Summer’s winding down, but look on the bright side: September means the launch of bright and shiny new performance seasons for families! The greater Seattle area is lucky to be home to so many top-notch arts companies that focus solely on kids, but if you look beyond so-called “children’s theater” (and anyone who’s been to a well-done show for children knows that it’s not just kid stuff), you’ll find a wealth of other opportunities to introduce your family to the addictive pleasures of live performance.
Theater, dance, puppets, music (pop and classical), cultural performances — you’ll find something here for every age and taste. The big shows you won’t want to miss are all here, for sure, but we hope you also run across some interesting things that may not have been on your radar.
We know you’re busy, so here’s your chance to mark the calendar with upcoming dates before the swiftly moving months catch you by surprise.
Parents of little ones in our area have a number of great options for theater that caters to the sensibilities of very small kids, with shorter running times, audience participation and/or eye-catching sets. Other productions listed here are for older children, but they still keep the needs of young audiences at the forefront, with post-production talks or selections based on popular children’s books.
Seattle Children’s Theatre kicks off its new season with It production Disney’s High School Musical (Sept. 14-Nov. 24, ages 8 and older), a pop-music-infused look at high school social life directed by Artistic Director Linda Hartzell. The remarkable adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Big Friendly Giant, last seen at SCT in 2003, is back for another run this fall, opening on Oct. 19 (through Dec. 16, ages 5 and older). A world premiere of the fantasy The Neverending Story runs Dec. 7-Jan. 27 (ages 7 and older). Rita Giomi’s world-premiere adaptation of Shakespeare’s ghost story Hamlet is on stage Jan. 25-Feb. 24 (ages 11 and older), followed by a play about doing the right thing, The Hundred Dresses (Feb. 22-April 6, ages 8 and older). According to Coyote, inspired by Native American trickster lore, runs March 14-May 4 (ages 6 and older). The season ends with the world-premiere musical Busytown, based on Richard Scarry’s book What Do People Do All Day? and aimed at very young kids (ages 4 and older). ASL-interpreted shows are available. $16-$32. 206-441-4488, www.sct.org
Mercer Island’s Youth Theatre Northwest begins its season with the comedy Mr. Popper’s Penguins, based on the children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater (Nov. 2-18), followed by the Broadway musical Pippin, performed by the Conservatory Troupe (Jan. 25-Feb. 10). A suddenly orphaned boarder at a girls’ school finds friendship in an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess (March 7-21). The Monkey King, an adaptation of a Chinese epic (April 25-May 10) and The Phantom Tollbooth, in which a young boy explores the Land of Wisdom (May 30-June 14), close out the season. $13, opening nights $15. 206-232-4145, ext. 109; www.youththeatre.org
SPROUTS Children’s Theatre in Redmond stages original, humorous fairy tale adaptations for kids ages 4-12. Children can sit on the floor at performances, close to the action onstage, and productions almost always include an audience-participation element. If you have a child younger than 3, you’ll want tickets to the Small Sibling Sundays performances (first and second Sunday of each run at 1 p.m.), the only time kids of that age are admitted. The season’s lineup includes Hansel & Gretel (Oct. 12-28), The Brave Little Tailor (Jan. 18-Feb. 3), Cinderella (March 7-23) and Aladdin & the Magic Lamp! (May 2-18). $8.75. 425-881-6777, www.SecondStoryRep.org
StoryBook Theater, part of Kirkland’s Studio East, performs fairy-tale-based, original musical comedies for very young audiences (ages 3-9) at Everett PUD Auditorium, Carco Theater in Renton, Kirkland Performance Center and the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle. Performances take place at these venues on selected dates during each show’s run. This year’s season includes Chicken Little (October-December), The Three Pigs (January-March) and Cinderella (April-May). $8. 425-827-3123 or 1-877-827-1100, www.studio-east.org
Community theater troupe Bellevue Youth Theatre presents four shows this fall: Senior Actors in Action (Sept. 28-29, $5), a program of fairy tales performed by the senior acting division; comedy/adventure Hocus Pocus (Nov. 2-8, $9), about a girl who discovers that she and her family are witches; true-love-conquers-all fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 23-Dec. 2, $9); and holiday classic The Miracle on 34th Street (Dec. 7-9, $10), complete with music from the ‘40s. 425-452-7155, www.bellevuewa.gov/youth_theatre_productions.htm
Pied Piper, part of the Issaquah-based Village Theatre, brings kids’ theater to the Everett Performing Arts Center and the Everett Civic Auditorium. The first show of the new season is The Brand New Kid (Nov. 4, grades K-4), adapted from Katie Couric’s book by the same name, followed by an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Elves and the Shoemaker (Dec. 9, for preschoolers through third-graders). Native American musician, hoop dancer and master storyteller Kevin Locke performs Kevin Locke Trio: Spirit of Music and Dance (all ages) on Feb. 2. If You Give a Pig a Party (preschoolers through third-graders), a new musical based on the popular children’s book by Laura Numeroff, is on stage on April 13. The season ends with Henry & Mudge — based on the children’s book series by Cynthia Rylant about a lonely boy and his huge dog — on May 18. $12-$14. 425-257-8600, www.villagetheatre.org
Although musical theater might not make you immediately think “kids,” a surprising number of shows are appropriate for young children (if they’re able to sit through a show, of course). Others are perfect for elementary-age students and older. If you’re concerned about adult themes or language, check with the companies, which often offer detailed guidance for parents.
The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, which supports a number of educational programs for schoolchildren, presents musicals suitable for families with kids across a range of ages. Check the company’s Web site for ratings and story synopses, which list plot-element and language considerations. This year’s season includes Lone Star Love (Sept. 8-30, ages 10 and older), a new Broadway-bound musical that sets Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor in post-Civil War Texas; the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine fractured fairy tale Into the Woods (Oct. 19-Nov. 10, ages 6 and older); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down the Wind (Nov. 13-Dec. 2, ages 7 and older) about a young Louisiana girl who hides a could-be felon from the people in her town; the Seattle premiere of Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys (Dec. 11-Jan. 2, ages 13 and older), the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; classic musical comedy Mame (Feb. 12-March 2, ages 8 and older); and Cabaret (March 25-April 13, ages 13 and older), set in pre-Third Reich Berlin. $20-$77. 206-625-1900, www.5thavenue.org
Seattle Musical Theatre, presented by Civic Light Opera, kicks off the season with Fiddler on the Roof (Sept. 14-30), followed by children’s smash hit Seussical the Musical (Nov. 16-Dec. 2), Broadway hit The Fantasticks (March 14-30), with lyrics by Tom Jones, and Annie Get Your Gun (May 9-25) of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” fame. Performances take place at Seattle’s Magnuson Park. $25-$35. 206-363-2809, www.seattlemusicaltheatre.com
Village Theatre’s Mainstage productions — performed in Issaquah and Everett — include Million Dollar Quartet (Issaquah, Sept. 19-Oct. 28; Everett, Nov. 2-18; ages 12 and older), a look at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s cross-cultural love story The King and I (Issaquah, Nov. 14-Jan. 6; Everett, Jan. 11-27; ages 5 and older); Neil Simon’s romantic comedy Barefoot in the Park (Issaquah, Jan. 23-March 2; Everett, March 7-23; ages 16 and older); a new musical adaptation of Little Women (Issaquah, March 19-April 27; Everett, May 2-18, ages 7 and older); and Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (Issaquah, May 14-July 6; Everett, July 11-27; ages 16 and older), based on the Verdi love-triangle opera. Visit Village Theatre’s Web site to find out about its family room (Issaquah only) and for detailed information about the content of each show. To purchase tickets ($15-$55), call the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202, the Everett box office at 425-257-8600, or visit www.villagetheatre.org.
Musical theater group Northwest Savoyards, performing at the Everett PUD Auditorium, present Gilbert & Sullivan’s satiric operetta H.M.S. Pinafore (Oct. 19-Nov. 4), the kid-pleasing musical Annie (Feb. 22-March 16) and musical comedy The Music Man (May 23-June 15). 866-811-4111, www.northwestsavoyards.org
In Book-It Repertory Theater productions, actors perform books, not plays, which can spark some interesting conversations with kids old enough to appreciate the difference. The new season includes David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars (Sept. 21-Oct. 14), J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (Nov. 3-Dec. 23), Jane Austen’s Persuasion (Feb. 8-March 2) and Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide (April 18-May 10), a story about a 13-year-old boy and the changes brought on by adolescence, set in Olympia just before the Nisqually earthquake. $15-$40. 206-216-0833, www.book-it.org
Studio East also offers a season of family-oriented Mainstage Productions at its location in Kirkland. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, performed by an all-teen cast, runs Oct. 12-28 (ages 5 and older). The family musical ‘Twas the Night …, a comedic take on the holiday poem by Clement Clarke Moore, is on stage Nov. 24-Dec. 16, followed by I Never Saw Another Butterfly (Jan. 25-Feb. 10, ages 9 and older), a true story about the children imprisoned at the Terezin concentration camp during World War II. A musical version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (March 14-30, ages 7 and older) and the movie musical The Wizard of Oz (May 30-June 15, all ages) round out the season. $10-$12, opening nights $12-$15. 425-827-3123, www.studio-east.org
The Driftwood Players, located in Edmonds, present a mix of musicals and theater, special performances and family-friendly shows in their Mainstage, Alternative Stages (the $10 performances include dessert) and special presentation series: Miss Polly’s Institute for Criminally Damaged Young Ladies Put on a Show (Sept. 16-24), a comedy about juvenile delinquent girls who resist a drama teacher’s attempts to stage Hamlet; the all-ages, spooky-funny The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Oct. 19-28), which has sold out the past two seasons; comedy juggling duo Brothers from Different Mothers (Oct. 23); Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical with a biblical theme, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Nov. 16-Dec. 16); The Diary of Anne Frank (Feb. 8-24); a comedy set in kindergarten, Chicks (Feb. 17-25); Harts of Magic (April 15), illusions and sleights of hand by Tim and Eirien Hart; and The Ugly Duckling (June 22-30), a comedy written by A.A. Milne. $10-$20. 425-774-9600, www.driftwoodplayers.com
The area’s only puppet theater, Northwest Puppet Center, is located in a converted house in a North Seattle neighborhood and boasts a small puppet museum. Performances are by the resident Carter Family Marionettes and a roster of guest puppet companies. Thistle Theatre performs Bunraku-style puppetry, a Japanese form in which black-clad puppet operators are visible onstage, at locations around the Puget Sound area.
This season, Thistle Theatre performs at Bellevue Youth Theatre in Bellevue, Magnuson Park Theatre at Seattle’s Magnuson Park and Sunset Hill Community Club in Ballard. The lineup of international tales includes Jack and the Beanstalk from England (Oct. 13-Nov. 11), Merry Chris Mouse from the United States (Dec. 8-23), Japan’s Hanako and the Cherry Tree (Feb. 9-March 15), and Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff (April 19-June 1). Single tickets are $7-$9; to reserve, call 206-324-3388. Visit www.thistletheatre.org for locations, as shows move between venues during each run.
Northwest Puppet Center’s 20th anniversary season includes Sigi the Antelope (Oct. 20-21), featuring giant puppets and music by the Ocheami Drum and Dance Ensemble; trickster tale Coyote Sings (Nov. 13-18); Madeline and the Gypsies (Dec. 8-23), in which Madeline and her pal Pepe join a gypsy circus; The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf (Jan. 12-27), based on Jon Scieszka’s hilarious book; American Tall Tales: Pecos Bill & Bigfoot (Feb. 2-17), an award-winning show by Oregon Shadow Theatre; S.C.U.B.A.: Super-Cool Underwater Blacklight Adventure (March 8-12), a science-based premiere by the creators of The Secret Life of Bugs; and Don Giovanni (April 25-May 4), Carter Family Marionettes’ annual puppet opera, suitable for teens and older. ASL-interpreted shows are available. $8.50-$10.50. Purchase tickets 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 family-friendly performances at The Paramount Theatre and The Moore Theatre in Seattle. The new season includes popular children’s singer-songwriter Justin Roberts and Not Ready for Naptime Players (Oct. 27, Family Series), Broadway Bound Children’s Theatre’s Singin’ in the Rain (Jan. 18-19), Celtic performance smash Riverdance (Jan. 29-Feb. 3), cowboy singer Buck Howdy (Feb. 2, Family Series), Broadway hit musical A Year with Frog and Toad (March 14-15, Family Series), perennial favorites Dan Zanes and Friends (April 26, Family Series), local teen musician showcase More Music @ The Moore (May 9), and teen dance show DANCE This (July 19). This fall, Silent Movie Mondays (Sept. 10-Oct. 1) highlight the work of Charlie Chaplin, while the spring series features the action movies of Douglas Fairbanks (June 2-23), both accompanied by live music on the Paramount’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. Three-show Family Series subscriptions are $61-$66, or build your own series. 206-292-ARTS, www.theparamount.com
Town Hall Seattle’s Family Concert Series, now in its second season, features interesting performers in a family-friendly setting — no kids admitted without an adult, and no adults admitted without a child. The series runs through May, although the second half of the lineup has not been announced as we go to press. Performances kick off Sept. 15 with pop band The Presidents of the United States of America (ages 5 and older), followed by Portuguese folk musician Helder Moutinho, who talks about and plays traditional and contemporary fado (Oct. 6, ages 7 and older); local hip-hop group The Saturday Knights (Nov. 10, ages 5 and older); and a family matinee of Messiah performed by the Tudor Choir and Seattle Baroque Orchestra (Dec. 22, ages 6 and older). Adults $5, free for kids 12 and younger. For more information, visit www.townhallseattle.org. Tickets: 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com
SouthEast Effective Development’s Arts Gumbo series introduces families to three world cultures at events that include performance, an audience workshop and a meal. The Sept. 8 event focuses on Zen and Buddhist stories, with UMO Ensemble’s Zen Tales, and includes food and a workshop on sumi painting; dance and music group Tudo Beleza of Brazil includes capoeira movements and carnaval costumes in its performance (Oct. 13), followed by a Brazilian buffet and samba-reggae dance workshop; and on Nov. 10, One World Taiko performs contemporary Japanese drumming and teaches audience members drum techniques and movements, followed by a bento box dinner. Buy tickets at the door ($5-$8) or call 206-725-7517 for reservations. Rainier Valley Cultural Center, 3515 S. Alaska St., Seattle. www.seedseattle.org/seedarts
Kirkland Performance Center’s season for families begins with Brigadoon (Sept. 7-16), the Tony Award-winning musical about a disappearing village in the Scottish Highlands, performed by Lyric Light Opera of the Northwest, followed by StoryBook Theater’s Chicken Little (Nov. 10-18, see description under “Children’s Theater”), followed by dance/theater/comedy group Galumpha (Dec. 16); StoryBook Theater’s Three Little Pigs (Jan. 26-Feb. 3); the Moscow Circus (Feb. 11-13); scenes from everyday life in Simple Gifts, set to classical music, by Cashore Marionettes (Feb. 16); the musical Oliver! (March 28-30); Western music group (and performers on the Toy Story 2 soundtrack) Riders in the Sky (April 6); storyteller Diane Ferlatte (April 12), who draws on folk traditions from many cultures; Cinderella by StoryBook Theater (April 19-20); and Omaha Theatre Company’s Old Yeller (April 28), which tells the story of a boy and his one-eared yellow dog with puppets and music. $8-$36. 425-893-9900, www.kpcenter.org
Tickets for Shoreline Center for the Arts’ 2008 Children’s Series are available in October. The lineup includes juggler Rhys Thomas (Jan. 12); Book-It Theatre’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man (Feb. 15), both by Jon Scieszka; The Story Continues (March 22), a new musical by 5th Avenue Theatre’s Northwest Bookshelf 2; and a performance by local kids, title to be announced, in conjunction with Missoula Children’s Theater (June 28). Shows are held at venues in the city of Shoreline. 206-417-4645, www.shorelinearts.net
Edmonds Center for the Arts inaugural season includes plenty of performances to keep families happy. The Side Street Strutters, Disneyland’s New Orleans-style jazz band, incorporate colorful costumes and rare instruments into their Sept. 26 show; San Jose Taiko (Sept. 29) performs on traditional Japanese drums; former lead singer of The Bad Examples (and current kid fave) Ralph Covert, known as “Ralph’s World,” plays Nov. 10; young tap dancers take the stage in TAP KIDS (Jan. 12); the Golden Dragon Acrobats perform acrobatic feats honed in China for more than 2,000 years (March 12-13); one of the premier gospel choirs in the world, the Harlem Gospel Choir, performs March 20; and the West African Kusun Ensemble (April 25) blends dance, bass guitar, jazz, African rhythms and traditional Ghanaian instruments into a new art form the group has named “Nokoko.” $13-$34, four-show Family Playground Series $55-$88. 425-275-9595, www.edmondscenterforthearts.org
Classical music and dance
Seattle Symphony’s 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 toward kids from birth through age 5. Three performance times are available in the Friday series, and four in the Saturday series. Let Your Music Shine with Lisa and Linda (formerly Identical Harmony) leads kids through five different concerts, each with a different theme: Follow the Instrument Road (Oct. 5-6), Rain Grey and the Seven Drums (Nov. 16-17), Goldilocks and the Four Bows (Feb. 8-9), Sailing the Musical Seas (April 18-19), and Teddy Bears Musical Picnic (June 13-14). Discover Music! features hourlong themed concerts designed for ages 5-12: From Soccer to the Symphony (Oct. 13, 20), Tell Me a Story (Jan. 19, 26), Around the World (March 1, 8), Peter and the Wolf (April 26, May 3), Coming to America for Kids (May 31, June 7) and Holiday Special for Kids (Dec. 1). Tiny Tots! series $33, Discover Music! $65-$90. 206-215-4747, www.seattlesymphony.org
Kirkland-based International Ballet Theatre’s seventh season includes three family-pleasing productions. Kids are encouraged to wear costumes to the matinee productions of Dracula (Oct. 26-28), which showcases a number of different dance styles; IBT’s The Nutcracker Ballet (Dec. 7-22) features principal dancers from Russia’s Kirov Ballet; and a full-length story of star-crossed lovers, Giselle, is on stage May 16-18. Single tickets $20-$45. For more information, visit www.InterBalletTheatre.org. Tickets: 206-325-6500, www.ticketwindowonline.com
Single tickets are already on sale for Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker (Nov. 23-Dec. 29), but — looking past the holidays — the company performs other works this season that might appeal to young fans of the ballet. The West Coast premiere of a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s love story Roméo et Juliette runs Jan. 31-Feb. 10. Shakespeare is highlighted again April 3-13 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Single tickets for regular season shows $20-$150; look online for Nutcracker prices and packages. 206-441-2424, www.pnb.org
Edmonds-based Olympic Ballet Theatre presents its annual performance of The Nutcracker (Dec. 1-2 with the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, Northshore Performing Arts Center in Bothell; Dec. 8-9 with the Everett Symphony Orchestra, Everett Civic Auditorium; Dec. 15-16, Edmonds Center for the Arts), followed by a children’s production of Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals (Feb. 16, Northshore Performing Arts Center; Feb. 22-23, Edmonds Center for the Arts) and Giselle in April, performed by guest artists and students of OBT’s ballet school. $14-$38. 425-774-7570, www.olympicballet.com
Kris Collingridge is ParentMap’s Out & About editor. She’d go see children’s theater even if she didn’t have kids.