Theater

Wicked- Broadway Across America

For a family of theater nerds, we were totally late to the Wicked party.  I think the last time it came through town I was at the “wait.  You want me to make it out of the house?  With both kids?  And show up somewhere on time?  And have them be quiet for 2.5 hours?  Are you insane?!?!” stage of motherhood.  So when Wicked found its way back to Portland this summer via a Broadway national tour, I was over the moon.  We were off to the Emerald City!!

I have to be honest.  I may have overdone it.  That morning, Chicken had a birthday party to go to and a wall of rocks to climb.  My job was to take her, loop back to get Nugget and my friend, pick up Chicken, go to Wicked, have the husband pick up Nugget and take him to a Timbers game while the girls headed off to Melting Pot for dinner.  Oh.  And our favorite local bookstore was hosting a Harry Potter event we totally had to stop at.  And we needed treats from the bakery a couple blocks from there having a Harry Potter baked goods day.  We clearly had to go there. What could possibly go wrong?  Luckily all the stars aligned and we did all the things!

If you don’t know the story of Wicked, it’s basically the story of the Wizard of Oz before Dorothy shows up.  We learn about Galinda and Elphaba, as well as their relationship and how they developed into the people they eventually became.  We learn more about the flying monkeys, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, as well as the Wizard himself.  The story encourages us to question stereotypes and what exactly we consider good and bad.

I was a little concerned Nugget would find the flying monkeys to be frightening, and wasn’t sure it would be his cup of tea in general.  I wouldn’t say it was his favorite play we have been to, but Galinda descending onto the stage in a giant metal circle complete with bubble machines definitely caught his interest.  He liked the dragon hanging over the stage, enjoyed several of the songs, and had lots (and lots and lots and lots) of questions.  And the flying monkeys were his favorite part!  Chicken, on the other hand, adored it.  She was on the edge of her seat most of the show and has been singing Defying Gravity ad nauseum since we saw it.  She also had lots of thoughts about who was the good witch and who was the bad witch, although she thought it was a bit silly to worry about since the Wizard was clearly the real villain.  Chicken said it was in her top two of plays we have seen.

There is a lot for kids to enjoy in this show.  The sets are huge and elaborate, the dancing is great, the costumes are beautiful, and there is something to look at at all times.  It is incredibly visually appealing.  It is a spectacle that we all enjoyed witnessing.  There are some intense parts that younger or more sensitive children may find overwhelming.  The flying monkeys can be a bit scary, and sometimes the noise and lighting and stage smoke combined during the use of the the dragon and the Wizard’s facade could be a bit much for some.  I think a lot of Nugget’s questions came from some of the complexities of the story line and not quite grasping all of it.  But he got enough of it to get the general idea and could provide a basic summary of the plot afterwards.  There are a few slower parts and a few ballads that lost his interest (and mine, quite honestly), but then humor or a change of pace would quickly re-engage him.

I think Nugget was a bit on the young end for the show, but a mature child of 8 or 9 could probably get a lot out of it.

Overall, it was a great show and I am glad we went.

What it’s not: suitable for very young children, a retelling of the Wizard of Oz

What it is: a longer musical (a little over 2.5 hours), beautiful, visually stunning, amazing songs, a must-see for any blossoming theater lover, a fun and memorable date with a young person in your life, visually and auditorily intense/overwhelming at times

Do we recommend it?  For the right child, yes!

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Spring and Summer Activities, Theater

Aladdin- the Broadway Musical- updated April 8, 2019

Aladdin is coming to town!!  Yay!!  Aladdin the Broadway musical is on a national tour for at least the second you in a row.  If your kiddos are fans of the movie, it is a must see.

The show was in Seattle last year, and we took a day trip up there just in case it wasn’t going to make it to our area.  And this year we will be seeing it here as well!

The musical follows the story of the Disney movie pretty closely.  All your favorite songs are included, complete with bright, glittering sets.  Aladdin is a bit more angsty, and has a couple solos about how he hopes his parents are proud of him.  Um, he’s a thief.  But a sweet and adorable thief.

And Disney must not have been able to find incredibly well trained animals who they could guarantee wouldn’t “let it go” on the middle of the stage.  Abu is turned into two of Aladdin’s human friends who provide quite a bit of levity.  Raja becomes Jasmine’s girlfriends, and honestly I didn’t feel like they added much.  Iago also becomes a man- although somehow Nugget walked away with the impression he was Jafar’s wife.  His mind must have taken some interesting detours.

We saw the show when Adam Jacobs was in the title role- he originated Aladdin on Broadway.  It was pretty cool to see the original actor and recognize the voice from the soundtrack we had been listening to.  He is no longer playing Aladdin, but I’m sure the new actor will be fantastic, too.

The costumes in this show are gorgeous and colorful.  There is so much to look at and be amazed by.  The cave of wonders is very well done, and the stage is covered in golden treasure.  The dancing is fantastic and the whole show is so high energy.  It’s kind of like a multicolored singing glitter bomb going off on stage for 2 plus hours.  In a good way.

The kids both loved it. Although Nugget was very concerned that we saw so much of Jasmine’s belly button.  He didn’t feel like that was appropriate.  Or the kissing.  Chicken reveled in following him around saying “belly button, belly button, kiss, kiss, kiss” for several week.  Actually, she still does it sometimes and he still curls up into the fetal position.  So there’s that.  But he was entranced by the flying carpet.  He knows there should be ropes holding it up, but since we couldn’t see them he is sure there must be some actual magic involved.  Chicken still occasionally bursts into “High Adventure”- one of the new songs that was one of our favorite parts of the play.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the meatier or best acted Broadway tours.  But it sure is fun.  If you are looking for an afternoon of color, dance, humor, and Disney joy, this show is definitely for you.  Run and get your tickets now!

If you are interested in going to Aladdin while it is in town this March and April, you can find them at https://portland.broadway.com/

And yes- Frozen is coming!  Eek!

 

UPDATE:  We saw this show in Portland for the second time on April 6, 2019.  It was even better than last time!  Even accounting for the fact that we didn’t have to drive three hours each way, we enjoyed the show even more.  Three actors are now portraying Genie, and we lucked out by seeing Major Attaway in the role, who has previously played Genie on Broadway.  He was out of this world!  We also preferred this year’s Aladdin and Jasmine- they had better chemistry and Jasmine was just a touch sassier in a way we loved.  I think Aladdin’s three friends were perhaps a bit stronger last year, but these actors were also fantastic.

We had slightly better seats this time and it really made a difference in how much we noticed the sparkle that is all over the stage and costumes, as well as all the small details that are part of the set.  Chicken and Nugget both giggled more this time and overall we had a fantastic time.

So, my assertion still stands- if Aladdin comes on tour to your area and you have little fans at home, it it totally worth a family date night!