Welcome to our third annual preview of the arts scene for families. There's a sense of anticipation at this time of year, as our region's theater, dance and other performance companies launch brand-new seasons of stellar entertainment.

You'll find a wide range of options here, from performances that you can attend at the last minute -- without digging too deeply into your bank account -- to big-ticket productions that require a bigger outlay of time and cash. And since families with kids of all ages want to experience quality live entertainment, you'll find shows for tots listed alongside fare suitable for tweens and teens.

If something catches your eye, we recommend that you not wait too long to buy tickets. The only downside to living in an area bursting with top talent is that popular shows sell out. So page through our guide, make your picks and count the reasons to let summer go with a smile.

Children's theater

Seattle Children's Theatre
presents four world premiere productions in 2006-07. The season kicks off with "Harriet's Halloween Candy," (Sept. 22-Nov. 12, ages 5 and up), a musical based on the book by Nancy Carlson. "Jason and the Golden Fleece" (Oct. 13-Nov. 26, ages 10 and up) is an adaptation by John Olive, the playwright whose previous adaptations for SCT include "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle." The company's holiday play, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Dec. 1-Jan. 27, ages 6 and up), is a world-premiere adaptation of the original Greek tale, followed by a world-premiere adaptation of the Margaret Wise Brown classic, "Goodnight Moon" (Jan. 12-March 10, ages 4 and up). "Afternoon of the Elves" (Feb. 9-March 25, ages 8 and up) is a reprise of the play that opened SCT's inaugural season in the Charlotte Martin Theatre in 1993. Local playwright Bret Fetzer's "Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like" (March 23-May 12, ages 5 and up), makes use of SCT's signature puppetry. "Addy: An American Girl Story" (April 13-June 17, ages 8 and up), by localplaywright Cheryl L. West, looks at plantation life for a mother and daughter who flee slavery in 1864. Single tickets are $16-$32. To purchase, call 206-441-4488 or visit www.sct.org.

The season at Youth Theatre Northwest, located on Mercer Island, begins with "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" (Nov. 3-19), based on the C.S. Lewis fantasy, followed by an adaptation of Orwell's satire "Animal Farm" (Jan. 26-Feb. 11). The musical "Oliver!" (March 9-25) and "Searching for King Arthur" (April 27-May 12) -- a play about the legendary king as a young man -- round out the spring. "Through the Looking Glass & What Alice Found There" (Jun 1-16), based on Lewis Carroll's book, closes the season. Single tickets are $13. Tickets to all opening-night performances are $15. Call 206-232-4145, Ext. 109 or visit www.youththeatre.org to purchase.

SPROUTS Children's Theatre
in Redmond stages original (and often humorous) musical adaptations of familiar fairy tales for kids ages 4-12. Children under 3 are not admitted except on Small Sibling Sundays, which are expanding to two performances this year. This season's productions include "The Princess & the Pea" (Oct 13-29), "Sleeping Beauty" (Dec. 8-23), "The Musicians of Bremen" (March 16-April 1) and "Pinocchio" (May 4-20). All tickets are $8.75. To purchase, call 425-881-6777 or visit www.SecondStoryRep.org.

StoryBook Theater, part of Kirkland's performing arts studio Studio East, performs original fairytale-based musical comedies for kids ages 3-9 at venues in Everett, Kirkland, Seattle and Renton. This year's lineup features "The Frog Prince" (October-November), "Jack and the Beanstalk" (January-March) and "A Little Mermaid" (April-May). Tickets to StoryBook Theater shows are $8, except for performances at Kirkland Performance Center, which are $8.50. For tickets to KPC shows, call 425-893-9900. For all other performances, call Studio East at 425-827-3123 or 1-877-827-1100. www.studio-east.org

Issaquah-based Pied Piper brings kids' entertainment to the Everett Performing Arts Center and the Everett Civic Auditorium. The first show of the season is "Amber Brown in Not a Crayon" (Oct. 15) a new musical for grades 2-5 based on the book by Paula Danziger and presented by ArtsPower. "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka" (Dec. 9-10), produced by the Kennedy Center IMAGINATION CELEBRATION on Tour, is a world-premiere musical, adapted from the children's novel, for all ages. Portland Taiko (Feb. 4) uses storytelling and rhythmic drumming to introduce kids to Japanese culture and Asian-American heritage. TheatreworksUSA's musical production of "Junie B. Jones" (March 25), based on the popular Barbara Park book series, follows Junie B. as she gets new glasses and plays kickball, and is aimed at grades K-3. Pied Piper's season ends with the musical "Cam Jansen" (May 20), a crime mystery for grades 1-4. Single tickets are $11-$13. Call the Everett Performing Arts Center box office at 425-257-8600 or visit www.villagetheatre.org.

Family friendly theater

The 5th Avenue Theatre's season includes several musicals suitable for families with middle schoolers and older, including Bollywood fantasy "Bombay Dreams" (Sept. 12-Oct. 1), a world premiere of "Cry-Baby" (Feb. 13-March 4), based on the John Waters film, and the classic "West Side Story" (May 29-June 17). All-ages shows include "White Christmas" (Nov. 28-Dec. 17), with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, and "Edward Scissorhands" (April 25-May 13), based on the Tim Burton film. Single tickets are $20-$73; to purchase or for details about each show's content, visit www.5thavenuetheatre.org.

Village Theatre's Mainstage productions -- performed in Issaquah and Everett -- include the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" (Issaquah, Nov. 8-Dec. 31; Everett, Jan. 5-21), a family friendly production about a publicity stunt by a '50s pop star, and "Shadowlands" (Issaquah, Jan. 17-Feb. 25; Everett, March 2-18), the Broadway drama about Christian writer C. S. Lewis' love affair with American poet Joy Gresham, which is suitable for grades 6 and up. Visit Village Theatre's Web site for information about its family room (Issaquah only) and detailed information about the content of each show. To purchase tickets ($22-$49), call the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202, the Everett box office at 425-257-8600, or visit www.villagetheatre.org.


Thistle Theatre
introduces kids ages 3-12 to the Japanese Bunraku style of puppetry, in which operators, dressed in black, are visible onstage as they operate the puppets. This season, the company performs at locations in Seattle's Sand Point and Ballard neighborhoods. The lineup includes "Little Red Riding Hood" (Oct. 13-15 and 20-22); "The Gingerbread Boy" (Dec. 9-10 and 15-17); Japanese fable "Momotaro (Peach Boy)" (March 1-3 and 16-18) and "Brother Coyote and Sister Fox" (April 27-29, May 4-6), an adaptation of a Mexican folktale. Single tickets are $7-$9; to reserve, call 206-324-3388. Visit www.thistletheatre.org for locations.

Northwest Puppet Center's
charming theater, located in a North Seattle neighborhood and complete with a small puppet museum, is a showcase for the resident Carter Family Marionettes and a roster of guest puppet companies. The new season includes "There's a Dinosaur in the Closet" (Oct. 13-29) by Coad Canada Puppets; "Q'we-Ti: Tales of the Makah Tribe" (Nov. 17-19), which features live music by Neah Bay families; "Babar and Father Christmas" (Dec. 1-17); "Crane and Turtle: Images of China" (Jan. 12-28), a rod-puppet show by Dragon Arts Studios; "Aesop's Fables" (Feb. 2-18), by local favorite Thistle Theatre; "Puss in Boots: The Creole Cat" (March 2-18) by Oregon Shadow Theatre, which uses colorful, Mardis Gras-inspired shadow puppets, and "The Pied Piper" (May 4-20), featuring a turning puppet stage, by Parasol Puppets. Tickets are $8.50-$10.50. Purchase by calling 206-523-2579 or by mailing a check to 9123 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle. www.nwpuppet.org

Family performance series

Seattle Theatre Group offers a number of family performances at The Paramount Theatre and The Moore Theatre in Seattle. The Tots & Tykes Family Series includes "Dorothy the Dinosaur's Dance Party" (Dec. 22-23, 2006), featuring characters from The Wiggles crew; kids' glam rock band The Doodlebops (Feb. 10) and musical duo Trout Fishing in America (March 10). Subscriptions are $66. The Youth Family Series kicks off with comedy classical trio Pluck (March 15-18), followed by contortionists and aerialists in Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy (April 27-18) and Marc Salem in "Mind Games" (May 17-19), an exploration of non-verbal communication. Subscriptions are $95. Patrons can also build their own series, of three or more shows each, according to their families' interests. Other performances in the lineup include Boys Choir of Harlem (Nov. 29, $35.50) and the darling of the kiddie rocker set, Dan Zanes & Friends (April 14, $19.50). For information about subscription options and ticket purchases, call 206-292-ARTS or visit www.theparamount.com.

The University of Washington's World Series offers an exciting lineup of world and classical music, theater and dance. Most performances are more suitable for teens or adults, but families can purchase specially priced tickets for children to two of the shows. Audiences are treated to drumming, music, colorful costumes and spectacular circus feats at African circus Sarakasi (Oct 8). "Jigu! Thunder Drums of China" (March 31) introduces kids to a company of percussionists and musicians from the Shanxi Province who blend high-tech effects with modern and traditional music. Performances are held at Meany Hall on campus. Tickets are $34, $20 for ages 5-17. Purchase by calling 206-543-4880 or by visiting www.uwworldseries.org

SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) invites families to discover three different world cultures at its Arts Gumbo series this fall. The series opens with an Arabs Arts program (Oct. 13), featuring music, a Debke dancing workshop, traditional food and a film (Sept. 9). The Croatian program includes music and food of the Balkans and an event that audience members can join. A Hmong program (Nov. 3) showcases a vocalist from Thailand, homestyle Hmong cuisine and a workshop for all ages. Buy tickets at the door: $5-$8. Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S. Alaska St., Seattle. For more information, call 206-760-4285 or visit www.seedseattle.org

Shoreline Center for the Arts' 2007 Children's Series kicks off with "Trumpet of the Swan" (Feb. 3), performed by Book-It Theatre and based on the book by E.B. White. Next, Oregon Shadow Theatre performs "Thumbelina" (Feb. 23), followed by "Klondike! The Alaskan Gold Rush Story" (March 24), an original musical adaptation for ages 6 and up, performed by 5th Avenue Adventure Theatre. The series wraps up with a performance of "Momotaro" (April 13) by Bunraku puppet company Thistle Theatre and a performance by Missoula Children's Theatre as part of the Shoreline Arts Festival (June 23). Shows are suitable for ages 4 and up, except where noted, and are held at the Shoreline Community College Campus Theater and the Shoreline Center Auditorium, both in the city of Shoreline. To purchase tickets, call 206-417-4645 or visit www.shorelinearts.net.

The Bothell Northshore Performing Arts Center's family performances kick off with Dynamo Theatre's "Me! Me! Me!" (Oct. 29, ages 8-12, $8-$14.50), a story of rejection at school performed by acrobat-actors, followed by Tuvan throat singers Huun Huur Tu (Nov. 2, $15.50-$24.50); "The Nutcracker" (Nov. 26-Dec. 3, $29.50-$44.50), performed by Ballet Bellevue and a live orchestra, and the grace and athleticism of the New Shanghai Circus (Jan. 27, $19.50-$34.50). For tickets and more information, call 425-489-6018 or visit www.npacf.org.

Kirkland Performance Center offers a packed season of dance, world and classical music, theater, kids' performances and more. Family offerings include performances by StoryBook Theater in November, February and April (see listing on p. 25), plus the musical "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka" (Dec. 15-16, $15-$20), physical comedian The Great Kaplan (Jan. 27, $10-$21) and "In the Land of the Grasshopper Song" (March 10, $10-$18), a musical adaptation of the story of two young women who worked as "field matrons," at the turn of the last century, for the Kanuk Indians in Northern California. To buy tickets (patrons age 25 and younger purchase at the youth price) call the box office at 425-893-9900 or visit www.kpcenter.org.

Classical music and dance

Seattle Symphony's wildly popular Tiny Tots! and Discover Music! series introduce kids from birth to age 12 to symphonic music in a relaxed setting at Benaroya Hall. The interactive, playful Tiny Tots! is geared to kids from birth through age 5. Singer/educator duo Identical Harmony leads kids through five concerts, each of which focuses on a major composer of symphonic music, "Bartók for Babies" (Oct. 6-7), "Tchaikovsky for Tiny Tots" (Nov. 17-18), "Kodály and Orff for Families" (Feb. 9-10), "Brahms' Dreamy Melodic World" (April 27-28), "Dvorák's Music for New Minds" (June 15-16). Discover Music! is designed for ages 5-12, and families can choose from one of two Saturday morning series, which include five themed concerts from October-May. To purchase tickets, call the ticket office at 206-215-4747 or visit www.seattlesymphony.org.

Kirkland-based International Ballet Theatre's sixth season, under the direction of former Kirov Ballet dancer Vera Altunina, performs three full-length productions -- for audiences of all ages -- at the Meydenbauer Theatre in Bellevue. The seasons opens with "Dracula" (Oct. 27-31), a production that melds classical ballet with acrobats, acrobatics and seasonal special effects. For the holidays, the company presents "The Nutcracker" (Dec 8-23) modeled after the 1892 Tchaikovksy/Petipa original production. "Don Quixote" (May 18-20), wraps up the season, a ballet that premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1869. Single tickets are $15-$35. Purchase by calling 206-325-6500 or visiting www.ticketwindowonline.com.

Kris Collingridge is Out & About editor at ParentMap and the mother of a first- and sixth-grader.

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