I knew it was bound too happen sooner or later. My almost nine-year-old is getting too old for "kids" shows and my four year old boy is too boy for "girl" shows. So when the Vital Theatre Company, one of my favorite family theatre venues in town, invited me to the Pink Carpet Opening of FANCY NANCY THE MUSICAL, I did the only thing an editor of a family theatre column could do. I forced my son to join me.
FANCY NANCY, Vital's premier 2012-2013 season production, is based on the uber-popular children's book series written by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. It's inspired by the latest hit in the series, FANCY NANCY AND THE MERMAID BALLET. All of this is very impressive (that's fancy for cool) but meant nothing to my Star Wars addicted, rough-and-tumble, all boy with an extra serving of Y chromosome on the side, four year old son.
Picture it: We're at the Vital's Upper West Side theatre space. There are balloons everywhere. Photographers greet guests as they enter and yes, there is a pink carpet. Little girls, ages 2 through 6, are decked out in their fanciest dresses. My son and I straggle in late (we had a bit of an issue when Anakin's head popped off it's action figure body and rolled, unseen, under the dog's bed as we tried to leave the house on time). My son is wearing his "stinky shoe shirt" which does indeed have on it a picture of a green, stinky shoe. We sit down in our seats. I pray he doesn't notice the frilliness of it all. My prayers are not answered.
Son: This is stupid.
Me: Don't say that.
Son: It's a stupid girl thing. Stupid, stupid, girly show.
Me: Can you think of another word for Stupid?
Me: Let's just sit nicely and wait for the show to start.
Son: Is it short?
Me: Yes, I'm sure it's short.
Son: We saw Stinky Kids here and that wasn't short.
Me: Well, it's a kid's show so it won't be very long.
Son: I wish we were seeing Stinky Kids.
(At this moment I am informed that Jane O'Connor, the author of the entire Fancy Nancy book series, is sitting in front of us. I begin to melt into my seat.)
Me: Buddy, I know this may not seem like your favorite, but I think you'll like it if you give it a chance and either way, I know you'll be a trooper.
Son: What's a trooper?
Me: It means someone who is doing something with a good attitude, even if he doesn't 100% want to.
Son: Like a Clone Trooper?
Me: Not exactly.
Son: "Trooper" is fancy for "Patrol".
Me: That's right! You sound just like a Fancy Nancy book!
(He begins to protest as, thankfully, the show begins.)
And then, as you might expect, the magic of theater or Vital's special recipe for children's entertainment took over and my too-cool-for-this-show son became quite mesmerized. He couldn't take his eyes off of the brightly-colored scenery and was captivated by the music. He laughed at the young performers throwing themselves into full-energy portrayals of young Nancy and her crew. And he grew especially excited at the end of the show when bubbles appeared from the sky.
Son: Mama, how are the bubbles coming out?
Me: Must be the magic of Theater.
Son: It's NOT the Magic of THEA-TOO!
(He can't say his r's yet).
True, the little girls in the audience (many younger than my boy), sat with rapt attention for the entire show while my guy did a bit of climbing in and out of his seat, and he did choose one particularly quiet moment to suddenly shout, "Hey Mama! Did you order my Anakin gloves for Halloween?" But by the end of the show he said those three special words:
Son: I liked it!
Me: Well then, I guess you're converted.
Son: What's converted?
Me: That's fancy for changed.
Son: That's stupid.
Also worth noting is the introduction of Aly Bloom as Nancy. She managed to entertain the kids while occasionally winking at the adults quite a masterful way. This comic ingénue reminds me of a young Madeline Kahn and I have a feeling that the next time I see her it will be in front of a much larger audience (none of whom will be wearing stinky shoe shirts).