Last night the kids and I saw the premiere of the national Broadway tour of "Annie" by Networks at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside. Both kids had seen a few high school productions, but this was their first experience with real theater. It also happened to be the first Broadway show at the newly-renovated historic Fox Theater (now called the Fox Performing Arts Center), so it was an exciting night to be there.
There was a mix of adults and children - quite a few even younger than mine, many in the 4-to-6 year old range, up to pre-teens and teens. Once everyone was seated, I don't think I saw an empty seat in the orchestra (where we sat) or up in the balcony area.
Neither of my kids were familiar with the story of "Annie." Bad Mom! So I showed them some old 1983 photos of me and my sister dressed as Annie from a long-ago Halloween, and explained the storyline before the show began.
From the moment the curtain went up, they were absolutely mesmerized. There were a few questions as the show progressed, including "What's an orphan?" and "How do they know where to go and what to do?" and "What's a Democrat?"
My youngest didn't make it all the way to the end - it began at 7:30 last night, so sometime after the intermission, he passed out across my lap. But my daughter wasn't about to miss a second. We loved the scene set in Oliver Warbucks' mansion when it appeared to be snowing outside. Absolutely magical.
And we loved the music. It's funny how music, like certain smells, can immediately transport you somewhere when it touches you. Hearing Annie - Madison Kerth was incredible - took me right back to 8-year-old Jen, which was a lot of fun when sitting with my 8-year-old daughter.
When at last the evil pretenders had been exposed for their false parenting claims, including Miss Hannigan played by Lynn Andrews, the show wrapped up to thunderous applause. And it was Andrews who brought them to their feet. She was hilarious, with a perfect combination of disgust for her errant charges and silliness.
After the applause died down, we carted the limp body of my son back to the car and drove home. I answered every question I could about how the actors travel, how the sets work, where Sandy the dog goes while on tour, what Democrats and Republicans believe and how the Great Depression and New Deal worked.
I'll bet these kids are going to have some interesting commentary for classmates and teachers at school today.
There are more "Annie" shows Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday 2 & 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. before the group moves on to their next tour location. Ticket prices range from $22-$72 and can be found at www.ticketmaster.com.