Richard Rodgers' Broadway Whistles a Happy Tune for Kids

News   Richard Rodgers' Broadway Whistles a Happy Tune for Kids Playbill On-Line has joined forces with Camp Broadway and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University during the 2002-03 season to create opportunities for four high school student journalists, covering Broadway news for Playbill's teen readership. From September 2002 until May 2003, four students who were selected for the program will be responsible for writing an article every other month. One such article appears below.

Playbill On-Line has joined forces with Camp Broadway and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University during the 2002-03 season to create opportunities for four high school student journalists, covering Broadway news for Playbill's teen readership. From September 2002 until May 2003, four students who were selected for the program will be responsible for writing an article every other month. One such article appears below.

While some may feel that serious theatre is neither intended for, nor can be appreciated by, young children, others see it differently. Richard Rodgers’ Broadway, currently at the historic Lucille Lortel Theatre, is specifically designed for young people and seeks to introduce a younger audience to classic Broadway theatre.

Inside Broadway, the company producing the evening, has been developing shows geared toward youths for 21 years. This particular 50-minute show has been touring schools for years and, on Nov. 30, began its first sit down run. The timing, falling on the year of Richard Rogers’ 100th birthday, was no coincidence. Inside Broadways’ founder and executive director, Michael Presser, explains, "The world was celebrating Rodgers’ centenary. It is important for children to be aware of Richard Rodgers and his contribution to American culture."

The show—with the same minimal set, costume and props as the touring version that visited schools—was produced in a sit-down form to offer the "opportunity for families to see the classic Broadway show." Presser feels that there is a large audience out there "looking for family entertainment related to Broadway with reasonably priced tickets."

The production includes excerpts from classics such as The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, Babes In Arms, and Cinderella. Presser cites two standouts as the fantastic dance numbers for "Jimmy One Note" from Babes in Arms and the "Oklahoma! Medley." The audience participation number, "Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I, also inspires an enthusiastic response. But it’s really what the children think that matters. Presser is "so impressed with seeing the response of young people to the production. Their faces light up because they are so open and excited about the experience." This, he says, creates "an element of joy and fun not experienced enough with adults in theatre."

What makes Richard Rodgers’ work appealing after all these years? Presser offered his opinion: "This is music that really epitomizes what Americans are about, the essence of American spirit and the American way of life. Children respond to this just as positively as adults."

Richard Rodgers’ Broadway, with musical arrangements by Daniel Harris and stage direction and choreography by Marlo Hunter, has a cast that includes Dean Nigro, Christopher Sloan, Joy Suprano, and Suzannah Taylor.

Tickets are available for $15 each and can be purchased by calling Tele charge at (212) 239-6200 or online at www.insidebroadway.org.

—Karen Mazzola
Playbill On-Line Stringer