Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington was relatively new the first time my husband, James Paul, and I took our pre-school boy and two elementary aged daughters to the theme park. A man in our party said, “Every time someone strikes a note on a fork, Arline is off across the park!” True. Music had been a part of my life since I started piano lessons at age seven. I loved any type of stage show—and Six Flags did not disappoint me. Nothing has changed.
In the intervening years, I thrilled at stage shows at Orpryland in Nashville, Tennessee, Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa, and in numerous touring productions staged close to my home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then, I discovered the live shows at Branson, Missouri, and their quality of both talent and staging tempered my enthusiasm for shows that do not measure up professionally.
Now I am married to Lee Smith, and we share a love of music and theatre. I may not perk up my ears quite so often to a note struck on a fork in a theme park, but anytime Lee and I see a production advertised, we investigate. So it happened while traveling to North Ranch Escapees Park near Wickenburg, Arizona. A friend told us about a Gershwin musical playing at the Webb Performing Arts Center in town. A performing arts center in a small town like Wickenburg? We looked it up on the Internet, and “SWonderful” was playing on Thursday and Friday evenings of the week we happened to be there. But the site gave no information about the show, except that all adult tickets were $45. No discounts for seniors.
Now, I know that $45 is not unreasonable for a Broadway show. In fact, on our honeymoon in New York City, we paid $100 each for tickets to “Lion King.” However, we were reluctant to fork over that amount for a show we knew nothing about. The girl at the ticket office offered an option—stand-by for $10 tickets. She had only eleven seats available for the Thursday evening performance. We had little hope of getting in, but we saw it as an adventure. We arrived in time to sign up first for available tickets at show time.
While dozens of senior citizens filed into the performing arts center lobby, I sat to the side in a comfortable chair, memorizing the large poster of coming events. A beautiful white-haired lady leaned on a cane and hobbled over to sit in the chair beside me. While her daughter, who volunteered as an usher, arranged for her mother’s seating, Betty—she told me—began talking. “I’m 102,” she said, flashing a dazzling smile. I could not believe it!
Betty said she hailed from Boston, but had lived in Florida for 35 years when a fall, followed by surgery and rehab, brought her to live with her daughter in Wickenburg. In a few minutes, she excused herself to go and find her seat in the auditorium. Shortly afterward, the friendly staff presented us with two tickets–$10 each. However, if we had not sought the cheaper tickets, I would have missed a conversation with the remarkable Betty.
The music of George and Ira Gershwin, woven into story scenes by a professional cast of five young singers and dancers entranced us. An outstanding pianist accompanied all the Gershwin songs that Lee and I had played, hummed, and sung all of our lives. The show sold out for both nights, filling the 600-seat auditorium. We still pinched ourselves to have found such a state-of-the-art facility on the high school campus of Wickenburg. Who knows? The next winter we visit, we may not hesitate to pay $45 for a ticket! Yet, no matter where we travel, the music in our lives plays on.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com