Boy meets girl, boy gets gets, boy loses girl ... with plenty of singing and dancing along the way.
Of course, the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit "Memphis" is about a lot more than that. It's about the segregated South and those who dared to defy the status quo, all seen through the eyes of a white DJ and an African-American singer. It's about leaving home and your comfort zone -- and being afraid to do so.
It's also a great option to introduce tweens and teens to Broadway. I arranged for a group of inner-city high schoolers in our town to take in a performance, under the auspices of A Better Chance (www.abetterchance.org). Though skeptical, the teens were theater converts by the end of the evening. They went home entertained, but also thinking about how different life would have been for their families in the South 60 years ago.
"You can definitely have a dialogue afterward," suggests James Monroe Iglehart, a member of the "Memphis" supporting cast. He added that the company loves to look out and see young faces. After all, that is how they were inspired to become actors, singers and dancers and they hope they might inspire the next generation. Iglehart notes that when he's talked to high school kids, he suggests theater as a special date-night option. "It makes them feel like an adult," he explained. "It's a lot different than a movie or going to the mall."
"It is so different for kids than TV or the movies, to see people up there on stage in front of you," Iglehart said, especially when the performers might not be much older than you are. (There are, according to Actors Equity, about 40 young performers currently on Broadway in such shows as "Mary Poppins," "Billy Elliot," "The Lion King" and "The Addams Family."
There are plenty of options this season on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional theater (www.touringbroadway.com), whether your children are in grade school (think "Mary Poppins," "The Lion King" or "The Flying Karamazov Brothers"), tweens ("Wicked," "Billy Elliot") or teens ("Avenue Q," "Lombardi" for football fans with "talkbacks" with the cast Tuesday and Thursday nights), "Rock of Ages" (www.rockofagesMusical.com), with special early-to-the-party ticket pricing for its return to Broadway at the end of March. There are many others, of course, including "The Addams Family," "Jersey Boys," which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and off-Broadway, the Blue Man Group, "Dear Edwina," a musical about growing up, "Freckleface Strawberry," based on Julianne Moore's children's book about the life of a 7-year-old teased about her red hair and "Imaginocean" about three best friends who are fish (www.ilovenytheater.com) or www.Broadway.com.
Take the kids (or one of them) with you on your next business trip to New York or another major city where you can see a touring production. Include a night at the theater while you're on the college touring circuit.
You'll walk out of the theater smiling -- and your teens might actually want to talk to you about what they've just seen.
Over a million children and teens attended a Broadway play in the last year, reports the Broadway League, and you don't have to break the budget to do it. Off-Broadway's "Stomp," (www.stomponline.com) for example, has $40 seats for the Sunday night show. Check websites like www.broadwayoffers.com and the Theater Development Fund's website www.tdf.org to see what discounted tickets (as much as 50 percent off) you might be able to score the day of the performance at the TKTS booths in Times Square, South Street Seaport or downtown Brooklyn.
If you gulp at the thought of Broadway ticket prices, Iglehart notes that they are no more expensive than a day at Disney World. "And it might impact their entire lives."
It did for him. After his mom, a high school teacher, took him to see the "The Wiz" at age 6, he was hooked. "I wanted to play the lion," he said.And he did, years later in New York. The applause, he laughed, never gets old.