This past weekend I took my daughters to the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Really Rosie. It was one of those moments you look forward to as a mother, when you get to take your kids to something that you loved as a kid and watch them fall in love with it too. They’d listened to the CD of Really Rosie hundreds of times, one of my daughters had been studying Maurice Sendak’s “Chicken Soup with Rice” poems at school and even cooked up a pot at a big chicken soup celebration. So, when I saw this rare revival advertised in New York Magazine I jumped at the chance. Well, it didn’t go as well as I had planned.
First of all poor Rosie seemed to be the victim of gentrification. See, Rosie is a little girl with a huge personality, chutzpah, delusions of grandeur and above all a mop of dark, unruly hair which exemplifies her eccentric, Flatbush, Brooklyn Jewish self. Think of a young Bette Midler. However, this Rosie had straight blond hair and was about as Flatbush as Paris Hilton. And then to make matters worse she wasn’t dressed like she threw on her mother’s, or better yet, grandmother’s fancy-schmancy clothes, she looked more like Cyndi Lauper in the 80s – purposefully mismatched and a little kooky, but certainly not charmingly fabulous.
So, there we were in our pseudo Rosie experience and the music began and of course Carole King never fails, so my girls are engrossed and I get over the shiksa Rosie. But, then the music stops and out comes the dialog. Now, I love Maurice Sendak. I appreciate the scary brilliance of Where the Wild Things Are. But, the book of Really Rosie is one long nasty back and forth between bratty kids. Of course kids today call each other “stupid.” They can be as mean and cruel as ever, but there was something so old school about seeing these actors portray kids as nothing but whiny and petulant. There was a lot of talk about killing and hating each other. Needless to say my daughters wanted to leave at that point. After all, they can see real kids acting this way every day at school where they can walk away from them. They don’t need to sit in a theater for the privilege. But, we stayed because thankfully the music began again.
And, suddenly the true charm of Really Rosie became clear. This is a story about a bunch of kids with no real toys, no TV, no Disney-made costumes, no Target play shoes. The thrill of being a kid is turning an old garbage bag into a cape, using a good old-fashioned broom stick as a microphone, and creating a spotlight from an old flashlight. The show is about the real, spontaneous, organic imagination that every child possesses but today we feel the need to supply. These kids were left on their own to play, fight and create. It was messy, disorganized and perfect. The very opposite of all of the craft driven, parent-directed play-dates my daughters seem to have.
When we went home that night I dragged out my pile of sad bridesmaid dresses, dusted off old high heels and junky costume jewelry. I will not be replacing my daughters too-small “Belle” costume, or purchasing another set of plastic high heels. It’s not a huge deal, I know. But, I can’t help but think the world could use more authentic Really Rosies, and fewer Disney Princesses. While I know I can’t entirely rid their world of pre-made “play” and manufactured fun, Rosie reminded me of why its important to try. So, even though Really Rosie wasn’t exactly the musical I had remembered, the message of unbridled girlhood imagination still rang true. As Rosie would say, “Belieeeeeeeve meeeeee.”
Original post to New York City Moms Blog.