Taking Your Kids to a Broadway Show?
Have you considered taking your child to a Broadway show, but you aren't sure if they are ready for the experience? Let's face it, a Broadway musical can be 2 to 3 hours in length and that's a long time for some kids to sit still. There are also certain etiquettes and traditions of being an audience member that you might feel they aren't ready to handle, or haven't developed the maturity to behave so that the rest of the audience doesn't become disgruntled. Broadway should be enjoyed by all, even the little ones, so don't set them up for disappointment or failure in their live theater experience of this magnitude.
We cannot expect kids to understand what they do not know. Preparing a young child for their first Broadway musical is the best way to ensure they have a first-rate experience and not alienate the audience around you. Here are some helpful tips for getting your son or daughter ready to begin their love for a life filled with Broadway theatre.
1. Talk to your kids about what they will encounter at a Broadway show. Talk up the excitement of getting your ticket scanned. Show them what a Playbill is. Tell them about how an usher will help them find their seats. Help them understand that it might be very crowded. Tell them it is important to get there early so that the whole family can make a bathroom run before the show starts.
2. Talk to them about audience etiquette. Remind them that the actors can hear them. This experience is not like sitting at home and watching TV or a movie, but in a room where many people are trying to listen and hear. Assure them that laughing where things are funny is part of the experience, but that if they have questions, they should try to remember them and be sure to ask them at intermission or when the show is over. Applauding after songs and at the end of the show is an especially nice thing to do if they want to show the performers that they have enjoyed the experience. With younger kids, it is also important to remind them that they must stay in their own seats and not put their hands and feet on the seats ahead of them. I find that, when teaching kids about the theatre experience, that by stressing the uniqueness of the experience and making them feel like they are a part of something special (perhaps a rite of passage) they almost always rise to the occasion on the items I’ve just mentioned.
3. Be smart about the show you take them to see. Is it something that is going to appeal to them? Is it kid-friendly and age-appropriate? This will make the difference between musical theatre capturing their attention (and hearts), and leaving them confused, bored, or prone to disliking the experience entirely. If there is a cast album of the show available, play it several times at home before you go to the show. It will make the show more familiar to them, recognizable, and they will already feel a connection to the material when they witness it live. I was introduced to Oliver! this way by my First Grade teacher and it made all the difference in how out whole class felt about seeing a live production.
4. Have that important discussion about cell phones, cameras, and other electrical devices. Help them to understand that they are not appropriate for the theatre. Be sure to be role models of that behavior as well.
5. Try a practice run at home. Many streaming services are showing Broadway musicals that were recorded live. Pick a family-friendly one such as Shrek the Musical, Into the Woods, or Newsies and pantomime everything I discussed earlier: scanning your ticket, going to the restroom, being ushered to the seat, looking at a Playbill. Do it in real time. If you would arrive at the show a half-hour before the show, then set a timer. A half-hour later, start the recording and watch as a family, observing the rules that you have laid out. Stop the video at intermission and take the break. Answer any questions that they might have. If bathrooms are needed, go again, with the understanding that you only have so much time to get back to your seat. At the end, applaud and then talk about what you watched. This is a particularly good opportunity to help them synthesize what they saw and the traditions of the experience itself. What was their favorite part of the show? Did they have a favorite song or character? Give them the chance to ask you questions as well. By sharing the experience with them, you can demonstrate why you love theatre and hopefully pass your enthusiasm for musicals on to another generation of theatregoers.
We all want kids to come to the theatre and fall in love with it. Let’s make it the best possible experience it can be by taking the time to think it through, maybe do a little teaching, and magnify the glory of the theatre experience. Happy theatergoing.