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“Tommy” and more

Elysha, Charlie, a friend, and I went to see “Tommy” – the Tony Award-winning musical based on The WHo’s 1969 album of the same name –  on Broadway on Saturday.

Clara is away at camp, so her usual seat was occupied by a pal.

My children have been blessed to see many Broadway shows. In lieu of taking them to ARuba or purchasing their phones, we pile into the car with books and music and drive to Manhattan, where we have seen many, many shows over the past few years.

During intermission, I asked Charlie, “What do you think so far?”

His response:

“I’m experiencing feelings I’ve never felt before, and I’m not exactly sure what they are.”

This is precisely why we take our kids to the theater. There is something about live theater, performed well, that can’t be reproduced anywhere else. When the show ended and the lights came up, Charlie immediately began talking about the show, asking questions, offering opinions, and exalting in the experience.

“Maybe the best show I ever saw,” he said. This is high praise, given that the boy has seen “Hamilton,” “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Six,” “Hadestown,” “Come From Away,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and many more.

After the show, Charlie listened to The Who’s “Tommy” on his way home from New York, commenting on how well one song transitioned into another or how he had picked up on a lyric he had missed in the theater.

Upon arriving home, he headed straight to the keyboard, where his weird and wonderful musical mind began picking out the notes to “Pinball Wizard.”

I don’t know how he does it. He’s taken half a dozen piano lessons so far, but before he began the lessons, he could listen to a song and play it on the keyboard. He plays the guitar and trumpet, but still… I don’t know how he does it.

Later that night, he read about the band’s history, the origin story of their album “Tommy,” and more.

The following day, over breakfast, we discussed plot points from the show, talked about our favorite songs, and debated whether the show could’ve been improved by allowing for dialogue rather than having the entire show sung by the cast.

Days later, he is still talking about the show.

This is the beauty of theater. You see a show performed on a stage, but that performance remains with you for a long time.

Maybe forever.

A character’s voice, a plot point, a song, a narrative arc, a visual or special effect, or even just a tiny bit of dialogue echoes inside you long after the curtain closes and you’ve moved on with your life. It might bring you a smile, stir up an old memory, or make you think of your life in an entirely new way.

Movies, books, television, music, and even a poem can do the same, but watching actors perform live seems to make everything seem bigger, brighter, and more indelible.

These moments onstage seem to burn into your soul.

A song in “Hamilton” makes me feel better about being me.

I can turn to a song from “Wicked” for much-needed inspiration.

A line in “A Chorus Line” feels like it was me, standing onstage, shouting at the world.

A moment from “Jagged Little Pill” still makes me feel like I could run through a wall.

We’ve certainly taken our kids on their fair share of vacations, but I think some of our finest, most enduring memories come from our days and nights spent on the Great White Way. We’re certainly lucky to live close enough to New York to make accessing Broadway relatively simple, and we’re fortunate enough to have the means to purchase tickets for what are admittedly expensive shows, but you need not attend a Broadway show to experience the wonder, joy, and lasting impact of live theater. For every Broadway show we attend, we also enjoy just as much or more local theater – far more affordable and accessible – in venues large and small.

Elysha and I even produce and perform shows of our own, and now that the kids are older, they can attend those shows, too.

My advice if you are someone who doesn’t partake in live theater:

Give it a try. Whether it’s a famed Broadway theater or a black box on a local college campus, find a theater, pick a show, and take a seat. Not every show will be a masterpiece, and you’ll likely encounter a few duds, but the theater’s live, communal nature can’t be beaten.

Maybe you’ll even come away thinking, “I’m experiencing feelings I’ve never felt before, and I’m not exactly sure what they are.”

If so, lucky you.