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Kids Spotlight on Summer Theater

Family-friendly shows include The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark, Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana, John Tartaglia's Imaginocean!, and The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters, the Musical. logo
Tshidi Manye in The Lion King
(© Joan Marcus)

School is out, and families are on the hunt for great entertainment. New York City theaters are happy to oblige with kid-friendly shows that are filled to the brim with music, wonder, adventure, humor, and fun.

Disney Favorites

When it comes to family shows on Broadway, the undefeated champ is The Lion King, an animated film classic transformed into a stunningly theatrical Broadway classic, now in its 14th year on the Great White Way. While watching the touching story of Simba the Lion, kids and adults alike will appreciate the beautiful African-inspired music, costumes, sets, and puppets.

Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theater, is an experience that may be best described as "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Based on both the Disney movie and the original P.L. Travers books about a magical nanny who revitalizes a troubled English family, Mary Poppins features memorable songs and joyful production numbers like "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Step in Time."

High Flying Adventure

Forget Peter Pan, Spider-Man is the flying hero of the new generation, and the whole family will be blown away by the aerial stunts in the new musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, at the Foxwoods Theatre. Featuring songs by U2's Bono and The Edge, the show has striking costume and set designs that create a vibrant comic book world, complete with freaky mutant villains. Once geeky everyguy Peter Parker transforms into his alter ego, you'll find yourself oohing and ahhing as the webslinger swoops through the theater and battles the Green Goblin in mid-air.

World-renowned Cirque du Soleil has re-defined the circus as a mind-blowing spectacle for all ages. The company's breathtaking new show, Zarkana, fills the historic Radio City Music Hall with 71 terrifically talented acrobats and artists, who perform thrilling stunts. Directed by François Girard, the extravagant production boasts eye-popping sets, wonderfully bizarre costumes, and bewitching music.

A World of Fun

Off-Broadway's New World Stages is currently home to two terrific family shows. ImaginOcean! (through September 4), created by Tony nominee John Tartaglia, is an adorable puppet musical about the adventures of a fish and his pals as they follow the clues on a treasure map. The show uses blacklight to create a colorful, glowing underwater world that will dazzle the little ones.

No matter what your age is, you're never too old to appreciate a torrent of bubbles coming at you. The Gazillion Bubble Show has been enchanting audiences for years with its incredible bubble artistry, lighting effects, and dazzling lasers. This is a great show for young kids and for any adult that just wants to feel like a kid again.

A scene from The Berenstain Bears LIVE!
(©Aaron Epstein)
New Musicals

The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters, the Musical (through September 4) borrows storylines from the delightful book series to create a funny and warmhearted live-action show that imparts important lessons about dealing with strangers, eating healthy, and more.

The Wizard of Oz gets an infusion of Latin flavor in the new TheaterWorksUSA show The Yellow Brick Road (July 19-August 19), which tells the story of Dora Inez Garza and her magical journey to the Emerald City. Featuring salsa and meringue-style songs, the musical offers a modern take on the well-known tale of a young woman who learns that there's no place like home. Tickets for this production are totally free and are distributed at the Lucille Lortel Theater an hour before each performance.

The Ohmies: Morning Wish Garden (through August 7), playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, is an interactive musical theater piece for children ages 3 through 8 that promotes health and wellness while stimulating the imagination (and eliciting plenty of giggles too). Along with their new friends Bella Butterfly and Carlin Caterpillar, kids get to sing along to original songs, move around like creatures in the garden, and do yoga-inspired dance exercises as they help The Ohmies to wake up Mr. Sun and make their wish garden bloom.

Fairy Tales Classics

For generations, fairy tale stories have been beguiling (and sometimes frightening) children, and that tradition continues onstage. In the Galli Theater's take on the Grimm Brothers' Sleeping Beauty (July 2-31), playing at the National Comedy Theater in midtown, a king and queen anger the Thirteenth fairy when they purposefully neglect to invite her to their daughter's birthday. In response, the princess is cursed with a 100-year sleep that will only cease if the right prince awakens her.

Downtown at the Algonquin Seaport Theater this month, Galli Theater is performing another one of its charming fairy tale adaptations, The Little Mermaid (July 2-31). The Hans Christian Anderson story concerns a beautiful mermaid who falls for a human prince and wants to join him on land. An evil sea witch gives the mermaid legs in exchange for her voice, leaving the young woman with no way to profess her love.

On weekend afternoons, the 13th Street Rep presents Rumple Who?, Will Barlett's unique musical adaptation of the classic yarn Rumplestiltskin. The Rep also performs another children's musical, Wiseacre Farm, a silly and interactive show about an oddball group of animals attending a pig's birthday party.

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