|We made it!|
Though I can count on one hand the times I have driven into downtown Houston by myself, we made it to the parking garage at the Hobby Center on time and without incident. We kept a good pace, walking hand in hand, as we entered the building; of course we would need to find the restrooms before we found our seats. She giggled and skipped with excitement, I tried to keep her focused on the task at hand.
After we finished our business (which included redeeming our vouchers for “special” souvenirs), we headed toward our seats. The more steps we descended, the closer we were to the stage – I didn’t realize exactly how close to the stage our seats were until we found them.
This was her first show. She doesn’t know how fortunate she really is, but it wasn’t the time for that conversation. She asked, “When will it start?” three times in the first five minutes we were sitting. Luckily she is as curious as she is impatient and started to notice things around the theater.
She wondered if the curtain will go up. She wondered why there are drums in the balconies on each side of the stage. She wondered when it will start (again). As I saw the ushers mindfully clearing the aisles, I pointed out to her the steps leading up to the stage and how close we were to the aisle. I wanted her to be surprised as show started, but I wanted her to know where to look so she didn’t miss anything.
|The red & black curtain is the stage.|
As Rafiki opened the show with her melodic summons, the ensemble entered through the aisles embodying the wildlife of the African plains to the wonderment of us all. With so many things to look at, I directed her gaze to the nearly life-size elephant making his way down the aisle on the far left side of the house, only to have her whip around to the aisle right next to us, where a rhinoceros was making his way to the stage. The large animals were followed down each aisle by smaller animals and cast members flying birds above our heads, all making their way to the stage while singing the opening song. My girl was arching her neck, bobbing back and forth, trying to see every single thing that was happening between the heads of the people in front of us. The number concluded with the stage having been transformed into an African landscape, complete with zebras, giraffes, gazelles, a leopard, and of course the elephant and the rhinoceros.
As we learned a little more about Simba and his family, we were brought to a scene with Mufasa and his son under the stars. My theatre novice leaned over to me to whisper, “This is SO cool!” I had my arm around her and gave her a good squeeze in agreement. She was absolutely right: It was so cool.
She giggled and gasped throughout the show, pointing excitedly when she recognized characters and scenes and songs from the movie. She was nervous when there was fighting or conflict or when the characters were in contextual danger. I assured her that they were OK and that Mufasa wasn’t really dead. She was thrilled when Simba “grew up” and told me, “I was waiting for this part!”
Upon intermission, we raced to the bathroom and — despite the longest line I’ve ever seen — we made it in and out quickly. She was worried we wouldn’t make it back to our seats on time because she didn’t want to miss anything. We were back with time to spare.
The second act started as suddenly as the first. The jubilant African chorus engaged and inspired us, preparing everyone for the remainder of the show. I could tell she was tired. She was actively keeping herself awake by kicking her leg back and forth. I offered my lap and my arms to her to give her some rest. She accepted, but only briefly as she was anxious to return to her assigned seat and give all of her attention to Simba’s story.
She was nervous when Scar met his fate, but giddy when Simba met his. When the last song was over, I picked up all 40+ pounds of her so she could see over the standing audience. I explained she should applaud for the cast so they knew she liked it, and let her know she could clap even louder for her favorites. When the curtain finally fell, we were ready to retrace our steps to the minivan. As we made our way back to the parking garage she asked, “When can we see it again?”
The next day she had a lot to say about the show, and was disappointed she wasn’t able to tell her daddy all about it the night before since we returned so late. She was anxious to look at the program and relive each song, each memory she held, and was prepared with questions: “Did the strings help them to not fall? Why did the crocodile not eat Timon? How did they make the stars?”
The program we received as our “special” souvenir includes phrases of dialog and songs from the show. She went through book singing the phrases and imitating the dialog, all while explaining the pictures to her little sister. And again she asked, “When can we see it again?”
My mission was to inspire her and to share a memorable evening with her. Inspire her to what? I’m not sure. What I do know is that it was an experience she will never forget.
That makes two of us.