I have to give you some background on my musical history.
I LOVE MUSICALS.
(I have even subjected my spin class to a Broadway Spin on occasion.)
My love for them started in high school with being in high school musicals, then Spanish Club field trips at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, moved on toward Drury Lane and has continued at the Cadillac Palace, Oriental Theater, Bank of America, Steppenwolf, …actually any theater, anywhere, anytime.
I have seen so many musicals at so many levels, that I feel I have a pretty good sense of what I am in for right after the first scene opens…and unfortunately sometimes even before.
This weekend I took my niece and nephew, ages 8 and 6, to see Annie Jr. at the Hemmens in Elgin. This was no ordinary children’s production. This production was spectacular. The musical was produced by CYT or Christian Youth Theater of Chicago. From the sets and scenery to the choreography, these theater kids are part of a true Broadway experience. When the full cast was on stage, there were 97 children from age 8-18.
I have no affiliation with this group, and no obligatory relative that I had to watch. I was just there to be an aunt and see a musical with the kids. Every aspect of the production was easy to enjoy and NO feelings of “”waiting for this to be over” ever came to mind. The musical was full of the well known Annie showstoppers. The orphan’s bucket dance of “Hard Knock Life” and “N.Y.C.” complete with servants and Rockettes were so lively and the sweet solos of “Maybe” and “Tomorrow” were really enjoyable; the tempo clipped right along.
The set changes were smooth and magical for my little dates. When a whole new scene was on stage within seconds, they exclaimed “How did they do that?” The costumes were professional and bright and extremely colorful. The tiniest actors with the big voices along with the older actors with confidence were really enjoyable. I repeat, this was VERY PROFESSIONAL and not a small undertaking.
These kids are committed to making the experience real for their audience. Why do I know that? Because Daddy Warbucks had a bald head. Shaved to shine. This is no less commitment than a football player getting a Mohawk for the state tournament. My niece got so excited when Daddy Warbucks appeared on stage she whisper/shouted, ” Oh my gosh, he looks just like my dad! It’s like they could be the same person!” Now that’s realism. These kids are committed.
The pièce de résistance of the show was …drum roll please…that they had a real live dog acting as Sandy, behaving and doing exactly what his/her script read. The kids (and grownups) in the audience loved it. You could hear a cumulative “awwwww” when the dog took the stage.
I will be seeking out more of these shows. As soon as I got home, I got online to see the schedules. The theater troupes are all over Chicagoland. Almost all of the local counties have a program. Aurora, Dupage, Kane, Kenosha, Lake, McHenry, Milwaukee, NW Cook, Oak Park, and Rockford. They offer summer camps, classes and even programs for 5, 6, and 7 year olds. And if you are a teacher, they provide daytime performances of their shows for field trips and will even come to your school to conduct education programs for a performing arts experience.
If your children are of the age (8-18) and are interested in being onstage, give it a try. One mom I talked to said her child was very shy as a young girl, but being in this group and taking the classes they provide to prepare for the shows has totally changed her.
The bottom line for me is…for the low cost of these tickets compared to the high cost of authentic Broadway these days, you can take your family for the REAL DEAL and not hurt your own “bottom line” and you can still afford to eat. Check the schedule and buy your tickets today. The winter season is in full swing right now. If you miss out now or are unable to go this weekend or anytime this spring, there will be more shows again this summer.
I know it sounds like I am gushing, but it really was worth the gush. Put it on your “must do” schedule.
Click on the links below for a list of cities and shows.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Aurora @ the Batavia Fine Arts Center, Feb 16-26
The Music Man – Dupage @Timothy Christian School Auditorium, May 3-12
Annie – Kane @Hemmens Cultural Center, Feb 9-12
The Sound of Music – Kenosha @Reuther Auditorium, March 1-4
The Little Mermaid – Lake @ College of Lake County, Feb 9-12
Aladdin – McHenry@Huntley High School, Feb 16-26
Godspell – Milwaukee @St. Thomas Moore HS, March 23- April 1
Wizard of Oz – NW Cook @ Prairie Lakes Community Center, Feb 9-19
Narnia – Oak Park @The Arts Center of Oak Park, Feb 16-19
Beauty and the Beast – Rockford @ Rockford College, March 1-11