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Seeing a Broadway or off-Broadway show is a memorable moment under any circumstance, but taking a child to an adult-oriented show could be a memory best forgotten if you aren’t careful. You can largely avoid those problems by seeing shows that will enthrall your little ones and entertain your tweens and teens.
TPG asked Cara Giambrone O’Donnell, actor; Steve Friedman, Broadway musical lecturer and author of “The Ultimate Broadway Musical List Book”; Mickela Mallozzi, host of PBS’ “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi”; John Davidson, tour host for Sports Travel and Tours; Ron Legler, president France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, Baltimore; and others for their recommendations.
There Is Such a Thing as Too Young for Broadway
Before you get all excited and buy tickets for the latest and greatest Broadway hit, be aware that many theaters have a minimum age of 4 for entry (even Disney shows recommend no kids under 4), with several shows recommending 6 or 8 years of age as a minimum. You probably know if your child can sit through a show that’s 90 minutes to two hours long — or longer — without crying, making a disturbance or otherwise making you and the audience around you miserable. But if you are on the fence, just wait another year. Broadway is a big investment for you and those around you, so hold off that special treat until everyone is ready.
Also, everyone often needs a ticket so keep in mind that bringing your tiny theatergoer probably won’t be free. If your child is past the nap stage, you might find matinees work better than evening performances that keep your child up past bedtime. For the Disney-based shows, watch the movie before you see the show so your child is familiar with the characters.
Best NYC Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows for Kids
Here are a dozen shows (title, followed by minimum appropriate age) that deserve your time and attendance and then we’ll explain how to save money on your theater tickets. (Ticket pricing varies by show, date/time of performance and seat location.)
NYC Theater Shows Appropriate for Children
“Gazillion Bubble Show“ (2+, with lap tickets available for the youngest ones), New World Stages/Stage 2 (off-Broadway). An “unbubblievable” experience with bubble magic, laser lighting effects and soapy masterpieces for family fun. Weekends and some Friday evening performances.
“The Lion King“ (8+), Minskoff Theatre. Based on Disney’s animated film, this long-running, Tony-award winning Broadway show is a colorful, beautiful and timeless presentation with unique animal costumes and beautiful dancing. The opening “Circle of Life” number has the animals parading down the aisles. Two hours and 30 minutes, with intermission.
“Aladdin“ (8+) New Amsterdam Theatre. Another Broadway show based on a Disney movie that has adventured, comedy, romance and lots of special effects, including a flying carpet, a rousing “Friend Like Me” number and original songs written for the stage. Two hours and 30 minutes, including intermission.
“Frozen“ (8+), St. James Theatre. Based on still another Disney film, the musical is true to the movie and Princess Elsa and her sister Anna prove that girl-power prevails. Although of interest to younger children, the two-and-a-half-hour show time could strain their attention span so 8+ is still recommended.
“King Kong“ (8+) Broadway Theatre. Animatronics, puppetry, music, stagecraft and a 2,000-pound, 20-foot-tall ape populate this classic tale set in the Depression era. Filled with friendship, courage and being happy with being yourself, the show fills two hours and 30 minutes (with intermission).
“The Prom“ (8+) Longacre Theatre. Inspired by true stories, this musical comedy features four actors leaving the Broadway stage to become leading stars in a small-town controversy involving the high school prom. Two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.
“Wicked“ (8+), Gershwin Theatre. The show takes you to the Land of Oz in pre-Dorothy days, and enchants with the costumes, sets, girl power and a moral message. Two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission. Perhaps even more fun is the 90-minute Behind the Emerald Curtain (BEC) tour ($33 per person) of a museum-worthy exhibit of costumes, props and memorabilia about the show. It’s followed by a question and answer, autograph and photo op session. Exclusive (to the tour) merchandise is available for purchase. No, you don’t actually go backstage, but it’s still a cool tour. Offered on select Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 10am, but arrive early to give the museum a good look.
NYC Theater Shows Appropriate for Tweens
“Come From Away“ (10+) Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The heartwarming musical story of how residents of Gander, Newfoundland, welcomed the 7,000 plane passengers diverted following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The show is 100 minutes.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child“ (10+), Lyric Theatre. This sequel to JK Rowling’s books works for muggles and others who have never read one of her books or seen one of the movies. This is a two-part, five-hour-plus near-marathon so wait until your child is ready. You don’t have to see both shows on the same day While ticket purchase is generally a long-range (and pricy) thing, at 1pm on Fridays, 40 tickets are available at $20 for the following Friday via TodayTix.
“Hamilton” (10+, some profanity) Richard Rodgers Theatre. The nearly three-hour rap version of our country’s history is as exciting and educational as the show “1776” was five decades ago. Like Harry Potter, tickets can be tough to come by. However, you can enter the daily $10 a ticket lottery, starting at 11am for tickets two days in advance. The lottery closes at 9am the day before. Notifications are sent at about 11am the day before the show and you have until 4pm to pay for the tickets online. Then, pick them up at the theater between 11:01am to 4pm. There’s a limit of one entry per person and each winner can buy two tickets.
NYC Theater Shows Appropriate for Teens
“Dear Evan Hansen“ (12+). Music Box Theatre. This Tony- and Grammy-award winning musical explores teen suicide, depression, bullying and “life and the way we live it.” Two and 30 minutes with an intermission.
“To Kill a Mockingbird“ (12+) Shubert Theatre. Aaron Sorkin’s thoughtful interpretation of Harper Lee’s classic novel extols the virtue and integrity of Atticus Finch and the loss of innocence. Two hours and 50 minutes with one intermission.
How to Save on Broadway Shows
While Broadway tickets can be expensive, you can find reduced prices at the TKTS booths at Times Square, South Street Seaport and Lincoln Center booths for same-day tickets at up to a 50% discount. During Broadway Week, a three-week span in January–February and September–October, tickets are offered on a 2-for-1 basis. Kids Night on Broadway (KNOB) lets you buy an adult ticket and receive a free ticket for a child 18 and under (actually, the tickets will show half-price for each of you).
Kids Night usually takes place in February in New York and at other times of the year in other parts of the country. Kids Night also offers discounts at certain restaurants in the Times Square area and some pre-show activities (sing-along, etc.). For other discounts, join the TDF (Theatre Development Fund) for discounts up to 70% on theater, dance and music events on and off Broadway. Membership restrictions apply, but there are so many categories of eligibility that most people should qualify ($40 a year).
For other ticket deals, check Goldstar, BroadwayBox, TheaterMania, Playbill and Broadway League. Also, see how to earn and use points for Broadway show tickets. When you decide to purchase your family’s first Broadway show, here are the best cards to use for entertainment purchases so you can earn extra points on those purchases.
Kids and families can and should enjoy Broadway shows, but usually not until they are school-aged. However, once they are ready, there are a variety of shows that are appropriate for your kids, tweens and teens. Have you taken your kids to a Broadway show? Which did they love?
Featured image by Cavan Images / Getty Images
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