« WSAU Opinion Blog


by Chris Conley

Today's blog comes from my parents' home in Fairfield, Connecticut -- where it's also been a cool, mild summer. I'm on vacation this week.

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)   Rachael is my youngest daughter. Far too often I refer to her as Baby Rachael. "Not cool, Dad" she reminds me. She's starting the second grade this fall, and as far as she's concerned she's a young lady already.

Yesterday I took Rachael to New York for her First Broadway play - The Lion King. (Danielle, my oldest daughter and a Freshman at Wausau West has been going to plays with me for years. She's normally at my side when I write my community theater reviews. She and I have our annual Broadway "date" scheduled for later this week.)

When I was a kid, the entry level Broadway shows for young people weren't all that good. You could see Cathy Rigby in a little-too-obvious shoulder harness flying around as Peter Pan. It's a story that adults seem to like more than kids. Most kids I know are in a rush to grow up, so there's already a disconnect there.  Or you could see Annie, with a plucky little gril and a very cute dog. You could see Grease - with fifties songs that a young kid might know and enjoy. Or maybe The Wiz, where the story is familiar but the score is, well, not so good.

The Lion King beats em all, because it does two things perfectly. First, it hooks everyone early. The opening Circle Of Life sequence, where actors-as-animals parade up the aisles, is spectacular. It gets the best audience-response from any play I've seen --- better that Wicked's flying witch or Phantom's falling chandelier. Rare is the play that wins the crowd over in the first 10-minutes. Everyone know early-on they're going to have a good time at Lion King. And secondly, almost every kid in the audience has already seen the Disney cartoon-movie, and the stage show actually uses that to it's advantage. Kids catch on very quickly that live theater is about using ones imagination, and that's better than a movie that spoon feeds everything to you. On stage The Lion King uses puppetry, song, dance, and expression and timing to tell its story. Once kids figure out that this type of story-telling is better... they'll want more of it. Rachael is already thinking about what she'd like to see next year.

Chris Conley

PS -   I reviewed the Antigo Theater Guild's performance of Jekyll & Hyde earlier this month   and I've been taken to task for my opinions. Without getting into a full point-counterpoint, let me say this: my opinion is just that -- one person's opinion. If you have an opinion of your own that's more favorable than mine - fabulous, you've just had a great night at the theater. As I noted, many of the regulars in the Antigo Theater Guild's audience seemed to enjoy themselves. I applaud anyone who steps onto the stage to perform for their friends and neighbors. 

I've been a theater-goer since I was a kid. I'm not an actor. I have no special qualifications except for quantity... I've seen a lot of stuff over the years. (And for what it's worth, if I decided to stop writing theater reviews my bosses probably wouldn't let me. My reviews are some of the most-read blogs of the year, mostly because audience and cast members repost them.)  I always try to be generous in praise and sparing in criticism.