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Not Fooling Around in April

April showers bring the most sophisticated children's entertainment: Two Tony Kushner plays, a dance performance of new works by literary luminaries, a visit from the Children of Uganda, a showcase of Native American dance, and even more family-friendly offerings. logo
Gene Biscontini and Becca Ayers in Sarah, Plain and Tall
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
One of the most acclaimed children's musicals in many years, Sarah Plain and Tall, has returned for another engagement at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through the end of April. It follows a family living on a lonesome prairie, whose dreary lives are spiced up by the arrival of spunky heroine Sarah (played by Becca Ayers). By the way, the show's creators are Broadway-bound: Writer Julia Jordan's musical Ever After is scheduled to open in 2007, while husband-and-wife songwriters Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin are working on Legally Blonde - The Musical.

Towards the end of the month, the New Victory Theatre will present the NYC premiere of two children's shows by theater luminary Tony Kushner. No, this isn't an April Fools joke; the Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe, who wrote Angels in America and co-authored the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Munich, forays into the world of family theater with adaptations of Brundibár and Comedy On a Bridge, two Czech operas from the 1930s. If that's not enough prestige for one production, Maurice Sendak -- the famed illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are -- designed the sets. Brundibár was performed 55 times by the children of the Terezin concentration camp as a protest against the Nazis. In the opera, a brother and sister need to buy milk for their ailing mother, but all of their money goes to the town's menacing organ grinder; so they team up with hundreds of other children, and a gaggle of talking animals, to make the bullies behave. In Comedy on a Bridge, a group of citizens become trapped between two towns at war. Catch both shows at the New Victory from April 28 through May 21.

For other sophisticated entertainments for kids, head over to Symphony Space on April 1, where the National Dance Institute performs dances inspired by the works of three living literary legends: Kurt Vonnegut, E.L. Doctorow, and Toni Morrison, each of whom has written a new work especially for the company to share with its audiences. See the inspiring spectacle of 40 children (from fourth through sixth grade classes) performing pieces by the creative minds that brought the world such classic books Breakfast of Champions, Ragtime, and Song of Solomon while the original music of Judy Collins, Martin Charnin, and David Amram plays in the background.

Children of Uganda sing and dance at the Joyce Theater (April 11 - 16). The inspiring group brings together 22 Ugandans who have been orphaned due to AIDS. Their world-traveling performance, which was founded a decade ago, has appeared at the White House, the David Letterman Show, and the Grammy's salute to U2's Bono. This performance is the first stop of a 31-city tour. For an entirely different show about orphans, go to the TADA! Youth theater's production of a new musical They Chose Me! Following a group of singing and dancing kids who have been adopted, it plays form April 21 to May 7.

Do you love Bye, Bye Birdie? Who doesn't? Inside Broadway presents a 50-minute revival of the popular musical, aimed at young audiences, at Florence Guild Hall on April 1 and 2. The plot concerns a lucky fan who's chosen to be given "One Last Kiss" by an Elvis-like superstar on the Ed Sullivan Show before he goes off to war. The score includes such popular items as "The Telephone Hour," "Put on a Happy Face," and -- yes! -- "Kids."

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's... a coyote on a trampoline? Playing at the The Ailey Citigroup Joan Weill Center for Dance (405 West 55th Street), Coyote's Dance introduces young audiences to the infamous, mischievous figure of Native American cultures. The wily coyote tries to turn his fur blue, steals a furtive fox's eagle-feathered robe, and dances with the glittering stars on the firmament. The Treehouse Shakers premiere this magical musical from April 1 to 23 -- with the assistance of the First Women's Nation a cappella group, Ulali.

Elsewhere around the region, a musical with the tongue-twisting title Rudy Rutabaga and the Terrible Dragon of Amsteryork continues its run at the Impact Theatre in Brooklyn through April 2: When Peter Pauper's best friend Rudy is crowned prince of Queens Island, he is compelled to go on a quest to slay a formidable foe. And, out in Long Island, Theatre Three presents The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, featuring the hare's friends Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Benjamin Bunny -- not to mention the McGregors.

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