Last fall, after we made that zippy two-day trip to St. George to see our cousins perform in the amazing production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, my Bitty fell more deeply in love with theater than ever. For many weeks after that she listened to the soundtrack over and over and now she knows the lyrics almost as well as I do. I truly have the entire thing pretty much memorized, and now she does too. She asked me what other musicals I really love, and I have been trying to think of other musicals I want to share with her. One very prominent musical from my childhood is The Fantasticks - a small-scale musical that played on broadway for over 40 years. It's sweet and charming. My mom (of course, who else) introduced me to it because she loved it too. She made sure to track down any performance of it she could (along with dozens and dozens of other plays, movies, musicals, dances....) and took us to it, no matter if it was a small church production or a professional performance. We listened to the record incessantly. Of course we did! It was us!
I told Bitty a little about the musical, and let her listen to some of it, and told her that if I ever saw that someone was putting on a production of The Fantasticks, I would be sure to take her to see it if it was at all possible. I tried to settle my brain in for a long wait - after all, it's a pretty old show and I couldn't think of who, where or when it would ever happen.
So, when Troy and I were in the Heber/Midway area for our anniversary after Christmas we were walking along Heber's main street and in a cafe window I saw a notice posted that a local company called The Timp Valley Players would be putting on the show in February. I knew that a theatrical company located in the town of Heber would be quite small, but that was no reason it couldn't be really fun. I kept it in the back of my head and finally last weekend the dates arrived. Troy is so awesome about helping me make sure stuff like this happens. We invited Skippidy too, but she changed her mind. I'm kind of glad - I adore being with both my girls, but I think Bitty really needed a mom-night all to herself, and I think the play was going to be a little late for Skippidy.
So, it was just my Bitty and me. We got an early start, and I'm glad we did - traffic was dreadful plus it turned into a really rainy night. That's ok - the theater gods were with us and all was well with our traveling and arrival. We stopped at Noodles and Company first to get Bitty's favorite dinner - steak stroganoff. Yum! I myself went with Pad Thai. I ate at stoplights as we made our way through the crowded corridors of SLC, singing along to Joseph.
We made it to the theater about 20 minutes before the show - I was really hoping to be there early enough to get a great seat. The building is a very old social hall with just folding chairs on the ground in front of the stage. It turns out that 20 min was more than enough - we got the front row. The front of ...three rows. This little production was tiny. There was probably seating for 50 people. Happily, as Bitty and I sat in our seat and waiting, eating m&ms and popcorn, so many people showed up that they had to add seats. There is always so much of a better energy in a performance with all the seats filled.
And can I just say, it was an absolute dream come true? I finally got to show The Fantasticks to my daughter. The actors were strong singers, and the intimate setting was just right - Bitty got lots of little interactions and contact with the actors. She laughed her head off at all the right parts - the El Gallo (can't explain - if you know the show, you know who he is) was much more comic than in any other production I'd ever seen, but sweet and sad too, just like he's supposed to be. He had us roaring in several parts. After it was over, Bitty and I just hugged and hugged we were so happy that we got to share it together. And of course we met the cast and gushed to them our happiness and gratitude for their performance. I love that they are making the effort to keep theater going and alive.
The only bitter sweet part of the evening was how much I wanted to tell my mom about it, how much I wanted her to know that Bitty had fallen in love with El Gallo and Matt and Louisa just as I had. I can't do that. I can sing The Fantasticks with mom and she'll sometimes sing along with me, and she would smile and say she was happy if I told her that her granddaughter had loved it, but it's not really her. I miss that part of my mom just achingly. I almost can't stand it. There's been a lot of painful separation caused by mom's Alzheimer's. And it can be easy to forget the fact that there were simple and beautiful parts of our relationship that were just pure and totally clear. And sharing love of musicals was one of them.