April continued to be a busy month this year, but we made sure the schedule included Good Stuff that we scheduled for the sake of Good Stuff. It was far too early to call it a birthday present for the Pipsqueak, but when AJ first noticed "Beauty and the Beast" on the playbill at Toby's Dinner Theatre (all the way back in December!) it immediately became part of the family's plan.
One little complication... All those months in advance and every single weekend matinee was sold out. Weeknight performances can be a bit of an adventure for us to get to, but hey -- it's Beauty and the Beast! We had to make it work -- so for the first time in a very long time, we bought tickets for a weeknight performance (Tuesday the 25th, to be exact). And, since this was a kinda special thing, it would be all five of us (along with our lovely friend Karole, who's been joining AJ & Yours Truly at Toby's Sunday morning matinees for years & years).
I'm still not sure how it happened, but we all managed to get to the theater on time. (Dude, did your sister threaten someone with death so she could leave on time for a change?) I picked up Mom & Dad, AJ scooped up Miri at after-school care, we converged on her house & transferred into her van, and headed off to Columbia at a blistering 35mph. (It was rush hour, after all.) We had good seats, ate far too much from the buffet (as usual), and managed to get some of the last scoops of ice cream just before they closed the DIY sundae bar to get the show going.
An added attraction for us was that our waitress was the lovely Janine Sunday, who (although she was not appearing in this particular performance) we've been watching in shows at Toby's since way back in the day before she and husband Russell were an item. Hubby Russell himself was the Beast so we got to hear a little about what went into getting ready for the show along with some personal family updates.
And then the pre-show monologue/intro was underway, and Mom & Dad discovered that their slightly devious daughter had made sure they were singled out in the crowd in recognition of their 64th(!) anniversary just two weeks earlier. There's always extra applause and few oohs & aahs when bigger anniversaries are mentioned, and they got quite a nice ovation. (Our folks ironically never actually dated each other during several years of what turned out to be something of a courtship; the longevity of their marriage is based on mutual friendship & respect that goes back to their meeting on New Year's Eve 1950-51.)
Finally the house lights went down, the music came up, and we were transported to the world of Disney's Beauty and the Beast live onstage. (Toby's is a fairly intimate theater-in-the-round so anything happening "onstage" was only a few feet away from us.) There were a couple of times Miri got a bit fidgety, as might be expected from someone still looking forward to their 8th birthday, but she behaved exactly as a young lady should (as usual without being told) and spent most of the time engrossed in the show... even when she spent time in Mommy's lap, which is her favorite seat.
There was the usual "short intermission" which we've never seen last less than 10 minutes longer than scheduled that gave us a few more moments to talk to Janine, then the slightly scary 2nd act that featured Miri's most and least favorite parts of the story. (Beast doesn't scare her; Gaston killing someone does.) Finally, after a rousing closing number and the usual chaos of everyone trying to stand up after eating too much and sitting too long, some of the cast came back out onto the floor and we were lucky enough to catch photos with leads Nicki Elledge (still in Belle's famous yellow gown) and Russell Sunday (still in full Beast regalia):
Nicki was as gracious as we could have ever hoped, and we surprised Russell by reminding him of one of the very first roles we'd seem him play at Toby's quite a while back. He took a few moments to explain to Miri how complicated it was to not only get into the Beast makeup but also how hard it was to keep it on during the show (his mouth seemed to always want to fall apart), and then it really was time for us to all head home. After all, it was a school night, and the show hadn't even started until 8pm!
Mom has always had a love of theater, and Dad's always enjoyed it, so AJ & I were brought up with the same feelings... And it's wonderful to see my how niece shares the attraction entirely from within herself, without any "teaching" from her grownups. Toby's 2017-2018 season includes "Mamma Mia" right on time for Miri's birthday -- honestly a bit of a "maybe" but still under consideration -- and then Disney's "Little Mermaid" through the holiday season... So you'll definitely be reading about more theater visits in coming months!
My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅-- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!