On Wednesday night, we saw “The Little Mermaid” in New York. It was the Pumpkin’s first-ever Broadway play and it couldn’t have been a better introduction to the experience. Not only does she know the movie very well — having seen it, oh, a dozen times — but the colorful spectacle and cheerful songs were literally dazzling. There was some hiding of the eyes and cuddling up to mommy in the scenes with Ursula, the Sea Witch, but otherwise she was attentive and entranced. I came up with some suggestions based on our experience that might be helpful to other parents pondering whether their child is ready for the Great White Way:
• Pick a play that’s easy for your child to understand, preferably based on a story or movie that’s familiar. The action is fast and the figures on a stage are more abstract than those on a movie screen, so the younger the child, the more of a head-start he or she needs. We actually watched “The Little Mermaid” the day before the play to refresh my daughter’s memory.
• Make sure you have an aisle seat for your child. We were in the orchestra with an aisle seat, which was helpful because Pumpkin was able to see the stage well.
• Arrive early and ask for a booster seat. By the time I noticed an usher passing out booster seats, all the cushioned seats had been taken. We ended up with a plastic seat. It was fine, but a cushion obviously would have been more comfy.
• Try, if you can, to avoid spending money at the merchandise booth on things you can buy in the wider world for less. I was tempted by the cast recording, but daunted by the $25 price tag. Checking at home later, I found the original cast recording on Amazon.com for $14.99. I also managed to avoid spending $15 on a plastic toy “Dinglehopper.” I did, however, find the cost of a nice keepsake T-shirt for my teenage niece was well worth it. If only the children’s sizes hadn’t sold out, I would have bought one for Pumpkin, too.
• Find out what kind of discounts you can get through your work. As a Gannett employee, I saved $30 each on the four tickets I purchased, a $120 savings.
• Reserve a table at a kid-friendly restaurant. We had a 5:45 reservation at Ruby Foo’s on Broadway, just three blocks away from the theater. Energetic and dramatic but not so uptight that a booster seat and children’s menu were out of place, it was an ideal way to relax before the show. There were even training clips for the chopsticks!
• Wait at the stage door afterwards for autographs on your Playbill. The actors were charmed by the adoration of such a tiny young fan, with “King Triton” calling the Pumpkin “Precious.”
• Consider driving in. I know there are many people who hesitate to drive into Manhattan. But we had a great experience. We had a traffic-free and relaxing drive from Northern Westchester along the Saw Mill and Henry Hudson, turning off onto 50th Street and heading to a parking garage on 48th right near 7th. It took us less than an hour. When we stepped out, we had a short walk to the Build-A-Bear store on 5th and then to the restaurant. After the show, it was a short stroll through the bright lights and excitement of Times Square to our car. We left at 11:30 and were home by 12:20 a.m. I can’t imagine how tedious it would have been to schlep to Grand Central, stand around waiting for the train and then sitting on a 70-minute ride. I also found coupons online that cut the parking rate from $37 to $20 for up to 12 hours.
Please share your own Broadway tips and memories!