Childhood, as everyone who’s been through it knows, isn’t always fun. Growing up is hard to do and parents can be real jerks some times. Then we become parents ourselves and realize our parents did their best, as we hope we’re doing. And so on. Growing up boy has been a prevalent theme in entertainment, showing up in movies and also live theater.
I was initially dubious about the movie Boyhood, thinking the filming of the same cast over 12 years contrived and projecting that the movie would be dull. There’s no plot; just a boy and his sister and two parents and a bunch of others, celebrating rites of passage and milestones. Another coming of age story, ho hum. I was wrong. The characters age in real time, over 2 ½ hours, like time lapse photography and it’s compelling and poignant.
Whiplash tells the story of a young drummer enrolled in a competitive music school who has to face the inherent challenges that environment creates, including a sadistic teacher. Some of our musician friends commented that the film depicts life in the arts before people worried about self-esteem.
On Broadway, we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time, based on the 2003 best-selling book by Mark Haddon. It’s a National Theatre production brought over from the UK, and among the best plays I’ve ever seen. When fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is suspected of killing the neighbor’s dog, he’s determined to solve the mystery and find the murderer. Christopher attends a special school; he displays non-specified developmental symptoms associated with Asperger’s or Savant Syndrome—he’s a mathematical prodigy yet socially awkward. It’s a family story: parents coping with a son who’s different, a son finding his way. Come to New York City and book a ticket.
Then there’s John & Jen. In this two-character musical, there’s John, first a brother, then a son; and Jen, first a sister, then a mother over a time period from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. Politics and family tensions, and guilt and love. Lyrics by Tim Greenwald and music by Andrew Lippa. Add it to your NYC list.
Closer to home, I took two of the grands to a local university production of Peter Pan, a musical, like its main character, that never grows old. Watching the flying through five- and three- year- old eyes added to the magic.
And speaking of growing up, the eldest grandson has started to read on his own. Now that is truly magic. I just hope I won’t be retired too soon from reading books to him.