Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Take the Kids to the Theater: La Cage Aux Folles

The Fisher Building - Detroit
Bethany was three years old when she saw her first play. It was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. This may seem an odd choice for a child that age, but my mother-in-law had seen it, loved it, and thought Bethany would like the music. My first born was always grown up for her age, and it did not surprise me in the least that she quietly sat through that entire play. Only once did she elicit some giggles from fellow theater patrons in our immediate vicinity - when she loudly asked, "why that guy naked?" during a scene when Joseph is sparsely clad. Since that first play, she has seen many others, and so have the other kids. Connor was actually only two when he saw his first play, Peter Pan. Annie, Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Grease, Shrek...these (and more) are others that have followed in subsequent years for one or all of my children. This year Bethany hopes to see Les Miserables (my fave) for the first time when it comes to Detroit.

I am blessed to have a mother-in-law who is a fan of the theater and very generous with sharing her season tickets, or buying extra tickets when the show is one that might be of interest to her grandchildren. My husband is a musician and I am a writer (Does blogging count? For my purposes, I am going to say yes!), so you might say we are a family that appreciates the arts. I love sharing these sorts of things with my kids. I hope that in exposing them to a wide range of experiences, we are all working together to foster a lifelong love of theater, music, books, and art in each of them.

When the opportunity was presented to me recently to take Bethany to see the theatrical production of La Cage Aux Folles, at first I hesitated. I had never seen the movie (The Birdcage), starring Robin Williams, and my impression was that it was not appropriate for kids. But I decided to do a little internet research. And what I found was that over and over again, the show was recommended as family friendly and fine for children of a certain age (approximately 10 and up). I tend to lean toward the side of liberal when it comes to what I consider an art form, so Chris and I discussed it for all of two minutes and decided it would be fine to take Bethany to see this play.

There is a good chance you are well acquainted with the story, and I'm not here to offer any spoilers. But I will say that La Cage Aux Folles is centered around a gay couple, and that it focuses quite strongly on cross dressing. These things alone don't bother me, and after a quick chat with Bethany to make sure she understood that's what it was about and that she was fine with it, the decision was made. We got ready and hit downtown Detroit, the Fisher Building to be exact, since the play was being performed at the Fisher Theater.

Parking is easy at the Fisher Building. If you want to shell out a whopping $15, you can valet for a super easy entrance. But if you don't mind a short walk (or maybe you're "frugal" like me), ticket holders can enjoy free parking in the attached parking structure. An enclosed walkway leads directly from the parking garage to the second floor of the Fisher Building. You do have to push the little button by the door to get buzzed into the walkway (and again to get buzzed into the garage when you're headed back to your vehicle), and then when you enter the Fisher Building just head downstairs. Alternately, you can ride the garage elevator to the bottom and enter the Fisher Building on the ground level.

This art deco building, designed by Albert Kahn, is a beautiful piece of art. Everywhere you look, some amazing detail will catch your eye. Mosaics and marble and interesting touches are everywhere. The building is home to a few shops and cafes, so if you arrive early you can peek into a boutique or have a coffee. Or just walk around marveling at the way they used to make things, and how spectacular it would be if that were still the case today. The lay of the land is pretty straight forward, and there is little chance of getting lost. Just remember what door you came in so you don't get confused when the show is over! (Wait, that only happens to me??)

Once we got in the theater proper, the first thing we did was fortify ourselves with junk food for the show (Sour Patch Kids for the little lady, cinnamon almonds for me...should I mention that we both had a stomach ache by the end of the play?). Snacks are available for a premium at a counter in the theater lobby. I believe I paid $8.50 for our two items. You can enjoy your munchies during the show.

Inside the theater is just as gorgeous as the rest of the Fisher Building. I usually see plays with my mother-in-law's season tickets, which she has had for many years, and they are great main floor seats. But I've sat in several other areas and never had a complaint. Sometimes when she brings the kids, she requests upper level seats so they have a better view of the stage.

Now, onto the play. Like I said, I don't want to give away much in case you haven't seen it yet. George Hamilton played one of the main characters, and he was really good. In fact, the cast was great as a whole. Based on the reviews I read, it was a bit racier than I had hoped it would be. By that I mean there were a great many sexual innuendos. I think more than a few went right over Bethany's head, but I'm sure she caught the gist of some. I expected a few sexual references, but they were more prevalent that I had expected. There were a few swearing incidents (one f-bomb). The good news: no sex, no nudity, nothing really offensive (unless you find homosexuality offensive in and of itself, in which case this might not be the play for you), and the profanity was at a minimum. There is one kissing scene between the two main characters - both men. A main setting in La Cage aux Folles is the nightclub, which showcases cross-dressing men performing caberet numbers. In some scenes they're wearing garters, or other apparel that may be construed as inappropriate by some. It is a musical, and so there is no shortage of singing and dancing.

At the heart of La Cage aux Folles is a message about the importance of family, staying true to the ones you love, and not compromising your integrity, even when it might seem necessary for a worthwhile cause. It's a good, heart-warming story, and that outshines the questionable moments. I would recommend this play for ages middle school and up, but you know your kids best. If your child is unaccustomed to seeing gay people openly in relationships, and you want to avoid giving him or her a shock to the system, discuss it beforehand. This play could actually serve as a segue way to an open discussion with your child about acceptance of different ways of life, gay rights, and gay marriage.

If you don't take your kids to the theater because you don't think they would get through a play or that they would find it boring, you might be underestimating them! My kids love going to the theater, and I don't think I've ever had a single problem with one of them during a show, even as young as two. Seeing live actors up on the stage is pretty impressive and tends to captivate them, especially when you throw in some singing, dancing, and cool visual effects. Plus it's just fun to go downtown for an evening out!

Do you enjoy theater? What is your favorite play?

My gorgeous girl at La Cage aux Folles, Fisher Theater, Detroit


Vicki @ lifeinmyemptynest said...

My girls and I love going to see musicals. We have seen many of the same ones as you. The last one we saw was Wicked (for the 3rd time) this summer at the Wharton Center at MSU - it is a great venue!

alyaia75 said...

I love Wicked! I actually can't remember (shameful!) whether my oldest saw it with us last time it was here! If not, I know she would love it.

Mary Poppins said...

I love musicals.I just saw Mary Poppins last week, and I think the cast was amazing but Adams performance (especially Step in time) was just out of this world… he is an amazing performer .. if you get a chance, go see it!

alyaia75 said...

My kids saw Mary Poppins last year & they loved it! It's coming to Detroit this month, but I don't think we'll be able to fit it in, unfortunately. I would like to see it though.