A Life-changing Musical Theater Experience
I attended my first professional musical theater performance when I was 21 years old — the national touring company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the experience changed my life.
In the years since that day in 1992 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, I have seen dozens of professional productions in cities from Los Angeles to Chicago, and New York City to London, and, of course, in Salt Lake City. Each of them has, again, changed my life.
A few weeks ago, I had yet another life-changing musical theater experience. In connection with the Hamilton Education Program (“EduHam”) and the New Nation Project, I joined nearly 2,300 students from 39 high schools across Utah for a matinee performance of “Hamilton” at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City. (See Heidi Prokop’s article on EduHam in this issue of Community.)
From the moment Aaron Burr (Nik Walker) walked onstage and began the first refrain of “Alexander Hamilton” to the final note of Eliza Hamilton’s (Shoba Narayan) “Who Tells Your Story,” the energy level in the theater was off the charts. At the conclusion of every musical number, the volume of the ovations rivaled those at Vivint Smart Home Arena during a Utah Jazz playoff game, and the emotion was every bit as tangible.
Prior to the show I had the privilege of meeting many of the students and learned that this was the first professional, live theater event most had attended.
Deseret News writer Lottie Peterson Johnson shared the experience of Lani Baker, a teacher at Richfield High School in Sevier County. Baker discussed the challenging process of narrowing the hundreds of student applications for the event down to just 55.
“There were students who I knew needed to see (‘Hamilton’) whose GPA wouldn’t speak for them,” Baker was quoted as saying in the article. “(One student had a) GPA in the basement … because that’s not the priority of his cultural history. So (for) him to be able to participate in our program, I had to get him to at least a 2.0 (GPA). … And (he) did it. These children who can hardly function in school did this project, and that is moving.”
She then stated, “I think part of what makes us reach as human beings to higher levels is a light of hope that there is something more in us, and I think it’s drawn from us when we see great things. Change comes when you can see that there’s a possibility. I think ‘Hamilton’s’ about that.”
English banker, Sir John Lubbock, once said: “Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life.”
Musical theater first colored my life in 1992 and has continued to introduce new and increasingly vibrant color ever since.
Executive Vice President
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