Here’s what she wants me to say about it:
“It’s really good! Everything about it is good. You just – you want to live there. And you’re stuck there with yummy snacks and pink t-shirts for your mommy to buy. But we should warn people that there are two scary parts at the beginning, so mommies can tell their kids. I think it’s for four-year-olds or older. It’s actually perfect.”
I’d been putting off the First Broadway Show because, though Harper loves theatre and drama and costumes and spectacles and fanciness of all kinds, she is also very sensitive to anything scary or intense, and everything seemed like it would be too much. And, I’ll admit it, I wanted it to be Annie, because I loved Annie when I was a kid. Only every time I played Harper any music or clips from Annie she frowned and asked me why everyone was so mean, and then asked me to please turn it off. Blasphemy! But oh, doesn’t it happen again and again as a parent, how you come to realize you’re not actually parenting you as a child, but a whole other person, a dreamy, fancy little person who wants to wear foofy pink dresses and be really into princesses. (I asked her once why she likes princesses and she said it was the dresses, and that they get to be in charge. Sounds about right to me.)
Then I was – full disclosure! – offered tickets by some nice PR people and listen, nice PR people of the world, Harper and I are really into this practice. We consider ourselves the Robert Benchleys of the mom blog set.
So Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella it was, and let me say, it was perfect for her. Perfect. Aside from the one scary moment (a startlingly beautiful woodland giant in the first few moments), there was very little darkness. No witches, no wolves. This is hard to come by in the kid-entertainment world. The score is lovely, not cloying like so much kid music, and the costumes are amazing – those magician-quick changes! And here’s what I liked the best about this play, that there is an attempt to make Cinderella a free-thinker (oddly enough, she’s a bit of a revolutionary, and while that whole subplot is a touch absurd I appreciated the effort) and the prince is, for once, not just a handsome cipher but a lovable goofball. In fact, Harper and I had a nice conversation on the subway ride home about backstory. We talked a bit about story structure too, and why, as Harper noticed, there were big exciting things happening in the beginning, middle, and end of the play. Well, that’s what happens when you go and get a writer for a mother.
I would like to add that watching Harper’s face while the pumpkin transformed into a coach and Cinderella’s rags turned into a glittery gown literally made me teary. Her eyes got enormous. Her mouth hung open for approximately 20 minutes. We try to provide our kids with a healthy dose of whimsy, and there is something really satisfying about showing them something that seems actually magical.
This play also made me feel awfully self-satisfied for having refrained from introducing the Disney princess movies. Oh, she’s into those princesses all right, but only as vague images on band-aids and such. So fairy tales are still just that to her, and I think this gives her permission to make them her own, too. As soon as we got home she began acting out her own version of Cinderella. She played the part of…a rather vaudevillean step-mother.
So if you find yourself in possession of a 4-year-old girl, and some disposable income, and you want an adrenaline shot of magic and sweetness and excitement, Harper recommends Cinderella. And I concur. It really was just delightful – threaded with bits of grownuppy humor but mostly just being what it was: frothy and fun and sparkly. And after the play Harper and I walked around Times Square with a soft pretzel, discussing it all. Something I hope to do many times in the years ahead.