new york part four – the best seats in the house

The back story:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

So where we were? Ah, yes, here ..


{image is a photo of Katie gleefully clutching her purchases at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Yes, that’s a shopping bag. Full of candy. Don’t judge.}

We didn’t have a lot of time left before the show, so we decided to keep dinner simple and grab a burger somewhere along the way. When we walked out of Dylan’s, we saw this across the street …


{image is a photo of a restaurant called BRGR. Apparently they pay by the letter.}

It was clearly a sign from the burger gods. Or the brgr gds. Either way, we wolfed down a couple of seriously messy burgers, called home to check in and report our progress, and then hightailed it back across town to the theater.

As we got closer, Katie’s excitement was building. As we walked into the theater itself, I thought the kid might explode. It was glorious and beautiful and joyful and lots of other happy words that made me really damned happy to be there with her.

Years ago, when money flowed freely and we were sure it would last forever, we saw a fair number of shows. And we sat in the orchestra for each and every one of them. As we headed to our seats, I worried about Katie’s reaction when we got there – that perhaps she really hadn’t understood just how far we’d actually be from the stage. But with every step closer, it became clear that my worries were my own. That the joy for her wasn’t about where we were in the theater, but simply that we WERE in the theater. that we were on real, live, actual Broadway. That we were there, in this gorgeous, storied old building with 1,400 other people to feel something together, to share in the creation of something beautiful. And she took it all in. Every last drop.


{image is a photo of Katie staring up at the actors’ names on the board just a couple of feet into the lobby of the theater. I finally pulled her inside by assuring her that she’d be able to see them all in her Playbill.}

When we’d finally ascended all three staircases and been shown to our seats, I had to laugh. We really were in the very last row of the upper mezzanine. We were above the structure that held the lights. The young woman next to me was mid freak-out. Her mom was on her way, she explained, and was afraid of heights. She didn’t know if they’d be able to stay.

“Well, kid,” I said, turning to Katie with a grin, “we are officially in the worst seats in the house. Enjoy.”


{image is a photo of our tickets}

She looked to her right and gestured toward the folks parallel with us, yet all the way in the far corner of the house. “Nope,” she said, “they are.”

I laughed.

“Besides,” she said, “we wouldn’t see the music any better down there, Mama.”

I sat watching my kid, both of us awestruck, as the lights went down.


{image is a photo of our Playbills}

The show was amazing. Watching Katie watch the show was even better. We could barely see what was happening on the stage. At times we weren’t sure who was singing. It didn’t matter.

Years ago, Luau and I went to Italy. We started in Rome, then made our way to Florence and finally up to Venice. I don’t speak Italian, but I was convinced that I had enough Spanish to make it work. For the longest time, I tried desperately to distinguish individual words in Italian, to translate them into Spanish then English, to try to make sense of a language in which I am not fluent. It didn’t work.

But this magical thing happened when I gave up. When I stopped trying to pick out the words, I heard the language. When I stopped trying to translate it, I began to feel it, and when I began to feel it, I began to understand, at the very least, the broader message the speaker meant to convey.

That was Les Mis from the last row of the rear mezzanine. It wasn’t about the words, it was about the language. It wasn’t about the intricacies of the plot or the costumes or the looks on the actors’ faces. It was about how it made us feel.

We laughed. We cried. We cheered. On our way to the theater, Katie had warned me not to fall in love with Gavroche because he would die, then promptly fell in love with Gavroche and wept when he died. When I gently chided her in the dark, she rested her head on my shoulder and squeezed my hand. “It’s just so sad,” she said. In the magic of the theater, even the sadness was beautiful.

As we left and carved a path into the night, she talked – and talked and talked – of nothing but the show, the music, the story. Of Gavroche, Éponine, Cosette, Javert, Jean Valjean. She shouted, “24601!” into the night as we walked from 45th to 46th Street. She sang, “Do You Hear The People Sing?” in full voice as we reached the 50s. She told me that she dreams of playing Cosette someday. Or Éponine. Or Fantine. “Any of them, really.” She talked about the power of Fantine’s role, about how, without a lot of time on stage, she was, nonetheless, one of the most memorable characters.

I took such joy in listening to my girl. Like a puppy in the snow, she rolled around in the words and the music and the story — the kinetic joy of the theater. The energy of the night pushed us on up to 58th Street and over to 8th Avenue, shivering, singing, holding hands, and reveling in the magic of a moment that I dare say neither of us will ever forget.

Thank you, Papa. 

To be continued.

16 thoughts on “new york part four – the best seats in the house

  1. This post made me cry-in the very best way! Katie sounds amazing. I love her enthusiasm for life. I also just told my husband that we are stealing this idea-we’re going to start giving our girls “experience” gifts for Christmas rather than things. The Kindle I got my girls this year already has a cracked screen. An experience would last forever.

  2. This is the magic of theater. Certainly it doesn’t affect everyone this way, but when you’ve caught the magic then there is nothing more powerful. Any stage, any play, any cast is like light in the darkness. The magic isn’t, as you said, in the seats but in the coming together of ordinary people to make something extraordinary. It’s a high unlike any other.

    • Leslie, I don’t have a public email address, but you’re welcome to leave a comment here. If you want to use a pseudonym, you’re welcome to do so on the community support page. i hope that helps!

      • Hi Jess,
        I just wanted to talk to you about a product to protect our children. I think it could be an answer to the children that go unattended and fall into trouble, like that poor baby in December. I want you opinion, guidance. I want my business end, to give back from day one, I want to donate a large portion per sale to any child who is non verbal or autistic. I’d like to speak to you because I think this will save lives.

      • sadly, i am already so far over my proverbial skis that i couldn’t be of help. i’m thrilled that more and more people are focusing on keeping our children safe and making the tools to do so accessible to all who need them. i wish you all the luck in the world as you move forward!

      • I actually didn’t want your help, lol, I just wanted your opinion on the product to see where I could tweek it, but I think you answered me. Sorry to bother you. Have a great day!

  3. I’m so happy I found your blog, because it’s sometimes difficult to find common experiences with other ASD families. My 10 year old autistic daughter has so identified with Brooke that when she comes home from school she asks me what “that fun Boston girl” has been up to.

    This was the blog entry that I connected most with – Les Mis is my most favorite show – I’ve seen it nine times, including twice on Broadway. My daughter asked me if it was true that I knew every single word of every single song. Yep. Her response? “That’s a lot of memory-making.”

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