Last weekend, my husband and I carried out what could have been a horrible example of child abuse in the gay world. We took the kids to see Cats.
We knew this might be traumatic for the children–and for us–but we felt it was a necessary part of the children’s musical theater indoctrination. The show was once the longest running Broadway musical (the day it beat out A Chorus Line was a dark, dark day), and teaching the children to respect the history of our people is an important part of the gay agenda.
Still, we wondered if we were doing the right thing. Should we force them to sit through the mediocrity that is Cats simply because droves of mindless tourists made it a smash hit? In the end, we suffered through it…and the loved it. We were so disappointed–until we realized that the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber (with the possible exceptions of Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar) are essentially gateway musicals in the same way that marijuana is a gateway drug. You try it out and think it’s great, and then you are introduced to the hardcore good stuff. (For the record: I’m not a drug user, nor do I want my children to be; the analogy helps me sleep at night though.)
We began training the children in the ways of the theater early. Our daughter attended her first professional musical shortly after her third birthday when a production of The Lion King came to town, followed a few months later with a production of Wicked. The following year at the age of four, she not only enjoyed the 25th anniversary touring production of Les Miserables, she attended her first Broadway show: Anything Goes starring Sutton Foster. (We even got to go backstage to meet Joey Grey thanks to a good friend’s connections.) We wrapped up the year with a regional production of Candide. She sat through them all with quiet concentration, and we beamed with pride, virtually screaming at the other audience members, “Do you see what happens when gays raise children?! This is glorious!”
When our son was nearly four, he began coming along with us on these theatrical adventures. He joined us first for a touring production of Shrek and then danced his way through Bring It On, Mamma Mia, Beauty and the Beast, and Mary Poppins. The summer after his fourth birthday, we took him to his first Broadway show: Newsies. One month later, a friend’s impromptu wedding in New York afforded us the opportunity to see another Broadway show: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (it actually wasn’t that bad!).
Amidst all these professional productions, we wondered how our kids would get to see some of the gems of the historical Broadway, as well as solid contemporary pieces that aren’t popular enough to be revived any time soon. We are far too snobby to take them to see community theater productions (someone probably should have called child protective services after I took my daughter to a sad little production of Once On This Island in the basement of a church up the street), so we decided to invest in a subscription to a local regional theater that produces five musicals a summer. Last year, our kids sat through a terrific production of Hello, Dolly!, and we cringed as they laughed hysterically at Annie. We were underwhelmed by Guys and Dolls, but then they couldn’t get enough of 9 to 5 and All Shook Up. The latter starred Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company. The kids thought she was hilarious and used Joyce DeWitt in their imaginative play for weeks: “Come on Joyce DeWitt, get in the car so we can go to the beach!” they’d say with while playing with their stuffed animals. Most beloved of all last year though was a semi-professional production of Xandadu; they now constantly beg to listen to the music and watch the movie.
Amidst this summer’s regional productions of In the Heights, The Sounds of Music, and Wizard of Oz we started taking them to see Broadway singers in concert. They loved Megan Hilty singing with the Boston Pops last May, and then we took them to see a few singers in Provincetown on Cape Cod. We started with Joanna Gleason, which they mildly enjoyed, and then we sat in awe through Audra McDonald, who is one of the African American female role models we parade out for our daughter ever five seconds. A few weeks ago, we saw Sam Harris, and next weekend we’ll finish up our summer with Patti LuPone.
And so, in the grand scheme of things, this past weekend’s production of Cats seems like it’s a necessary evil to get our kids where they need to be. Odds are that they will eventually come out as heterosexual just like most of the world’s population, but we can rest assured that they will always be accepted into queer culture given their extensive training in the musical theater.