Sunday, April 10, 2016

Best Class Trip Ever

With the end of Spring Break, the lasts of Ashley's k-8 school experience are coming faster and faster. This week was the annual 8th grade trip to see a Broadway show. There was some talk at the beginning of the year about doing something different, but still exciting, but in the end they held with tradition.

My daughter is at a small Catholic school. There are 29 in her class, but class I mean both her homeroom and her entire grade. Many of been in the same school since before she started in third grade, and others started this year (due to the closing of their Catholic School) or someplace in-between. Next year they will all disperse to a wide variety of other schools -- from public schools to the local big Catholic high school (like Ashley) to private schools to (possibly) a performing arts high school out of state. They have less than two months together. 

About half of the parents wanted to be on this field trip, which gave us a nice ratio of two kids per adult. In our group, it was three adults to four students. Not just any students -- but best friends. Not just best friends -- but theater loving friends (more on that later in this post).

The New York City field trip included a stop first at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The girls were awesome about letting us parents capture their smiles.

The class is used to us taking group photos and quickly complied to let us take this one.

Group lunch at Planet Hollywood. They really know how to handle large groups, and even have a fixed menu with a bit of everything on it from burgers to a salad to pasta. The waiter's first question was "does anyone have an allergy?" Followed up by how they can accommodate the one person's gluten allergy. The chocolate chip cookies at the end were divine, but a glass of cold milk with them would have made them perfect.

We had about an hour between lunch and seeing "The Lion King." Three out of four of our group wanted to see the stage door for the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton." As it was only a block away, that was easy. Much of the rest of the group went shopping in Times Square. A sign of the times -- we walked by The Disney Store with only me looking wistfully at it.

By this point it was 12:45. The next performance was at 2. We were due at "The Lion King" by 1:30. The girls had fun posing by the door. Meanwhile, they were trying to line up people who had tickets to that performance and we were in the way. Just at that moment, the stage door opened and the stage manager was setting up the rope so the actors could come back stage. He announced only Lin was there as he had done Ham on Ham at 11:30 that day with Mayor Bill De Blasio. We saw the Mayor pop in and out a few times as someone was discreetly filming him and telling him how to do it better. We also saw two little girls wearing dresses from the play (or so Ashley told me). Later their picture was on "Hamilton's" Instagram page.

The crowd was filled with giggling and screaming teenage girls. It reminded me of how I have heard people describe when the Beatles were out in public. It was a very small crowd (after all it was a Wednesday afternoon). As each lead arrived much screaming took place. They were kind and signed autographs (good mom that I am, I found a scrap of paper in my purse and a pen. Or is that mom that I am who never cleans out her purse I found paper and a pen? The paper was the list of our instructions for the day, so it was fresh.)

Eventually it was time to walk through Avenue 6 1/2 and head one block over to "The Lion King." Turns out, it was just a cut-through by the Marriott between 7th and 8th, but I liked thinking it was Avenue 6 1/2, still it was a quick hop on over to the Minskoff Theater, which was parallel to the Richard Rogers.

I'll be the first to admit I groaned when I heard the choice was "The Lion King." It has been on Broadway forever (since the 1990s) and just about anyone who wanted to see it has seen it already. Or so I thought.

The kids were seated together, and the parents were on the ends. I was seated next to a boy who is a phenomenal force on stage, but had never been to a Broadway show. He turned to me after the opening number and said "I have chills." He also had an enormous grin and his eyes did not blink during the entire performance. I'll admit to a tear running down my eyes at the end of the show as Rafiki lifts Nala and Simba's baby high into the air, thus fulfilling the "Circle of Life."

Broadway Cares -- raising money for people with HIV/AIDS
"The Lion King" opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997. In 2006 it moved to the Minskoff Theater (where it is now) to make room for "Mary Poppins. In 2014 recently became the top earning title in box office history surpassing "Phantom of the Opera." We took Ashley to see it when she was six (in 2008, or early 2009). The best part was being serenaded after the show by Young Simba and Young Nala, and talking to their parents. That was truly a magical moment.

When I saw it this past week it seemed different to me, but I chalked that up to my memory. Turns out in July 2010 they trimmed nine minutes from the show, eliminating Zazu's "Morning Report" song (which is the one the kids acted out for us) and doing a bunch of other tweaking. Though I am not finding anything about it in print, I recall during "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" there were couples dangling from various heights hugging each other. The choreography this time was completely different. The earlier choreography left me feeling uncomfortable at what is a children's show.

The bus ride back was quick. Ashley and her friends sang songs from Hamilton. She had a spark back that has been missing for much too long. I've heard (and remember) teenagers have mood swings and that she'll return to my loving, charming daughter by the time she is 25. In the meantime, I really treasure it when those smiles come out and are directed at me.

This "Best Day Ever," as declared by Ashley on Wednesday was topped on Saturday by seeing "Hamilton" courtesy of the #Ham4Ham lottery. What a week!

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