From terrific fairy tale adaptations for younger children to thought-provoking plays that illuminate life in different eras, our region’s excellent family arts scene offers a perfect excuse to shelve the devices and share the magic of live performance. Little kids delight in the costumes, songs and interpretations of stories they know, while older kids are inspired by the talent and dedication of young actors and dancers.
We’ve gathered 20-plus spring show picks, from bargains to worthwhile splurges, and from musicals to dramas. You’re sure to find a show here that will enchant and entertain your family.
Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, Seattle
Feb. 4–5, April 22–23
Select Seattle Symphony musicians and a certified music therapist join forces to welcome families with children with autism or other special needs for an interactive musical experience. Concerts in this series (which began last fall) include instrument exploration, a chamber works performance, participatory songs and focus on a social skill. Seating options, lighting and volume cater to sensory-aware families. $35 per family. Ages 5–8 with families.
North Shore Performing Arts Center, Bothell
Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The science-tastic Doktor Kaboom brings his lab to life in a captivating stage show. This time he unravels the history and uses of electricity, covering topics from lightning bolts to currents to conductors, sparking interest in science among young audience members. $10–$20. All ages.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse Family Theater, Tacoma
Rosa Parks’ simple act of defiance in 1955 Alabama set off a bus boycott that led to the end of legal segregation on public transit. This moving story follows the life of Parks with powerful, uplifting songs of struggle and shows how one individual can make a difference. $12–$15. Ages 10 and older.
SecondStory Repertory, Redmond
Feb. 11–March 5
Prolific children’s author Mo Willems’ loveable pair of friends, Gerald and Piggie, work through the ins and outs of friendship in a unique and spirited way. In this story, the “bestus” friends receive an invitation to a party where singing, dancing and laughs ensue. $10; $5 for ages 1–3 for all-ages shows on Sundays. Ages 5 and older; Sunday shows are all ages.
Schneebeck Concert Hall at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma
Feb. 12, March 19, April 30, May 21
Symphony musicians invite young families to go on a musical journey, learning about the sounds and roles of different instruments in the orchestra. The final show, Peter and the Wolf, features the full orchestra. A popular instrument petting zoo precedes each show. $7–$10; discounted family packages available. Ages 2–8 with families.
Meany Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle
Rhythm, energy and storytelling combine as Step Afrika! makes its Seattle debut. This Washington, D.C.–based troupe is the first professional dance company dedicated to stepping, a form of dance that began with African-American fraternities and sororities. This multimedia performance features the works of painter Jacob Lawrence at the 100th anniversary of his birth. $36–$50. Ages 9 and older.
Seattle Musical Theatre, Seattle
Feb. 17–March 12
Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story of the March sisters comes to life on stage with Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth finding their paths to adulthood. Amid enchanting singing and dancing, the girls face challenges of heartache, finding love and following their dreams. $35–$40. Ages 6 and older.
The Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue
They’ve probably seen the movie; now take them to the one-hour ballet version of the famous Rudyard Kipling novel that reveals themes of friendship, loyalty and finding one’s home in the world. This International Ballet Theatre production is part of a series that brings professional dance to audiences of kids and families. $25–$40. Ages 5–12 with families.
Kirkland Performance Center
Philadelphia-based Enchantment Theatre Company brings its touring production to Kirkland for the enjoyment of local bunny fans. Based on three Beatrix Potter books, this story follows a grown-up Peter Rabbit, Flopsy and Benjamin Bunny on a tricky rescue mission. Animal-like masks, fanciful costumes and original music are sure to charm audience members, young and old. $12–$20. Ages 4 and older.
Seattle Children’s Theatre
March 23–April 16
When a girl plants a few seeds in an abandoned city lot, she grows much more than a handful of lima beans. Her little garden spawns changes in her neighborhood — larger, more important changes than she could have expected from a couple of plants. This one-woman production about the power of small acts is adapted from the book by Paul Fleischman. $22–$40. Ages 8 and older.
Centerstage Theatre, Federal Way
March 24–April 9
It’s a Northwest musical about a Northwest legend, Bigfoot. After Sasquatch is spotted near town, a group of young people set out to find him. Adventure and hilarity await. And yes, the big hairy guy sings. $15–$35. Ages 8 and older.
Marymoor Park, Redmond
March 31–April 30
Spring splurge, anyone? Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacular transports audiences to a surreal vision of Mexico, encompassing nature, culture, myths and music. Different scenes in the show take inspiration from migrating monarch butterflies, hybrid animal characters from Aztec mythology and a demigod of rain. $29–$165. Ages 6 and older.
Renton Civic Theatre
The classic, Pulitzer-prize-winning novel by Harper Lee centers on life in a small Southern town during the depression. A young girl, her brother and their attorney father face challenges around the racial divisions of the day. Important note: Amid themes of innocence, violence and racism, this dramatization of the novel includes racial epithets of the original text. $17–$22. Ages 10 and older.
Venues in Seattle, Renton, Everett, Kirkland and Shoreline
April 8–May 20
StoryBook Theater’s adaptations turn well-known fairy tales on their heads, with modern twists, funny songs and audience participation. Once the mermaid Sirena strikes her bargain and makes it to land, kids in the audience help decide if she should stay on land or swim back to her ocean family. $15. Ages 3–8 with families.
The 5th Avenue Theatre
April 14–May 6
In this ethereal musical based on the popular novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a young English girl becomes an orphan in India and is sent to the English countryside to live with an unknown uncle. As she finds and tends a hidden garden, the girl herself grows to find her own place in the world, among her newfound friends. $29–$141. Ages 7 and older.
Everett Performing Arts Center,
April 15, noon (sensory-friendly performance) and 2 p.m.
Village Theatre’s Pied Piper presents this new send-up of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with our favorite fearless Siamese cat, Skippyjon Jones, as hero. Along with the seven Chimichangos, Skippyjon battles evildoers in hopes of rescuing Nieve Qué (Snow What) in this adaptation of the book by Judy Schachner. The noon show is a designated sensory-friendly performance; call the box office to reserve tickets. $15. Ages 4–8 with families.
Bellevue Youth Theatre —Crossroads
Shady New York City gamblers play dice games, make bets and try to win the hearts of certain young ladies (“dolls”). As a singer waits for her man to give up gambling and marry her, comedy unfolds. This show features well-loved songs such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “A Bushel and a Peck.” $10–$15. Ages 6 and older.
Youth Theatre Northwest, Mercer Island
A girl called Maddie goes along with everything that her best friend does, including teasing a classmate about wearing the same worn dress to school every day. When the girl in the worn dress then claims to have an expansive wardrobe, bullying and tough lessons for Maddie ensue. $13–$15. Ages 8 and older.
Venues in Seattle and Bellevue
Using Japanese bunraku-style puppetry, Thistle Theatre presents its comic adaptation of this Norwegian fairy tale. Hungry goats try to sneak past a grumpy bridge troll while other characters, a fish and a water troll, get in on the action. $10. Ages 3 and older.
Village Theatre, Issaquah and Everett
May 11–July 2 (Issaquah), July 7–30 (Everett)
An award-winning Broadway hit, this musical follows the 1960s rise of a girl group called The Dreams. The singing best friends work to find success, encountering drama and hard lessons involved in reaching fame. The production showcases powerhouse voices and a Motown-inspired score. $35–$68. Ages 12 and older.
Olympia Family Theater
May 12–June 4
This world-premiere musical is a mystery that requires an audience full of sleuths to find the culprit. A pet goldfish has been fishnapped . . . but by whom? Join in this tale of friendship and being true to oneself. $13–$19; pay-what-you-can performance May 19. All ages.
Studio East Training for the Performing Arts, Kirkland
May 19–June 4
This modern musical adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic still centers on a girl who stumbles upon a strangely magical world but features new plot lines about the challenges of growing up. Expect familiar characters such as the White Rabbit but with new roles in the action. $17–$19. Ages 8 and older.
The Spire, Tacoma
Pooh is happily eating his favorite “hunny” in the Hundred-Acre Wood when Kanga turns up and tries to start some trouble. Something must be done and Pooh may have to do it. Bother! $12–$15. Ages 3 and older.
Green River College Performing Arts Building, Auburn
June 23–July 1
Heavier Than Air Family Theatre Co. puts its own musical spin on the classic story of a boy who climbs a giant beanstalk in search of adventure and riches. $8–$10. Ages 6 and older.
8 ways to save on the arts
1. The Seattle Symphony’s Family Connections Program allows kids ages 8–18 to attend most Delta Air Lines Masterworks, Seattle Pops and Untuxed series performances free with the purchase of an adult ticket.
2. Kids ages 12 and younger are free at Town Hall's Saturday Family Concerts (accompanying adults only pay $5).
3. Seattle Public Theater’s youth productions, held several times a season, are always free to everyone (though donations are welcome).
4. For every adult ticket purchased for the UW World Series President’s Piano or Chamber Music series, you can add two free youth tickets (ages 5–17).
5. Several library systems, including Seattle Public Library, the Pierce County Library and the King County Library System allow patrons to check out passes to select museums (Seattle Aquarium, MoPop, and SAM, to name a few) as they would a book.
6. Seattle-based Teen Tix allows teens to get $5 tickets at more than 60 Seattle-area arts venues.
7. Look for the preview or pay-what-you-will shows that (usually) happen early in a theater run.
8. Organize a group outing to a show and get a discount as well as the fun of a shared arts experience.