When my daughter, Nina, was almost three, her favorite movie was Disney’s Cinderella. She also liked the black and white made-for-TV version starring Leslie Ann Warren. She had learned how to operate the VCR and would play the tapes at will.
At the same time, I was directing a production of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for ACLOA (now MTS). I took her to a few rehearsals and she loved the fact that the music she knew from our television was now being staged live in front of her.
I decided to take her to a performance of the show. I knew if she couldn’t sit still through it, I could take her home. We both knew how it ended.
I brought her to Popejoy in her fanciest dress (her choice). We had aisle seats (the privilege of directing). She did well through the first act, sitting rapt by the costumes and sets added to what she’d seen in rehearsals.
In the middle of the second act as the ball got underway, she stepped into the aisle and started dancing, her dress swirling as fully as the gowns on stage. Worried she might be bothering others, I took her hand to get her to sit with me again. A woman across the aisle motioned to me to let me know she was bothering no one. I wasn’t completely convinced. There were others behind us.
A lot of parents had brought children to that performance. It was a matinee of Cinderella, after all. Still, I worried even before bringing her that she might be too young, that requiring her to sit still and pay attention to a three-act musical might be asking too much of a (not quite) three-year-old.
Children should be brought to theaters, I believe, so they understand how to behave at a live performance. They should learn that during their time in the theater the spotlight is on someone else. Our Schooltime Series helps children acclimate to a live performance and learn the wonders available in theaters. Nina, at three, had been raised around theaters and already understood that to some degree. But Cinderella was her longest show yet and I was quite prepared to leave with her if necessary.
This is all pertinent right now because tomorrow Disney’s The Lion King goes on sale to the general public. I know parents are going to want to bring their children, even infants and toddlers.
Please consider the child, his or her ability to sit through a nearly three-hour musical, and the other people in the theater. Dancing in the aisle won’t be an option during this show. Nor will talking out loud, being agitated or fussing. If your child is disrupting the performance or disturbing other patrons, you will both be asked to step out of the theater. I’m sure you don’t want to buy tickets to watch the show on our lobby screens.
Age is a factor for a lot of reasons. For example, if a child's ears haven't developed fully, they won't easily tolerate loud noises, and Broadway shows can be loud at times.
Disney recommends that children be at least five, but not every five-year-old is ready. Sometimes they’d be happier staying home with a sitter. Consider your decision very carefully. If they do come, I hope they can and do enjoy the performance immensely.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Two girls watch a Schooltime Series show in Popejoy Hall