I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom staring in the mirror on my closet door holding a hairbrush as I pretended to belt I Could Have Danced All Night from “My Fair Lady”. It was blaring from a circa 1982 boom box cassette player that I stole from my brother. I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old. The cassette came from a random box in my house, it was called The Best of Broadway and from the moment I pressed play, I was in love.
Fast forward a few years to me anxiously sitting in the car as my brother sped down the Whitehurst Freeway in Washington, DC to try and make it on time to see Les Misérables at the Kennedy Center. I remember my brothers basically cursing my mom for taking them to a musical. I, on the other hand could not have been more excited. It was my first show and I knew I would never forget it. And I never did.
I made many promises to myself as a kid of things I would do with my kids when I had some of my own. They wouldn’t eat junk food (ha!), I would never let them watch TV (ha ha!), I would let them stay up as late as they wanted (ha ha ha!), they would love the theatre like I did. Thanks to a wonderful tradition called Kids Night on Broadway, I have been able to nail that last one.
Kids Night on Broadway began 20 years ago as a program of The Broadway League. For one night, kids 18 and younger can attend a participating show for free with a full-paying adult. KNOB was designed to introduce young people to the magic of theatre. And magic it truly is.
This year I was able to take my seven year old to her third Broadway show as part of her birthday present thanks to Kids Night on Broadway. We saw “The King and I” and we could not have been more impressed by the performance. Kelli O’Hara is transcendent. You truly can’t take your eyes off of her through the entire show. The opening had my daughter looking at me as if her whole world was just lit on fire in the best possible way. She grinned from ear to ear when she heard the orchestra tuning and said, “even if I can’t act or sing, I can still play my violin and be a part of it.” Yes, you can baby girl. You can do anything you want.
My daughter saw her first Broadway show on her fourth birthday when we decided the ditch the big birthday party thing and spend our money to create a lasting memory instead of fill her little friends with sugar. I will never ever forget watching her face as she gazed at Lilla Crawford singing Tomorrow in the 2012 revival of “Annie”. I honestly spent more time watching Chloe’s face than the actual show and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Something sparked in her that day and with every round of applause and every drop of the curtain she looked at me with such wonder and a smile that could light up a room. On the way home from our day in the city, she told me her favorite part (besides riding in the taxi cabs) was “the butterflies in her tummy when the music started. It was like I was in a dream!” Those words are etched into my mind and bring a smile to my face regularly. The Broadway train hasn’t slowed down since. Next up was “Cinderella” for her sister, “Wicked” for Chloe’s sixth birthday and this year’s treat, “The King and I”. Her little sister will see “Wicked” when she turns six and I can’t wait until my son gets his first Playbill when he turns four.
I grew up as a theatre kid. I was in plays beginning in kindergarten and continued all through high school. I found my people and my home and was so very lucky to be in schools that stressed the importance of the arts. I always had a pipe dream of performing on Broadway either as an actor or in the pit. I secretly memorized nearly every score of every show I could find when I should have been practicing Bach on my violin. But alas, reality reared its ugly head and I had to abandon my dream because I didn’t have any real talent and that seemed to come in handy if you wanted to make a living. Instead I dedicated my love of Broadway to doing everything in my power to seeing shows. All shows. As often as I could. And as soon as my kids were born I sang them lullabies of Edelweiss and Someone to Watch Over Me determined to plant the seed in their brains the same way that “Best of Broadway” tape did for me.
Last night as we spent our 3rd consecutive year as part of Kids Night on Broadway my heart was full of gratitude for this wonderful organization. The arts are vital to the development of well-rounded and happy kids and I am so grateful that The Broadway League is making exposure to the live theatre accessible to more people. We are lucky to live close to New York City and can easily “catch a show” when the budget allows but not everyone gets the chance. The good news is that Kids Night on Broadway isn’t just a New York thing! Touring companies of participating shows offer Kids Night on Broadway deals on other dates in other cities. Check out the website and find out how you can give your kids the gift of theatre.
A fun addition to these fancy interwebs this year is a new website called Bwayzone.com and it is a totally interactive and excellent resource for kids who want to know more about Broadway. I may have spent an embarrassing amount of time on it myself and loved every minute.
Thank you, Broadway League for helping me and so many other parents share our love of the theatre with our children. We can’t wait until next year!