Why splurge on — or even make time for — the arts? That question is especially hard to answer in the fall, when families’ schedules simmer with school, sports and homework. But we’d argue that carving out a few hours for a musical, a dance performance or just an old-fashioned singalong is just as important as other commitments. Here’s a sampling of 23 shows to choose from; find also a round-the-world list of globally inspired shows for families; and many more performances on our fall calendar.
(Note: We include the times for performances that just have one show but not for shows with multi-day runs.)
Ghosts of Gasoline
Locations around Seattle
Sept. 1–Oct. 2
Want a little climate activism with your theater this fall? This provocative performance piece takes viewers on a futuristic journey about the impact of the everyday toxin known as gasoline, complete with yes, gasoline ghosts. See it at Seattle’s First Thursday Art Walk (Sept. 1), Bumbershoot (Sept. 2-3), Seattle Design Festival (Sept. 10-11), a Wallingford Shell station (Sept. 21) and as part of a city-wide procession on No Gasoline Day (Oct. 2). Free. All ages.
Klondike National Historical Park, MOHAI
Sept. 4 and 17
Community theater group Living Voices — which explores history through live theatrical performances paired with archival film — tells the 1960s-era story of Marta Hernandez and the farmworkers’ movement to battle for civil rights and end inhumane working conditions. Free (Klondike, Sept. 4) and free with museum admission (MOHAI, Sept. 17). Ages 10 and older.
Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien
Take a wild adventure through Victorian England at this full-length Broadway production by the Hi-Liners, as Dickens’ famous orphan navigates London’s underworld, searching for home and family. Youth ages 9-22 play all the roles, and are accompanied by a live orchestra as they sing Lionel Bart’s timeless classics such as “Food, Glorious Food.” $12–$25. All ages.
The Addams Family
Sept. 23–Oct. 16
Inspired by the original cartoon, this musical centers around Wednesday Addams, who has grown up and met a nice young man. When the boyfriend and his conventional parents show up for dinner to meet the family, the kooky Addams relatives are unable to behave normally, and chaos ensues. $22–$31. Ages 5 and older.
Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’
In this musical — accompanied by a live ensemble and shown at OFT’s lovely new theater — Mo Willems’ popular pals sing, dance and laugh as they find themselves the stars of their very own show. $13–$19. All ages.
A Raisin in the Sun
Sept. 30–Oct. 30
This 1959 masterpiece by Lorraine Hansberry chronicles an African-American family in Chicago whose dreams are derailed by racism. According to The New York Times, the play “changed American theater forever,” becoming an award-winning success at a time when there was perceived to be no African-American audience for Broadway theater. Some shows include a post-performance Q&A with the cast. $17 and up. Ages 13 and older.
Cirque Goes to the Cinema
Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Cirque de la Symphonie returns with an all-new 90-minute program of death-defying feats by acrobats, aerialists and jugglers, each choreographed to movie music (Chariots of Fire, The Magnificent Seven, Raiders of the Lost Ark) that is performed live by the Seattle Symphony. $34 and up. Ages 4 and older.
Tales of Peter Rabbit
Thistle Theatre, Seattle and Bellevue
Bring young kids to an ingenious bunraku production of the Beatrix Potter classic: Puppeteers dressed in black operate the puppets from behind. Stick around to meet puppets and their performers after the show. $10. All ages.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Oct. 13–Dec. 11
Narnia comes to life in a dazzling musical version of the C.S. Lewis classic about four British children who stumble upon a magical world of talking animals where a certain white witch needs to be kicked out of the kingdom. Directed by Linda Hartzell, founding (and just retired) artistic director at Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT), the production reprises an SCT favorite from 2003. $25 and up. Ages 6 and older.
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka!
Studio East, Kirkland
When chocolate magnate Willy Wonka is searching for a successor, Charlie Bucket and a memorable group of other kid candidates tour the chocolate factory and get a close-up view of its fantastical inner workings. $17–$19. Ages 5 and older.
Hansel and Gretel
McCaw Hall, Seattle
Oct. 15–30; Family Day, Oct. 30
This adaptation of the classic Grimm story, written by 19th-century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, spotlights themes ranging from poverty to bravery, and has been described as “provocative, dreamy and melodious.” Family Day, on Sunday, Oct. 30, includes activities and a $15 ticket price for kids 18 and younger. $25 and up ($15 for kids on Family Day). Ages 7 and older.
Wade James Theatre, Edmonds
The Driftwood Players present this thought-provoking story based on the Ray Bradbury novel as part of its “Theatre of Intriguing Possibilities” (TIPs) series. A book burner in a future world begins to question society and his role in it. Check website for prices. Ages 12 and older.
Lemony Snicket The Composer Is Dead
Benaroya Hall, Seattle
Oct. 22, 11 a.m.
Seattle Symphony’s first Classical KING FM Family Concert of the season is a wacky murder mystery: The composer is dead and instruments are under suspicion. The full symphony performs; Halloween costumes encouraged. $15–$20. Ages 12 and younger.
The Snow Queen
SecondStory Repertory, Redmond
Oct. 22–Nov. 13
Frozen fans will enjoy this production of the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale on which the movie was loosely based. The plot centers on two friends, Gerda and Kay, who have to find their way home while battling the nefarious Snow Queen. $10; $5 for ages 1–3 for all-ages shows on Sundays. Ages 5 and older; Sunday shows are all ages.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
StoryBook Theater, multiple venues
Oct. 23–Nov. 30
StoryBook Theater’s 45-minute, original musical adaptations put a modern, comic spin on classic fairy tales while getting young audience members involved in the story. Laugh and learn at their show about an emperor who tries what some claim is the latest fashion. $15. Ages 3–10 with families.
VocalPoint! Seattle Fall Show
Broadway Performance Hall, Seattle
Budding singers will be enthralled by this talented, highly professional ensemble of high school vocalists who sing contemporary music; parents will love the theme of the fall show — classic rock. Check website for prices. Ages 4 and older.
The Cat in the Hat
Oct. 29–Nov. 6
Major mischief ensues when the infamous Seussian troublemaker stops by Sally and her brother’s house to provide all kinds of antidotes to rainy-day boredom. Will his bag of tricks help or hinder? $12–$15. Ages 3 and older.
The Wizard of Oz
Lakewood Playhouse’s annual Spotlight production features a show for all ages, performed by actors of all ages. This year’s production chronicles the well-loved story of Dorothy, her quest to return home and the familiar, lovable characters who help her along the way. $24–$29. All ages.
Parish Hall Theatre, Mercer Island
Talented kids play all the roles in this Youth Theatre Northwest production about young Jim Hawkins’ seafaring adventure. The production has non-gender-specific casting, which means female actors may play male roles and vice versa. $13–$17. Ages 6 and older.
Singin’ in the Rain
Village Theatre, Issaquah and Everett
Nov. 10–Dec. 31, Issaquah; Jan. 6–29, Everett
Romance, stardom and aspirations intertwine as “talkies” begin to replace silent films in the 1920s. Highlights of this high-energy production by one of the region’s premier musical theater companies will include well-loved song and dance numbers and real “rain” on the stage. $35–$78. Ages 10 and older.
‘Bye Bye Birdie’
Bellevue Youth Theatre, Crossroads Bellevue
As a rock ’n’ roll heartthrob prepares to go off to war, his agent plans a publicity stunt in a small town involving a good-bye kiss, which results in romance and mayhem before resolution is reached. The show features beloved songs such as “Put on a Happy Face.” $8–$15. Ages 6 and older.
The Moore Theatre, Seattle
Friday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
A dynamic showcase of cultural and contemporary dance and music stars young, highly talented musicians and dancers from the Northwest. On the menu: wide-ranging selections from Mexican to Filipino, and hip-hop to African. All ages. $10.
The Magic of Kevin Spencer
Black Box Theatre, Edmonds Community College
Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m.
Renowned illusionist Spencer is also an educator and expert in the field of integrating magic into rehabilitative therapy. This new show is designed to be especially welcoming to children and families with autism, sensory sensitivity or other disabilities. ASL interpretation provided. $10. All ages.
The Moore Theatre, Seattle
Sunday, Nov. 20, 1 p.m.
The best-selling musician who put kids’ music on the map is touring in honor of his 40th anniversary. Expect tunes from his new CD Owl Singalong, including a tribute to the late folk-music icon Pete Seeger. $30. All ages.
Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’
The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle
Nov. 23–Dec. 31
A feisty mermaid who trades fins for legs in pursuit of love; an evil sea witch who tries to foil her plans; a mesmerizing score by Alan Menken (“Kiss the Girl,” “Under the Sea”): It’s all part of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of one of Disney’s best-loved musicals. $36 and up. Ages 4 and older.
Read more about global arts in our area this fall.