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Harmony in the West End

From the travel book I'll never write. This episode took place in London, England, February, 2007.

It’s taken awhile to figure out, but I am at my happiest when the people that count on me are happy, all together, all at the same time. For simplicity sake, let’s call it harmony.

Disney creates great ads that depict the notion of “One Big Happy Family” on vacation in their parks. For those who have been there in a big group know that this portrayal can be more fiction than fact. Don’t get me wrong, we love Disney, but the commercials don't show the endless lines, the budget busting receipts or the soaring temperatures. How about the never ending family battle between the swimming pool faction versus the park loyalists?

For us, the best dining example of this harmony concept is the Town Spa in Stoughton. It may not be everyone’s first choice but there is something for everyone; mom, dad and kids. At home, a good steak dinner on a Sunday night makes us all happy, especially if there is a nice bottle of red wine involved.

The most satisfying example I can recall of traveling harmony occurred in London. A friend who visited not long before us told me his family had seen a live production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in London’s West End, England’s version of Broadway. By the time we were going to be there it was being replaced by a stage version of The Sound of Music. I grew up during the pre-cable days when you could set your calendar by the limited choices on TV. The Sound of Music was on once a year, and we all watched it together.

I was able to get tickets for our whole group all in one row, eight family members. The show was going to top off an action packed day. We saw the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, while being shuttled around via Double Decker Bus. We only had time for a quick bite at the hotel then we hit the streets for a mile plus walk to the famed London Palladium theatre.

After all of this traveling I wasn’t sure what to expect out of our group or the production.

As we got in the neighborhood we could tell it was a really big event. The theatre was beautiful. The atmosphere was electric. The lights went down and the show began.

I quickly became engrossed in the show. There was a contagious element about the performance. About half way through the first act, I looked down the row. We were all singing along, from my youngest daughter, right down the line to my mother. Then I realized it wasn’t just us, it was everyone. We were in a packed house, 2,300 people singing along, each connected to their own group. Everyone was experiencing their own tradition, their memories. We were all sharing it together. It was an incredibly harmonious thing to be a part of. It was a lot of effort to get there but everyone kept a good attitude and that made it all worth while.

Post Script – After the performance, we exited out of the back of the theatre. We realized that we were very near the stage door. I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to see if we could get a glimpse of the stars as they left, most notably the young woman who played the lead role of Maria. My daughter was 9 at the time. Every now and then one of the minor characters would emerge. As they left they would get an ovation from the ever gathering crowd. After a while we tired of waiting so we decided to head back to the hotel. Since we were close to the stage door we needed to make our way down the same path as the actors. As we filed out, my daughter received a tremendous ovation from the bystanders who took her to be one of the Von Trapp children. It provided quite a laugh at the end of a very long day.

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Lorraine M Ryan August 22, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Hi! I know the magical night. I went to see "The Sound of Music" again last Thursday night, in Waltham, with Renée. It was magical, still magical, in a different way. We were singing, again. And clapping. The local 128 community. Funny how there are songs for everyone in that musical ... when it was released, it was "Do, Re, Mi" I was singing. As it a teen, it was "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" After spending weeks in the Alps, in my 30s, surely it was "The Sound of Music" that took my breath away. In this production (starring Patrick Cassidy and Sarah Pfisterer ) the Reverend Mother was superb, and a renowned Broadway performer. The staging was more minimalist and brilliantly conceived. This was a middle aged crowd, with, for some reason, lots of fresh-faced, sundress clad, teenaged girls. There was a standing ovation for everyone, but most especially for the Reverend Mother. Her "Climb Every Mountain" brought the house down. The one song I didn't like on the LP in the 60s is now my favorite, and, I now see, the metaphor for the whole story. And life.

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