The Best Birthday Present Ever

On Saturday I received my best birthday present ever. Yes, I know it’s been a month and a day since my birthday. It doesn’t matter. Going to see the Broadway version of The Lion King was the present. My parents told me back then that it was what they were going to get Stephanie and I for our birthdays. It just didn’t work out scheduling-wise until now. The show, as I’m sure you can tell by demeanor these first few sentences, was amazing. It reminded me, once again, of why The Lion King has been my favorite movie for over ten years. And it’s good that the show was amazing because to offset the disaster of getting into the city, it had to be.

The intrepid theater-goers were Stephanie and I, Mom and Dad, Stef’s mom Julee, and my Grandma. We had to take two cars because even with Stef’s boat of a car, it would have been too tight for one. So, we took two. It worked out fine all the way into the city which, in some respects, was probably a blessing. About a hundred feet from the end of the Exit 22 offramp tunnel, coming off of the underground Route 93, Mom’s car broke down.

So, via cellphone we find this out. Chris’s crazy brain goes to work. I drop off Julee and Stef at the Opera House and then start back towards the highway. I took a side-street from Washington to get to Tremont. I took Tremont to Boylston, Boylston to Stuart, Stuart to Beacon, and then hopped on Storrow Drive. At the end of Storrow Drive I got back on 93 South, cut across the three lanes of slow moving traffic, and made my way back down the Exit 22 offramp. There, towards the end, was the car.

It was starting and stopping. So, we got it out of the tunnel a bit, but it finally just wouldn’t go. I took Dad and Grandma to the show and Mom waited for the tow truck. She missed the first few minutes of the show, but she got there quick enough, and then we all enjoyed ourselves.

That part of the story took far too long to tell. I apologize. I would rather have just talked about the show, but the craziness does make for an interesting story.

The show: My God, I can’t believe you can do this stuff on stage. My first reaction to hearing there was a Lion King musical a few years ago was one of dismay. It was my favorite Disney story of all time and it just couldn’t be done on stage. They were going to make a mockery of it, I was sure.

But it was amazing. Starting from the opening scene, where the animals, made up of elaborate puppets, men and women on stilts and still costumed… My powers of description are leaving me. You look at the movie, imagine that any one scene couldn’t be done, and they do it.

The wildebeast stampede was just right-on. They had a projection screen in the far back to represent the beginning of it. Then, they had something in the mid-ground, right behind Simba, a sort-of revolving contraption that made it look like the wildebeasts were leaping towards him. More and more were added. Simba is running in place this whole time. Then, finally, there are actors portraying wildebeasts running alongside him.

If you imagine it as sort of an African ritual storytelling kind-of thing, where they might dress up and channel animal spirits or the like to tell a fable to the village, way back in the day, and just imagine it on a much grander scale, that’s what it was like.

I almost cried in a few parts, as I always do when watching the movie. It came out in 94, the summer before Grandpa died, and it resonated deeply with me that year as I came to understand the reality of the message, the circle of life and whatever. It still resonates with me today.

It simply was, as I said at the top, the best birthday present ever. Words fail me now, as they often do, but I hope you get a sense of how wonderful it was and how happy it made me.