I know, I know. What is there to enjoy in watching a bunch of adolescents (middle schoolers, no less) try to put on a show?
Well, for starters, it was “Schoolhouse Rock!” Talk about nostalgia. I mouthed along with “I’m Just a Bill,” “We the People,” and “Unpack Your Adjectives” (which was my niece’s solo). I remembered every word of every song. Perhaps that means I watched too much Saturday morning TV as a kid. But Schoolhouse Rock was good stuff. You can’t fault a production that taught an entire generation the workings of Congress and the basics of grammar with fun and catchy tunes.
We are extremely lucky in this suburban area to have very strong performing arts programming in our schools. Beyond that, there are many community theater groups and plenty of opportunities for kids to learn and excel in music and theater. An unusual number of kids from our high schools go on to perform professionally on the stage, TV, and films.
But beyond the quality of the show itself was what this production did for 75 seventh and eighth graders. These are kids who are in what has to be the toughest stage of growing up. Trying to feel “normal.” Wanting to be liked. Wanting to find something they’re good at. Needing a place to fit in.
Tonight I saw 75 kids of widely varying size and shape, skin color, background, and developmental ability put on what was truly a very well done production. They worked together to make something special. A blind kid. A kid with autism. Kids who probably have never had a group to hang out with before. All putting beautiful voices together to do something special they’ll never forget.
I know very well it wasn’t some rainbows-and-unicorns, happy ending sitcom-type situation. Having been a stage mom for years, I know that in any theater group there are queen bees and low men on the totem pole. The drama never confines itself to the stage.
But all those kids spent the last three months working on something healthy and fun. Every single one of them can be proud of their effort and the finished product. Some of them discovered a new talent or found an extracurricular activity they can continue to enjoy in high school. Some of them made new friends.
And all of them gave this mom a very happy evening out.