The most rewarding theatre experience

The joy of seeing a show is something only the die-hard musical theatre fan can probably ever really understand. The ‘part-time’ theatre-goer can have a good time there, of course, but it is the dedicated theatre-goer who really ‘gets’ the magic of it all and holds it dear to their heart in a way others can’t. I’ve had a love of musicals for many years now, and for me, there is no other experience that evokes the same feelings in me as theatre does. Do I find pleasure in other forms of entertainment? Naturally. I listen to a wide-reaching variety of music genres and love matching my mood to that perfect album, and I almost peed my pants with excitement the other day settling down to watch Marvel’s new Avengers movie! It just doesn’t compare though. Reading is probably the only interest of mine that is a rival in my love of musicals. Man, do I love a good book…

Theatre is such a big part of some people’s lives, is what I’m trying to say, I suppose. For some people, it is their life. All spare time and money is taken up by their passion for the art form, and they’re at their happiest when sat in a darkened theatre watching these live song and dance performances on the stage before them – even when that is tested by the ignorance of such other audience members as ‘Russell the (sweet wrapper) Rustler’, ‘Must-Use-My-Mobile Marvin’ and ‘Tracey Talks-A-Lot’. I would go to the theatre every night if it were possible. It’s an experience like no other and if given the choice between music, TV, film, or any other form of entertainment, theatre would be my first pick every time, no hesitation.

I adore everything about musical theatre and my love for it has most definitely been passed down to my daughter, who has been coming to the theatre with me ever since she was 6 years old (she’s 11 this year). Her first ever live show was actually a pantomime production we went to when staying with my mum one Christmas, when she would have been about 3 years old, but it was nearly 5 years ago that she saw her first big West End show. She’s loved the theatre ever since then, and I adore the fact that it’s something that we share.

It was this that got me to thinking about something today. The theatre experience is a rewarding one, that’s for sure, but what offers the most reward: your enjoyment of it, or someone elses?

I used to write a theatre-based blog before joining the London Theatre team here, and I was reading back on an old one about my daughter’s experience seeing a West End show for the first time. I’d taken her to see Love Never Dies at the Adelphi, something she was beyond excited about as she loved the cast recording and was already a huge Phantom fan. Walking into the theatre was memorable in itself as her reaction to the lush surroundings was one of awe, and probably set some kind of record for the amount of times one person could say “wow!” Her reaction to the show though…take a look at what I wrote about it then:

‘I will never, for the rest of my life, forget the look on her face as the first strains of music began and the curtain rose on ‘animatronic Christine’. If she were a cartoon character, her jaw would have reached the floor and her tongue rolled out like a red carpet. She sat there silently gaping, eyes wide as saucers in pure amazement and, with the ‘dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun’ that marks the Phantom’s first entrance, the delight on her face was so apparent she was practically glowing! It just grew from there: the aerialist/acrobats; the animatronic horse; the first reunion of Christine and the Phantom; the creations in the Phantom’s high-top realm; his unmasking; her ‘oh my God!’ when the Phantom appears behind the bar and her little giggle at his ‘Oh, that’s a good one!’ remark, accompanied by a gasp at Raoul and the Phantom’s fighting action during ‘Devil Takes The Hindmost’…there was never a moment when she wasn’t entranced and absorbed in the show.’

She was cuddled up on my lap rubbing at her glistening eyes for the tragic ending of the show, and at the curtain call, she was in my arms clapping and waving at the cast, already asking when she could see it again.

I was one of the ones who actually thought Love Never Dies was a pretty amazing musical. It was no Phantom of course, but then again, matching up to the enormous success of ‘the brilliant original’ was an impossible task. I saw the production 3 or 4 times, I think, during its London run, but that visit was the one I enjoyed the most and remember most fondly. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it, and that was all down to my daughter’s complete and utter delight. Seeing her so caught up in the story and able to connect to the emotion of it so strongly, and at such a young age too, brought me such joy and only served to heighten my enjoyment of the show. We’re so used to watching shows through a critical eye, mentally reviewing the cast, the score, the set, and so forth; kids don’t do that. There is nothing like the joy of a child, and when people criticise the presence of young children in the theatre, I think back to this visit and the many others we’ve made as an answer to why exactly they should be taken, as often as possible! She’s always been more well-behaved than most of the adult audience members for a start, and her obvious pleasure in the show has often drawn comments from fellow theatre-goers who’ve enjoyed watching her enjoy herself.

I love going to the theatre, but the times when my daughter has accompanied me have always been my favourite experiences, hands down. She fell in love with the theatre from the very first visit and it’s a passion that will hopefully last the rest of her life. Being able to pass that on to her is something I’m very proud of, and as rewarding as I find the theatre experience, that’s the most rewarding thing of all.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 12th May 2015

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