Oh what a night. Late April, down in Minneapolis, down in 2018, oh what a night… The Jersey Boys blew us away! Last week I saw Jersey Boys with some friends. It was truly an amazing show. What amazed us was the fact that it took us all back to our childhood. Literally. I went with three of my best friends all of us who grew up with parents in the baby boomer era. I remember sitting in my mom’s car as a child listening to songs like “Sherry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “Ragdoll”, “December” and “Dawn.” I grew up on this music and know all the lyrics to these songs. Hearing these songs sung live by guys who sound exactly like the originals warmed my heart.
This was my third time seeing the show and it gave me a new perspective. It helped me to realize and understand the rise, fall, and struggles of these friends that created this group. It helped me to realize that it took many challenges for them to become as successful as they did. Frankie Valli still tours the world. I saw him last summer at the State Fair. Jonny Wexler who plays Frankie sounds exactly like him.
The backstory was what was interesting though. If you don’t know about how these guys got started, I suggest you see this show. I suggest you see this show for understanding how this boy band or any boy band got started and the joys and struggles they faced. I suggest you see this show if you want to hear good music. The music is probably what gets people to see this show in the first place. It leaves people with a smile and many people are singing and dancing their iconic moves coming out of the theatre.
As I reflect upon my experience at the Orpheum in particular, I am left somewhat discouraged. While the Orpheum brings top notch, Broadway shows to their venue, it also has local artists, groups, and performances. The Orpheum is run by The Hennepin Theatre Trust and it often baffles me why life is harder for me being disabled.
For those of you just tuning into these notes, I use a wheelchair for long distances as I was born with a condition called mitochondria myopathy which tires my muscles easily. There were a few incidents that happened with the Orpheum that made my theatre going experience not so pleasant. When I first called to purchase tickets, I wanted to buy four tickets, they told me that I was unable to buy four tickets in the accessible seating area, and that I could only buy three that the fourth person would have to sit close by, but not in the removeable chairs. I understand if I had a bigger party, but four people isn’t that many. I bought three tickets plus one ticket nearby. On the night of the show I looked around the theatre and there was one other person in a wheelchair and that was it. At first, they weren’t going to let my friend sit with us. They wanted to save that seating which I completely understand, but as the doors were closing it became apparent no one was going to sit there. Despite their being room that night, they were going to make the fourth member of my group sit alone. After pleading my case with the usher we were all able to sit together and enjoy the show.
Bathrooms are difficult at the Orpheum. There are long lines no matter what. There is only one accessible bathroom which is located on the first floor. I decided to walk because I can walk short distances. I found my way down and there was a small line of about four people. There was an attendant there helping people and ‘making sure people are using it for the right reasons.’ I try to make myself look more disabled than I am as I don’t want to be questioned. Holding my breath to go, when it comes to my turn, a lady who didn’t see that there was a line jumps ahead and says ‘Oh you don’t look disabled. I really need to go and next thing I know she is in the bathroom.” These bathrooms are one person stalls and while I understand that this woman had a cane and appears more disabled than I, she assumed that I wasn’t disabled after I had waited all that while just to use the restroom.
For my disability sake, I like to quote the 4 Seasons: “Oh What a Night.” It always presents challenges going to the theatre being in a wheelchair. It takes longer to do anything from using the restroom to taking the elevator. It makes you really, really appreciate life and life for what it’s worth. I am grateful to be able to see theatre and to see so many shows. Sometimes though I wish that more thought was put into how folks with disability experience the act of being a patron.