A fresh look at Broadway at DPAC

Oct. 12, 2013 @ 04:47 PM

I took my son along to see “Beauty and the Beast” at the Durham Performing Arts Center when I reviewed it opening night for the paper. We went out to dinner first at Tyler’s, then took in the gorgeous pink sunset over the old tobacco buildings as we walked to DPAC.
Once inside, a woman commented on how handsome my boy looked in his button-down shirt and cardigan sweater, and I have to agree. During our discussion on what to expect, I explained to my 5-year-old that people dress nicer for DPAC than other events (in theory, anyway).
Once in our seats, we went over the rules. The most important: Be quiet. If you have to say something, whisper it, and only if you really need to tell me.
“There’s Beauty!” he whispered loudly, on the edge of his seat as actress Hilary Maiberger came out on stage during the village scene. I interviewed Maiberger for the advance story, and she told me that her first Broadway show growing up was “Beauty and the Beast” in California. Now living her dream, she and the cast remember that each performance may be someone’s first – or last – Broadway experience. Tuesday night was my boy’s first big play. The cast of “Beauty and the Beast” gave him a great experience. It also enhanced my view of watching these performances with a critical eye. Interviewing cast or creative in advance reminds me of the real people working hard on each show, but seeing the show with a first-timer makes the experience fresh. The reviews I write keep in mind what the entire audience might be taking away from the show, not just the thoughts of one reviewer. I think some critics forget about the rest of the room, and the value of the collective experience.
While I’m talking about DPAC, it is time to call out those audience members who toss their trash on the performing arts center’s floor. Just because someone is going to come clean up doesn’t mean you make their job harder. It’s disrespectful to the workers, to the venue, and to the theatrical experience. If a night at DPAC is a nicer event than a mall movie theater (where you should throw away your own trash, too) then act like it. Tuesday night, the aisle between the most expensive seats and the larger orchestra section was littered with cups and paper trash as the audience exited. Certainly Triangle theater-goers have better manners than that. DPAC is a wonderful place to be entertained, and while we’re enjoying ourselves we should be on our best behavior. (That means no cellphones, too.)
My son had such a good time at DPAC that he didn’t want to leave, and I explained that after the show, it’s time for the audience to go.
At breakfast the next morning, I asked him what he liked best about the night. “All of it,” he said. “Can we go to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ again?”
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.