Wicked with the child

Our 10-year-old is well versed in the Land of Oz, so she donned an appropriate-for-the show witch’s hat, and off we went to see Wicked at the Altria Theater.

I got into this whole parenting thing without a lick of expectation or knowledge of what the whole shebang would be like. This has mostly been a blessing. But one of the many surprises has been my need to give the kid not just material things, but also great experiences. It used to be all about how I wanted to be entertained, but now it’s also about helping my offspring feel the emotions I felt when I first saw my favorite band perform live or when I went to the circus and had my heart catch in my throat as I watched the acrobats fly overhead. It’s creating memories and cultural appreciation.

I’m not a musical theater aficionado, but I wanted my kid to experience it beyond what they could offer at Das Festhaus at Busch Gardens. There’s just something wholly awesome about watching mere mortals bending light and sound to their will, all right in front of your very eyes. When Wicked: the Musical came to town I thought it was the perfect way to introduce my little sorcerer to Broadway.

So we dressed fancier than we normally do: the kid topped off her sparkly dress with an appropriate-for-the show witch’s hat, and off we went to the Altria Theater.1 It’s in the middle of a very expensive renovation, but the nearly 90-year-old theater is just beautiful. We pointed out intricate details of the interior to each–like the mosaic tiles and carved columns–and admired the double balconies and painted embellishments throughout the expansive space.

Our 10-year-old daughter is well versed in the Land of Oz as told by the Judy Garland movie. Wicked, on the other hand, tells the origin story of the two witches beginning long before Dorothy shows up with her little dog. The musical, based on the novel Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire, premiered on Broadway in 2003 and went on to win three Tony Awards and a gosh-darn Grammy for the cast album. The show does not disappoint! This traveling production is very polished, the steam punk stage setting had my kid saying “whoa” repeatedly, and she loved the costuming. With her long-term love of movies, I wondered though if she could really appreciate the astounding talent required to belt out difficult songs live in front of a large crowd and just how many people it takes to make the magic happen.

As a parent, I really appreciated the themes of the show. First, you have two strong women characters, and while there is a romantic aspect to the story it is not the focus of the action. Elphaba and Glinda are well-developed individuals with unexpected quirks in their personalities. Second, the premise of the story is that you can’t always judge someone by their exterior or the stories you hear about them. I appreciated that the main characters weren’t cookie cutter good and evil; they each had their foibles.

Would I take my kid again? In a heartbeat, and I’ll keep an eye out for appropriate shows coming in the 2014-2015 Broadway in Richmond season. Evening productions are appropriate for eight and up, but I’m sure younger children could handle matinees.

Wicked runs until May 4 at the Altria Theater.

Photo by: Joan Marcus

  1. I still want to call it the Mosque, because I’m officially old. 
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Page Hayes

Page is a VCU grad who came back to Richmond and runs her graphic design firm House of Hayes. Exploring the music and food of the city takes up most of her free time although there is always time for a beer at the pool.

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