One’s first show at the Sydney Opera House is something to remember. Mine was Bell Shakespeare’s 2010 production of King Lear with the incomparable John Bell. It was in the Drama Theatre on a drizzly night, and I wrote about the whole thing here.
Hushpuppy may now forever claim her first show at the Opera House to be Jingle Bell Jazz, as part of the Babies Proms series. Though perhaps not quite as heady a choice as Lear, I do believe she enjoyed her first show as much as I did. And, to be fair, I didn’t even get to dance in the aisles.
A friend from mother’s group and I conspired to take our girls, both of us a little unsure if the experience would be worth the price tag ($25 per person, so $50 for Hushpuppy and me, plus a booking fee). But, ’tis the season, so we gave it a try.
The Studio Theatre was set up with folding chairs on either side of a large carpeted area in front of the stage where the children were welcome to sit. Our girls opted to sit with us, and came and went from our laps between sessions of dancing in the aisle. The stage was adorned with stylized and glitter-tastic gold Christmas trees.
The plot, as it were, was that the hostess, the endearingly energetic Valerie Bader had to choose between having a Jazz style Christmas and a Calypso style Christmas. And so, with the help of the live band, went through a series of Christmas carols in both styles. At one point, maracas were handed out to the entire audience (though the helpful elves were good, I think they could have used a couple more on this task), and we also had a “surprise visitor from the North Pole.” It was about as much script as any under-5 is likely to engage with.
Our nearly-3 year olds were entranced, and took every invitation to dance and sing along. Sometimes these things can be quite overwhelming for the little ones, so it was heartening to see how welcomed and engaged they felt. Hushpuppy’s dancing, which resembled closely Elaine from Seinfeld, was truly something to behold. I thought it was gorgeous.
The show runs 35 minutes, which was just long enough, as the girls never got restless. I liked that the script included some educational elements – a smattering of fun facts about the styles of music and some of the instruments. This also meant that the kids had an introduction to the instruments, which they were invited to see and touch at the end of the performance. When I asked Hushpuppy later what her favorite part of the show was, she said, “I played the guitar!” (she stroked the electric guitar a couple of times with the pick). Valerie also made rounds, making kind small talk to all the children. Santa had been dismissed back to the North Pole, seeing as it’s his busy season and all.
I do believe that Hushpuppy’s first show at the Sydney Opera House has left a favorable impression on her. It did for me, as well. I’m ready to sign up for the season of Babies Proms. I happen to know that the feeling of awe at seeing a show at the Opera House never goes away.
Jingle Bell Jazz runs through 20 December. More information here.