The wording on the event listing was clear: “Recommended for audiences over 8 years old. Children under 4 will not be admitted.” An email from the production company was a little more circumspect: “Please drop me a line if you are considering bringing a guest under four.” My dilemma was that I don’t have an eight year old handy for a date at my house, but I do have a five year old. He’s an exceptional five year old, of course, but a kindergarten age little boy nonetheless.
I went to my favourite resource, the internet, for guidance. Surprise, surprise, opinions were scarce but divided.
I find age recommendations are generally conservative so I decided to bring him and hope for the best, keeping in mind if we had to leave, I could chalk it up to lesson learned.
In the end, he loved it (as did I!) and has been asking to go again…so I’d say pretty successful! Here are a few of the things I think contributed to our good time, and things you may want to know if you are considering bringing your younger elementary age child to Wicked.
Very slight/vague spoiler alert.
Things to know:
–It is loud. Of everything I worried about, I didn’t consider the sheer volume of a large scale Broadway production. The singing and special effects are dramatic. The loudest parts are at the very beginning and whenever the giant head of the Wizard speaks. I wish I would have brought ear plugs for my son (bite the foam ones in half to fit small ear holes) to prevent the wincing and fingers in ears.
–There is smoke and strobe lights. My son thought it was awesome, like a rock concert, but it may be disconcerting for some.
–Let’s talk about S-E-X. There is a theme of extramarital sex and pregnancy. It isn’t graphic in the least, but inquisitive children might want more details. My friend Kathryn dealt with some questions from her daughter regarding how the baby got there in the first place, and “a mommy and a daddy’s love” wasn’t going to cut it!
– Cruelty to animals. In one scene a lion cub is caged and prodded and threatened with an enormous needle. Later the flying monkeys are revealed to be tormented creatures. My son was concerned about the animals being hurt and found this pretty upsetting.
-Death (but no taxes) If you know the story of the Wizard of Oz, you know about the death aspect. It isn’t particularly violent and is mostly left to the imagination, but it’s there, and warranted a “That’s pretty sad” from my child.
–Do your homework. We read a couple Wizard of Oz storybooks together and watched some videos based on the original. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Veggie Tales and Tom and Jerry each have a Wizard of Oz themed movie that was very accessible and helped familiarize my son with the backstory of Wicked. I don’t think you NEED to know the Wizard of Oz story to enjoy Wicked, but it certainly helps to flesh it out.
–Buy the soundtrack. The music is a lot of fun. We listened to the music often in the weeks prior to the show. It helped build excitement in our household beforehand, and since we saw the show we have been listening and singing along almost nonstop. Don’t worry about it getting boring…these kids live for repetition, and the music is great!
–School them on theatre etiquette. The theatre is no different from the rest of their lives in that kids need to know what is expected of them. Set them up for success by practicing holding their questions until intermission, taking them to the bathroom before the show starts so they don’t need to leave, and sitting without swinging their legs.
–The theatre has booster seats. This one I didn’t know until too late, but ask at the door if you don’t see the booster seats. I ended up with pins and needles from the 48 pound lump on my lap, but that beat the alternative of a child who couldn’t see the stage.
Ultimately, you know your child best. There are things that may be scary or upsetting to sensitive kids, or start discussions you are unwilling to have just yet. For us, I was thrilled I brought my son despite the age recommendation. We had a wonderful night out that has set him on course to be a musical theatre lover (and I need another one in my house!) The night was summed up when he put his little hand in mine and told me, “The best part was all of it!”