A Magical Time or Frozen Out? Taking Sarah to A Broadway-Bound Musical

A Magical Time or Frozen Out? 

Taking Sarah to A Broadway-Bound Musical

On a crisp Saturday morning in mid-September, my daughter Sarah, 13, and I got ready to go see Frozen the Broadway-Bound musical at the storied Buell Theatre.

She wore a black velvet dress and sensible REI shoes, while I put on a Kohl’s polka dot dress and Ann Taylor heels I had bought in the late ‘90s for a job interview, which led to painful blisters after the matinee. But it was well worth it.

Full of nerves, I met Sarah’s grandma outside the main doors and we began climbing sets of stairs to the top floor balcony, enjoying the view out the tall glass windows of downtown, along with the rainbow of sparkle dresses and tiaras on toddlers passing by.

Outside the door, we shook hands with Lori Garza and Mike Prosser, Patron Service and House managers respectively, for this portion of the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Along with us was Kirk Petersen, Associate Director of Ticketing Services.

I like to tell my friends I set this up as a “come to Jesus” meeting, even though I am not religious and if I were it would be of a Jewish faith. This was an endearing phrase my husband’s devout Catholic stepmom liked to use when the family needed to all come together to get some clarity on an important issue at hand.

For us, the issue at hand was Sarah and her manifestation of autism. Sarah rocks in her chair and when she is happy and thrilled by something like a musical, she emotes joyful yet truly unique noise, something like “ninga ninga ning.” And she likes to sing.

The trio assured me that they had their “A team” on the balcony to assist us with any issues that arise, and even offered to show me our seats ahead of time. Inside, we met Jasmine Palacios and Rhonda Miles, ushers assigned to monitor our area. They could not have been any kinder.  Honestly, I think all of us were nervous about what would happen.

The house lights went down and Act 1 began with a swirl of colorful costumes and perfect-pitch song. By the time we got to “Do you want to Build a Snowman,” Sarah was feeling the moment and since her chair had rollers on it, she rocked right into the empty space behind us in ADA seating. But no matter, my mom and I simply wheeled her right back.

Sarah began tapping on the metal bar in front of her; so did the little girl to our right and with more gusto. A boy in front of us asked a litany of questions to his mom while eating Robin’s egg blue cotton candy. Of all the activity around us, Sarah’s humming blended right in.

I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole first act. Sarah was mesmerized by the lights and special effects of icicles forming around the stage and we all gasped when Elsa’s gown turned a bright starlight silver after the last verse of “Let it Go.”

This could have gone horribly wrong, if it were a night crowd, or if the DCPA folks, including Heidi Bosk, hadn’t been so incredibly accommodating. Bosk had called me after I wrote a letter to the editor explaining how a ticket agent told me on the phone that if Sarah bothered anyone who complained, she would have to leave and watch the musical (at $80 apiece) on a screen in the lobby.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. The actual rule is that discretion is up to the house manager. Which is why I suggested a pre-meeting to iron out details and happily become in their words, a “guinea pig” family to test the waters for special needs kids at the DCPA’s arts events.

The DCPA went the extra mile to ensure Sarah and her family had a magical time. And Petersen tells me that they are planning a sensory friendly event soon. It’s disappointing that Disney – which had done a sensory friendly Lion King musical in New York about six years ago — did not plan any opportunity for families like ours to feel welcomed when traveling to Colorado to offer this beautiful performance of the arts at its very best. But this is progress.

The next step is for you reading this at this P2P blog, Parenting with Altitude, to contact me, because my good friends Carl and Rhonda Benton, have graciously offered to purchase a block of seats to an arts event for our families! So please contact me with ideas! I am thinking perhaps the sensory friendly Nutcracker by the Colorado Conservatory of Dance this December.

Julie Marshall is an active member in Parent to Parent of Colorado. She is the founder of Brainsong, a nonprofit with a mission to open doors to the professional arts experience to families living with different abilities. Learn more at: www.brainsong.net


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