A night on the town

Last Friday my 41/2;-year-old grandson and I had a night on the town. Two towns, actually. We started in Medford and ended up in New York City by way of "Broadway II: The Journey Continues," a great show at the Craterian.

The Medford part of the evening began with dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. After dinner we went for a walk. Since it was Third Friday, there was lots to see and do in the early evening hours — even for a 41/2;-year-old.

At the corner of Main and Central, someone was playing the piano. Well, not a baby grand or anything like that. It was a large electronic version and it sounded just fine to both of us.

My grandson, who is very observant, noted that the musician who was playing the piano also had a guitar nearby. We never got to hear him play it, although we could hear the piano right up to the doors of the Craterian.

Down Theater Alley we spied a juggler. Now that was something you didn't see every day, so we decided to hang around and watch him perform. He was a young man, and if I remember correctly, he had a beard (I'll have to check with my grandson — he'll remember). He had a scarf on top of his long hair and he was lofting things in the air and catching them.

First he had bowling pins spinning around. Then he had three blocks of what appeared to be wood, covered with a shiny material that he kept tossing and twirling and catching. All the while there was an older man playing a drum with his hands to provide music for the juggler.

The next set of items to be juggled were knives. Real ones. Sharp ones with large, almost sword-sized blades. And juggle them he did and never once cut himself. That got our attention and that of the small crowd that was slowly gathering.

My grandson and I noticed there was a flaming canister nearby so we knew that if we waited long enough, fire would become part of the act. And sure enough, out came a long, thin metal rod with a wad of cloth or something that had been dipped into some flammable liquid which burst into flame when the juggler touched it to the burning canister.

Then, low and behold, the juggler put the flaming wad into his mouth and swallowed the flames. This so impressed my grandson that he would describe it to his mother and grandmother when we got home that night. "He ate the fire!"

Well, you can't top that and it was getting close to the time the show would start anyway, so we headed back to the Craterian leaving the piano music, the juggler and the rest of Medford behind us.

We spent the next couple of hours immersed in the magic of musical theater. Children's Musical Theatre of Oregon had gathered scenes from 17 Broadway musicals, connected them with a clever story line and presented the whole thing to the wonder and admiration of the audience.

The audience included a lot of people my grandson's size and larger, just about covering the whole spectrum of ages. This meant that various members of the audience got some of the inside jokes and theater references while others picked up on the visual gags.

But we all caught the spirit of the evening that began with a dazzling production number from "The Lion King" featuring more than 40 kids and a few adults. By evening's end, we would see between 50 and 60 kids on stage. My grandson and I had fun identifying the various animals — everything from frogs and birds to giraffes and elephants: the Circle of Life.

The main character of the show, the one continuing her journey, was Reda, a teenage girl who unwittingly had been swept up into Musical Theatre Land. Once there, she found characters from the shows who had some valuable lessons to impart.

From his vantage point on my lap, my grandson took everything in. We moved from Africa to the Caribbean to the streets of New York, London, Paris, ancient Egypt, Neverland and places in between. The visit to Neverland provided the biggest laughs. A young actor, a fifth-grade boy, came out looking and swaggering exactly like Johnny Depp's character Jack Sparrow, from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Someone had to lift him up so he and Captain Hook, (played by an adult), could taunt each other face-to-face. It was very comical and my grandson laughed and laughed. "He was so funny!"

The evening had been about the power of music and love and friendship and following your dreams. Or as the Washington Senators sang in their number from "Damn Yankees" — "You gotta have heart." The whole cast sure did and that stayed with my little charge and me as we left Musical Theatre Land, returned to Medford and headed back home, continuing on our own journey.

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