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About a year after my daughters started performing in Community Theater, I noticed a new kid onstage. He was stiff and awkward, and I was impressed that he would perform even though he wasn’t the greatest actor or dancer. Years later, I was blown away when that same young man – now a teen – played Aladdin. He went from stiff and awkward to a charming leading man. And he was awesome.

My first introduction to musical theater was in grade school when my brother appeared in his high school shows, most were Rodgers & Hammerstein classics, like “Oklahoma!”.  I went to every performance, many cast parties – to my teenage brother’s dismay – and soon memorized the words to every song of every show he was in. (In fact, this summer, my family went to see Broadway’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” and while many people have never heard of the show, I knew the words to every song…much to my teenage daughters’ dismay.)

A few years after we were married, Joe and I saw our first Broadway show, “Les Misérables.” I consider myself lucky that Les Mis was the first Broadway show I ever saw. It’s like having your first Major League Baseball game be Game 7 of the World Series. You can’t get much better.

We’ve taken our three daughters to see Broadway shows, and happily, they fell in love too. Maura and Klein saw “The Lion King” when they were 7 and 9. Maura sat literally on the edge of her seat through the entire show.

These days, I watch my children perform with Moorestown Theater Company (MTC). A few years ago, I also watched Joe perform with them. MTC has a rule that children under 12 need an adult to accompany them onstage, so Joe stepped in.

One night, after rehearsing for “Annie,” Joe came home and told me he was given a line to sing – by himself.

I was alarmed. “Can you sing?”

He looked at me equally puzzled. “I don’t know,” he told me.

So on opening night I sat in an audience again – already knowing all the words to all the songs! – watching my children who looked like orphans and listening to Joe sing his one line. It was a pleasure.

I’ve since seen Marirose channel Judy Garland as she played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and Maura gracefully dance alone while a Pocahontas sang “Colors of the Wind.” Klein has helped me paint scenery, and Maura and I have searched The Dollar Store for the perfect 50’s diner props.

What I like best about Community Theater is how it can change who a kid is. I’ve seen it firsthand. At MTC, there is another teen boy who comes alive on stage. He played a hilarious Genie in “Aladdin” and an entertaining French chef in “The Little Mermaid.” His performances have been exceptional. He is articulate, confident and always perfectly in character. He is also able to make audiences laugh out loud.

So I was surprised when I first spoke with him to discover how shy he is. But then I realized one of the wonderful things about the theater: anyone can become someone different. In Community Theater, a kid from middle school can whisk a princess off her feet, and a quiet teen boy can bring adults to tears from laughter. It’s not just the stage that is transformed, the people are too. That makes for a really good show.

August 2012
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