TV and stage stars John Lithgow, Bea Arthur, and Marla Gibbs all appear in children's events this month. Also: The New Victory kicks off its season, Aesop's Fables get a new twist, TADA! presents a staged reading series, children's rockers invade New Jersey, and theater bustles in Long Island.
For more celebrity sightings, you'll have to travel north, where a Golden Girl and a famous TV housekeeper appear in a new musical based on Margery Williams' beloved children's book The Velveteen Rabbit (Connecticut Family Theater, October 24-November 4). It's the story of a young boy's favorite stuffed animal, and what happens to it after the boy gets sick. This new adaptation includes contemporary pop music and audience participation. Beatrice Arthur stars as the Magic Fairy that casts the spell leading to the rabbit's wondrous transformation, and Marla Gibbs plays the Wind-Up Doll.
Off-Broadway's New Victory Theater kicks off its new season with two shows this October: Rennie Harris' NY Legends of Hip-Hop (October 6-22) and Little Donkey (October 27-November 5). The first one features Pop Master Fabel, Rock Steady Crew, and The Mop Top Crew paying tribute to the global phenomenon of hip-hop culture through dancing, beat boxing, and emceeing. The latter show is a musical puppet piece about a young donkey that rebuilds his momma's launderette after a powerful storm ransacks the town.
Also in Manhattan, the Atlantic Theater Company presents Strega Nona (October 7-29), a new musical based on Tomie de Paola's book about a witch that tries to save her Italian villa. Manhattan Children's Theater takes a stab at the often-adapted children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Storyteller David Gonzalez puts new spins on traditional fables in Aesop Bops at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center (October 21), and don't miss the Avant-Garde-Arama for the Whole Family series of offbeat plays by P.S. 122 (October 9).
If you're looking for the next big thing, come see TADA's 15th Annual Staged Reading Series (October 23 and 25), which features free plays performed by and for teenagers. This year's lineup features Rhea MacCallum's The 7th Disorder, in which a spoonful of chocolate pudding stands between life and death; Pallas Snyder's Loser, which concerns four high school students' experiences with a physics test; and Lindsay Price's Sweep Under Rug, about a struggle to fight a diabolical, housecleaning robot.
As always, go to New Jersey for the rock n' roll. The Two River Theatre Company hosts Rockroots (October 14), an educational children's rock band. The four musicians give the family a guided tour of diverse American musical forms, including ethnic folk, Delta blues, big band swing, R&B, rockabilly, doo-wop, surf, Motown, and disco. Throughout it all, they explain the origins, instrumentations, and influences in a way that's accessible to all ages.
Out in Long Island, the stars of TV's Magic Garden visit the Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in An Afternoon with Carole and Paula (October 7). Elsewhere, Sleeping Beauty awakens at Theatre Three (October 14-29), and a staged reading of W.S. Gilbert's The Princess graces the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. The latter play -- penned without the assistance of his longtime partner Arthur Sullivan -- is based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's epic poem.