West Side Story at Abbeydale Picture House

I was surprised last night that there weren’t more children in the audience, but I guess not everyone wanted to pass on their childhood of Sunday afternoon watching musicals like I did. Plus it was an evening film so was destined to be a late one, although when I booked the ticket I hadn’t recalled that the film is 152 minutes long so it was destined to be rather later even than I had anticipated.

Ah well, parenting for me involves throwing in a few unusual experiences for the kids and this was one.

I love Abbeydale Picture House and in particular the passion of the volunteers working so hard to bring it back to life. The cafe (open Friday and Saturdays 10-5 at the moment) is beautiful, with excellent drinks and food and the thoughtful provision of blankets – it is a little nippy. The building itself is stunning and hopefully one day will be restored to it’s former glory.So I couldn’t pass up a night then of watching West Side Story with my lovely family in such brilliant surroundings, helping them raise a little money in the process.

West Side Story with children requires a little groundwork. In particular we talked about Romeo and Juliet and braced them both for people dying. We discussed racial tensions and the different meanings of the word ‘gay”. Other than that it’s brilliant songs and cracking dancing so I didn’t anticipate further problems.

Things we didn’t think of explaining:

  • That Shakespeare didn’t exist in 1961
  • Where Puerto Rico is
  • Why people burst into song when they are supposed to be keeping the noise down
  • That “Daddio” does not mean Daddy. This particular confusion made character relationships a little confusing – no one person can be a girl’s brother and father at the same time surely?
  • How the men’s teeth got so shiny
  • How unlikely it is to fall in love on the spot or indeed to forgive someone who has just killed your brother, even if he was cross at the time.

“What on earth was happening in that scene in a garage? They were already cool, why were they singing about keeping cool?” They know all about homonyms really.

Then we came to the crux – the problem with all Shakespeare tragedies. Tony is told that Maria is dead and goes into emotional meltdown at which point my eldest said “you’d think he’d have checked first”. Absolutely, you will go far.

It was a lovely night. Retro snacks, comfy seats, a live intro from two lovely singers from Easy Street Theatre, a great view and a wonderful setting – they are truly putting heart back into a beautiful building. Add to that the craziness of explaining the world of the 1960s to an 8 and a 10 year old and you feel really alive.

As we walked out my daughter was discussing who the baddies were. She said she thought the Sharks from Puerto Rico were less bad because they’d had such a tough time already. Wow. There was me thinking we were the ones was teaching her not the other way round.

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