started singing on stage, Thing Two in a glittery blue wig ran down the aisle right past us–and after one shriek of joy (unnoticeable during the loud music) Nicholas watched raptly for the entire first act. After nursing at intermission, he conked out (he could sleep through anything) and I enjoyed Act II with him sleeping in my lap.
Perhaps that was a formative experience, because Nicholas has been a musical theater fan ever since. He loves listening to soundtrack albums while dancing, wearing costumes, arranging “scenery”, and/or adjusting the lighting. I expect we’ll be going to see him in a high school musical in 2020!
He’s also inherited his father’s and grandfather’s interest in stagecraft and special effects. I was a little worried that he’d be frightened by the dream sequence in Fiddler on the Roof, featuring the ghost of Fruma Sarah flapping about shrieking death threats, but his response was to perch on the edge of his seat muttering, “I think she’s on stilts with roller skates! No, it’s some kind of platform with wheels! Is it remote-controlled?”
Entertaining the family with high school musicals works for me!