Broadway musicals are not just for the elite who can afford them in New York City. There is the belief that everyone w2hould have access to and be able to enjoy the arts – especially musical theater.
But for a long time, the masses have not meant those with certain sensory disadvantages. That has started to change of late, and one theater in particular has stepped up to help make Broadway musicals truly more accessible to more people.
We take you to the Wharton Center, a performing-arts facility in Lansing, Michigan, where it has put together what are called “sensory friendly” performances of plays in the past, including “cat in the Hat.” The next step was reached when a Broadway play, “Disney’s Lion King” developed its own sensory friendly performance for various children with sensory issues and/or listed on the autism spectrum.
Broadway plays are often a challenge for those with sensory disadvantages, as the performances are often loud and have either very dark or very bright lights, and there are often unexpected events that occur. The Wharton Center had a special sensory friendly performance one afternoon in July, and they helped young patrons adapt to the new environment.
These sensory friendly performances differ a bit from the more traditional performances in that they adapt lighting, sound and other effects to fit the more sensitive patrons, and also provide opportunities for patrons to preview the performance and learn about the play, what happens during these events and what they can expect when they arrive for the show. All of this is designed to provide the entire spectacle of a Broadway play but without all the overwhelming sensations that could paralyze children and others with sensory disadvantages.
The Wharton Center would prepare for the sensory-friendly performances by inviting ticketholders to an open house prior to the even, where children can see the theater, know where they are sitting, and they are introduced to cases members and are shown costumes and told about the story of the play so the children will know what to expect when they arrive.
According to feedback from some parents, these extra steps that the Wharton Center takes makes these performances fun for everyone in the family, where event eh children reported having a good time and enjoying the experience of a Broadway play.
Broadway musicals are cultural phenomena that people of all ages should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy for their theatrical power, musical scores and brilliant acting – they are the ultimate in the theatrical arts and can be emotional, uplifting experiences that promote the arts for children. Every effort should be made to allow even the most sensitive and vulnerable of us to enjoy the theater and all it has to offer for our spirits and souls, as that is what gives us the joy of life.