When our three children were babies, we’d often sing them lullabies — or gentle renditions of tunes by the likes of Three Dog Night. Considering youngest daughter Lizabeth’s love for theater, you’d suspect we lulled her into slumber each night with “Lullaby of Broadway” from the musical “42nd Street.”
Nowadays Lizabeth is studying theater at Pace University in NYC, where she’s part of an amazing cast for the Pace Performing Arts production of playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Our Lady of 121st Street” directed by Grant Kretchik.
The work imagines a dead nun gone missing in Harlem as those she’s helped through the years gather to lament the loss. It’s best described as a ’dark comedy’ — two words that describe Lizabeth with startling precision. Though I assure you, dark fare was never part of my lullaby repertoire.
Recently I alerted one of Lizabeth’s theater teachers here in the Valley to her “Our Lady” gig. Soon she shot back an enthusiastic e-mail, noting that Lizabeth would be performing on 42nd Street — an iconic locale for those who aspire to careers on Broadway.
I saw the production Saturday at a charming little theater that’s part of Theatre Row — a collection of historic theaters that’ve been beautifully renovated. “Our Lady of 121st Street” is being performed at the Lion Theatre, so I couldn’t help musing about Lizabeth’s journey from lullaby to lion. And the way a little girl who once purred is becoming a lion who roars.
Seeing Lizabeth perform last weekend was especially poignant because it’s the weekend I mark each year as the anniversary of my mother’s death. Lizabeth was just a preschooler when her “Nana” died, overcoming the fear that breathing tubes stir in ones so young so she could give her a kiss on the cheek and share an innocent goodbye.
A fellow theater mom recently asked me whether Lizabeth dreams of performing on Broadway one day. It was, I think, Lizabeth’s goal for a time. But she’s developing a glorious curiosity for things beyond the world of theater, which are plentiful and no less profound. Where she’ll land is hard to say.
But wherever Lizabeth’s dreams take her, I’ll never forget her remarkable journey from lullaby to lion.
Coming up: A role reversal