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Fall arts preview; South King, Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties

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

You'll find a 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. Some are located very close to home; others take place at regional venues that are considered some of the country's best. 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.

So page through our guide, make your picks and count the reasons to let summer go with a smile.

Tacoma's Broadway Center for the Performing Arts presents family performances at the Pantages Theater beginning in January. Missoula Children's Theatre's "Beauty Lou and the Country Beast" (Jan. 27, $11-$18) features performances by 50 local children in grades 1-12, followed by the amazing acrobatic and juggling feats of The Shanghai Acrobats (Jan. 28, $22-$33). Other offerings include "Little Bear in the Enchanted Wood" (Feb. 3, $13-$22), based on the books by Else Minarik, "Berenstain Bears on Stage!" (March 28, $11-$18) and "Out of the Mist... a Dragon" (May 5, $11-$18), a shadow puppet performance of a Japanese tale. For tickets and more information, visit www.broadwaycenter.org.

The Tacoma Little Theatre's productions are more suitable for adult audiences, but its season includes a holiday performance of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" (Nov. 17-Dec.10), adapted from the C.W. Lewis novel by Joseph Robinette. Buy tickets by calling 253-272-2281 or by visiting www.tacomalittletheatre.com.

The Tacoma Actors Guild's new season features two plays that families with older children will enjoy: "The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge" (Nov. 27-Dec. 17), which catches up with a possibly backsliding Scrooge a year after his Christmas transformation, and a hip hop "Romeo and Juliet" (March 29-April 15), with sets by the outstanding designer Carey Wong. Tickets are $15-$28; to purchase, call 253-272-2145 or visit www.tacomaactorsguild.org.

Lakewood Playhouse's 2006-07 season begins with Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery "Black Coffee" (Sept. 8-Oct. 1), followed by Thorton Wilder's Americana classic "Our Town" (Oct. 20-Nov. 12). Families with smaller kids will enjoy "Seussical" (Dec. 8-24), the sweet and silly musical packed with favorite Seuss characters. "The Diary of Anne Frank" (Feb. 9-March 4) is a new adaptation of the story of the young girl who hid from the Nazis with her family and friends. Tickets are $12-$20, and can be purchased by calling 253-588-0042. Visit www.lakewoodplayhouse.com for more information.

The City of Kent's Spotlight Series' all-ages offerings include Magical Strings' 20th Annual Celtic Yuletide Concert (Dec. 10, family pack $52), a performance by the astonishing Peking Acrobats (Jan. 12, family pack $85), "The Pied Piper" with Missoula Children's Theatre (March 10, $5) and "Animalia" (April 7, family pack $30) by Hobey Ford's Golden Rod Puppets. Performances are held at locations in Kent, Covington and Renton. To purchase tickets, call 253-856-5050 or visit www.ci.kent.wa.us/artsentertainment.

Federal Way's Knutzen Family Theatre kicks off its season of family friendly performances with "Little Red Riding Hood" (Sept. 16, $8) by puppet company Thistle Theatre, which employs a traditional Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku. Next, StoryBook Theater presents "The Frog Prince" (Oct. 28, $8), an original comedy based on the fairy tale. During the holidays, Centerstage Theatre presents "A Christmas Carol" (Nov. 25-Dec. 23, $8-$25) and Brothers from Different Mothers (Jan. 27, $8-$12) entertain with their comedic juggling routine. StoryBook Theater is back in the spring with "The Little Mermaid" (May 6, $8), followed by Thistle Theatre's performance of Mexican folktale "Brother Coyote and Sister Fox" (June 9, $8). For tickets and more information, call 253-835-2020 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

Bremerton's Admiral Theatre offers children's performances through its Stages for All Ages! Family Series, including "Franklin the Turtle" (Dec. 13, $10), a live adaptation of the popular cartoon; Western music group Riders in the Sky (Jan. 20, $18-$25); "Little Bear in the Enchanted Wood" (Feb. 5, $15), an adventure featuring the inquisitive bear and his friends; magician and juggler The Great Kaplan (Feb. 17, $8-$14) and "Berenstain Bears Live on Stage!" (March 31, $12), a musical written by the Jan and Stan Berenstain and performed by the Omaha Theater Company for Young People. For tickets, call 360-373-6743, or visit http://admiraltheatre.org for more information.

Poulsbo's Jewel Box Theatre kicks off its 2006-07 children's season with a magic show by Joey Pipia (Sept. 23), followed by Snapdragon Puppets' rodent-themed takeoff on the holiday classic, "The Mousecracker" (Nov. 25). "The Wolf's Tale" (Feb. 10), a play performed by Last Leaf Productions, is the last offering of the winter. Spring shows includes Snapdragon Puppets with "Puss in Boots" (April 21), "Cinderella, the Chinese Version" by Last Leaf Productions (June 23) and Snapdragon Puppets' "Jack and the Beanstalk" (July 28). Tickets to all shows are $7 and are sold at the door, but reservations are suggested. Call 360-779-9688 or visit www.jewelboxpoulsbo.org for more information.

Seattle Children's Theatre,
one of the best-regarded children's theaters in the nation, 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 local playwright 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.

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.

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 in downtown Seattle. The interactive, playful Tiny Tots! is geared to kids from birth through age 5. Singer/educator duo Identical Harmony leads kids through five different concerts, each of which focuses on a major composer of symphonic music. 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.

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

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