I had heard that the first few minutes of Disney's "The Lion King" on Broadway are some of the most breathtaking moments people have seen on stage. Last Saturday, I sat in our secluded little area, (it's not where our seats were, but since we were with a Lion King employee and the area was empty, we got to sit in the middle of the six empty rows in the back. The best place to enjoy a show with a 17-month-old) and I felt the house lights go down, and I wondered. I am not easily impressed. Would I feel what others have felt?
Less than a minute later I was holding my breath and crying as I watched the beautiful events unfold. But I could not tell you what was happening onstage. Or what the elephants looked like. I could barely tell you what song they were singing. (OK, it was "Circle of Life," but come on. We've all seen the movie.) Because the sight that had me so swept up was not the show itself, but rather, my daughter watching the show.
She sat on a booster seat between Mommy and Daddy for the first minute. She laughed when the baboon came out. But when she saw the elephant pass by in the aisle, just inches away, she crawled onto Ryan's lap and wrapped her arms around his neck, facing the back of the house. She held on, but she never stopped watching. Once they had passed, she turned around to see the parade of animals make their way up to the stage. "Wassat?" she asked. (This version of the word highly preferable and much more developed than the former "What is it?" scrunched into one syllable. "Shi-iht?") And before we could answer her- "Oooooooh! Wow!" And she sat. And she watched. And she clapped. And she laughed. (including when Mufasa died. But we'll forgive her for not understanding the context.) And she saw nearly the entire full-length show at seventeen months old.
Our friend Lindsay, who got us the tickets, did take Lily out into the lobby for a few minutes during Act 1, and again for a few minutes in Act 2. But not for long, and only for the slower parts. She sat mesmerized through the rest, and by the time Scar was brought down, she was standing on my lap and clapping her hands and yelling "Yaaaayyyy!!!" (But again, she laughed when Mufasa died, so...)
Who knows how much she understood of the story. Very little, I'm sure. But she could feel it. She could feel the orchestra. And she could feel the energy in the room. She could see and hear the instruments ("Doot doot dooooooo!" and then looking for my reaction. Is that right, Mommy? Yes, baby girl. Those horns say "doot doot doo.") and the voices, and she could see the costumes and the sets. And she could go backstage after the show. And she got to meet the actors and even go trick-or-treating in their dressing rooms and have hot dogs with their families.
Being a Mommy is exhausting. And sometimes thankless. And being in theatre is exhausting. And often thankless. But last Saturday, Lily reminded me that things aren't so bad.