My daughter and son-in-law live in South Carolina. When they visit with the kids, Lily, age almost five years, and Teddy, a 14-month old busy toddler, a whirlwind of activities must squeeze into a short amount of time. This Christmas was no exception. Parties, cookie baking, and visiting clutter the short time together. This time, I managed to add a little magic.
Lily is ready to see live theater productions. New York City is less than 50 miles away but is an all-day production and expense to get everyone to a Broadway show during the holiday season. A local play experience was the next best thing. The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts featured Disney’s Beauty and the Beast during December.
This ninety-five-year-old main street theatre was once the venue for Broadway productions, silent films, and burlesques shows. It sits in the center of the village, complete with a marquee, lobby, and balcony. I remember it as a huge one screen movie house. In the early eighties, many of these main street movie theaters went through a metamorphosis to accommodate the changing movie audiences and offset the high cost of maintaining the buildings and showing movies. The Patchogue Theatre was divided into triplex movie house but closed in 1987. In 1998, the building was reopened as the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts decked out in its 1928 grandur. It is a beautiful venue for top-rate music and dance productions.
I got tickets for the Sunday night show. Lily wore her twirly dress. She was so excited to go to a show with just the girls (her great grandma, aunts, mom, and me). We included Great Grandpa since there was an extra ticket. Lily was fascinated by the grandeur of the decor. The balcony and painted ceilings were not like any movie theater Lily had seen before. A troop of costumed young actors sang Christmas carols in the lobby.
When the live orchestra played the overture, Lily recognized the melodies from watching the Beauty and the Beast movie numerous times. The show started with a projection of how the prince was changed to a beast. Lily settled back in her seat. This was going to be like any other movie. But then the screen rose, and the stage filled with players singing and moving to the music. The familiar story unfolded to a new adventure. Lily scrambled onto her mother’s lap for a better view. Her attention was riveted to the costumes, music, and dancing. The silly antics, the scary beast and wolves, the plot tension and jubilant conclusion were not lost on Lily. She laughed, gasped and clapped throughout the show. During the big dance numbers, Lily copied the arm moves from her mother’s lap. The biggest jaw drop occurred when Belle came out in her signature yellow gown. Although Lily behaved as a good audience member, our row neighbors frequently glanced at her enjoying her joy.
It was a fantastic production. Seeing the performance through Lily’s eyes made it all so magical.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.