Broadway Parents Reveal the Best Places in NYC to See Theater With Your Kids This Fall
Even if you're Kelli O'Hara or Seth Rudetsky, it can be hard to find a theater that's the right fit for your child.
For kids and their parents it can be difficult to fill the out-of-school hours during the chilly autumn season. At first it's all apple picking and pumpkin carving, but it doesn't take long before everything starts to get frosty and the activities move indoors. When you're at a loss for how to pass yet another brisk fall weekend with your little ones, consider this: What better answer to the post-summer blues than spending the afternoon in a warm and cozy theater?
If a play sounds like just the thing to ease your cabin fever, but you're not sure what kind of show could keep your kids in their seats, you're in luck. We've asked several Broadway actors/parents about their successful — and occasionally disastrous — experiences with introducing their children to theater and provided some links to their favorite kiddo-friendly establishments.
Kelli O'Hara (recent star of The Bridges of Madison County, upcoming star of The King and I)
"I have taken my oldest to see a few things on Broadway mainly to see good friends of mine (his 'aunties') who are in the show…Thankfully my son has enjoyed them so far. I have also ventured into other things. Symphony Space on Saturday mornings has become a favorite. The New Victory Theatre is in my neighborhood [and is also] a good choice.
"As long as it's kid-friendly, I am up for showing them anything right now; plays, musicals, concerts, etc. I just want to keep the theater experience positive. I want them to love it. I want it to engage their minds. I'm not into a lot of loud, technical fluff for them. But as soon as Frozen is made into a musical, watch out!"
Ann Harada (currently in Broadway's Cinderella)
"My child is not very enthused about theater at all, despite having enjoyed several productions (he does like Cinderella, thank god). When he was very little he had a hard time sitting through a whole show (and I'm not sure Goodspeed will ever let us in their theater again after he got hysterical during Emmett Otter), but at about age six he started to enjoy seeing children's theater. (I took him to The New York Children's Theatre Festival, TheatreWorksUSA, and the Vital Theatre Company). He just saw Newsies this summer, which he liked, except for the kissing, and the fact that it was somewhat different from the film (go figure).
"Funnily enough, a story he wrote in school was adapted by The Story Pirates and performed at the school and just last weekend at their theater at the Drama Book Shop. Like a lot of authors, he felt they had somewhat corrupted his original story. (Thank god — they added some jokes.)"
Tonya Pinkins (Tony winner, Jelly's Last Jam; recently seen in Holler If Ya Hear Me)
"My [youngest] son, Manuel  likes comedy. He loved Hand To God [at MCC Theater].
"He has probably said ten words to me in the past six months. But after seeing [Broadway's] Holler If Ya Hear Me I discovered that he is a poet. He performed his poetry for [the show's star] Saul Williams, and he participated in the cipher with all the males in the ensemble. I was happily surprised because he usually says, 'I hate theater, don't make me go.' [But] I think he secretly wants to be a performer.
"I try to get my kids to open their perspectives by seeing a variety of theater from off- to off-off- to Broadway. I definitely don't share the same taste as they have. I'm far more open."
Seth Rudetsky (host, Seth's Big Fat Broadway on SIRIUS/XM; author, upcoming Seth's Broadway Diary and more)
"We like to take Juli to Broadway, TheaterWorksUSA shows, off-Broadway, and Vital Theatre because show quality doesn't depend on the venue. The whole taking children to so-called children's shows makes my head come off.
"[On Broadway], we've both loved Hairspray, Xanadu, Drowsy Chaperone, and Hair. And [Juli] saw all of them before age ten…kids like shows with great music and comedy, so branch out from this new crop of shows that are made for taking your kids to Broadway. My advice is to listen to the CD with your kid and see if she responds. That's how we knew Juli really wanted to see Hair — because she listened to the Actors Fund recording nonstop. She responds to shows with lots of music, comedy, dance, and not too many long scenes — basically the same qualities I respond to!"
Symphony Space — Now playing: The Boogers on October 11
The New York Children's Theatre Festival — Now taking submissions for 2015
Vital Theatre Company — Now playing: The Butterfly Girl through November 16; Peace, Love, and Cupcakes The Musical through January 25
The Story Pirates — Weekly Saturday performances at the Drama Book Shop
MCC Theater — "The MCC Theater Youth Company is a free, after-school program for New York City high school students interested in developing their acting and dramatic writing skills."