Autumn marks the start of a new theater season, but you don't need to shell out big bucks on Broadway shows to give your kids a memorable live entertainment experience in NYC. This fall, preschoolers will go gaga for engaging, page-to-stage adaptations of some of their favorite picture books like Goodnight Moon, The Velveteen Rabbit and Click, Clack, Moo, while school-age children can catch a show about the American Revolution, an avant-garde lineup of shorts and kid-friendly Shakespeare. There are even a pair of productions specifically created for children on the autism spectrum. Best of all, 10 of our picks are $20 or less per ticket.
Click through to our listings for all the details, including time and location.
The Commedia Rapuzel offers a campy twist on the famous fairy tale.
The Commedia Rapunzel — Soho
Saturdays, September 12-26 and Friday, October 2
A hit at the New York International Fringe Festival this past August, this Commedia dell'arte take on the classic fairy tale is enjoying an encore run at Off-Broadway's Soho Playhouse. Structured as a show within a show, The Commedia Rapunzel follows an impoverished troupe of Italian performers as they mount a campy and interactive musical inspired by the imprisoned princess with insanely long tresses. $18 for adults, $13 for children under age 14
Click, Clack, Moo — Upper West Side
Saturday, September 26
Young fans of Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin's award-winning book will udderly love this charming musicalization by lauded family theater company TheatreworksUSA. When Farmer Brown confiscates his granddaughter's laptop and hides it in the barn, the cows use it to type out their demands for better working conditions otherwise they'll strike. Simultaneously hilarious and politically educational, with a sweet post-show milk and brownie reception. $10 for adults, $5 for children
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Robin Hood — Midtown West
Friday, October 2-Sunday, October 11
Ages 7 and up
Head to the New Victory Theater to introduce your tweens to the fictional English outlaw, who stole from the rich to give to the poor. The famous folk tale is reinvented by Seattle Children's Theatre, with four talented, multitasking performers playing all the parts, which makes for some stunning quick changes as both arrows and barbs fly. $15-$38
Up and Away is an immersive show for children on the autism spectrum. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center.
Up and Away — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 3-Sunday, November 1
Ages 5 and up for children on the autism spectrum
An immersive theater experience loosely inspired by Around the World in 80 Days and created specifically for children with autism and their families, Up and Away was devised by the boundary-pushing Trusty Sidekick Theater Company for Lincoln Center Kids. A maximum of eight children (with up to two adult caregivers) join the Fogg Family Balloon Society on a multisensory ride featuring puppets, live music and one-on-one interactive activities. There's literally never been anything like this at a major NYC cultural institution! Space is extremely limited, which is why you can't just buy tickets; you must fill out a request form. $40 per child with up to two adult companions
Fashion Academy the Musical — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 3-Saturday, October 31
Ages 7 and up
Coauthors Sheryl Berk and her tween daughter, Carrie, live on the Upper East Side, so it's no wonder their popular chapter books offer an authentic, behind-the-scenes peek at growing up in NYC. After musicalizating their Cupcake Club series last year, Vital Children's Theatre is bringing their latest tale, Fashion Academy, to the stage. Mickey is having a hard time fitting in at her new middle school, the Fashion Academy of Brooklyn, so she overhauls her quirky look and personality in order to make a play for the popular crowd. But is hiding her true colors worth the price? This familiar lesson is dressed up in high theatrical style. $49.50-$59.50
Catch 30 plays in just an hour at the inaugural family edition of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Photo courtesy of the New York Neo-Futurists.
Family TML — East Village
Saturday, October 10-Sunday, October 11
Ages 10 and up
For more than a decade, the New York Neo-Futurists have presented Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an attempt to perform a rotating selection of 30 playlets in 60 minutes to grown-up audiences. For the first time ever, the veteran avant-garde theater troupe is mounting a family-friendly version of its signature production, with the "menu" of shorts curated by company members, many of whom are parents themselves. Kids can get in on the action by helping to decide the order in which the plays are performed. Perfect for limited attention spans. In advance: $18, at the door: $20; $64 for family four-pack
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The Velveteen Rabbit — Chelsea
Saturday, October 10-Sunday, November 1
Margery Williams' picture book about a toy rabbit who longs to be real has been a childhood classic for almost a century. However, the narration-heavy text makes it hard to successfully adapt for the stage (I've seen both terrible and excellent tries.) But if anyone can make it work, it's Atlantic for Kids, the family theater arm of the famed Atlantic Theater Company. Reinvented as a light operetta by Cormac Bluestone and Anya Saffir, this Velveteen Rabbit is almost entirely sung through and many performers are Atlantic alumni. Don't forget to bring lots of tissues. $20 for adults, $15 for children
The classic kid-lit character comes to life in Madeline and the Bad Hat.
Madeline and the Bad Hat — Corona
Sunday, October 11
Hit the Queens Theatre for this musical based on one of Ludwig Bemelmans' books about a precocious Parisian schoolgirl. The Bad Hat of the title is actually Madeline's new mischievous neighbor, Pepito. Will these instant enemies be able to find a way to forge a friendship? $14
Peter Rabbit Tales — Tribeca
Saturday, October 17
Beatrix Potter's iconic tales are brought to life by Philly's Enchantment Theatre Company at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Using evocative masks and puppets, and original music, the show features a grown-up Peter Rabbit helping his cousin, Benjamin Bunny, find and rescue the Flopsy Bunnies, who are always getting into trouble—just like Peter did in his youth. $25
A Midsummer Night's Dream — Midtown West
Friday, October 30-Sunday, November 8
Ages 9 and up
British composer Benjamin Britten transformed the Bard's fantastical romantic comedy into an opera back in 1960. Now South Africa's Isango Ensemble gives the work a 21st-century multicultural overhaul with orchestrations featuring marimbas and djembes, and a jubilant chorus that weaves African folklore into Shakespeare's poetry. Even if your kid's never seen any of the legendary playwright's canon, this New Victory Theater presentation offers a great introduction to his work. $15-$38
Goodnight Moon by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia.
Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny — Greenwich Village
Saturday, November 1
The eye-popping Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia brings a pair of Margaret Wise Brown's kid-lit classics to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Both stories celebrate the special bond between mothers and their children, and feature large-scale puppets and amazing scenery that replicates Clement Hurd's memorable illustrations, especially that "great green room... with a telephone and a red balloon." $25-$32
An all-white world suddenly gets a splash of color in this interactive show for preschoolers.
White — Midtown West
Wednesday, November 4-Sunday, November 22
A great offering for first-time theatergoers, this wordless, interactive show stars a pair of pals who live in an all-white world. But as color creeps in they start to embrace rainbow hues. We raved about this play a few years back and love that it's performed in a small studio with families sitting on cushions on the floor, so the performers and audience are on the same plane. $20
The American Revolution is condensed into 50 explosive minutes at Lincoln Center. Photo courtesy of LC.
The American Revolution — Upper West Side
Saturday, November 7
Ages 7 and up
Can't seem to snag tickets to Hamilton on Broadway? Console yourself with this fast-paced, kid-friendly romp through our nation's history at Lincoln Center Kids. Chicago's Theater Unspeakable condenses our nation's epic fight for independence into 50 action-packed minutes, with the performers' bodies and voices the only special effects. $25
The Great Red Ball Rescue – Upper West Side
Saturday, November 7
Part of Symphony Space's Just Kidding series (which drastically reduced its ticket prices this season), this interactive puppet show follows the quest of one young boy to retrieve his beloved red ball, which was whisked out to sea. Kids go on a virtual journey filled with thieves, fortunetellers and aquatic creatures. $15
Before We Grew — Park Slope
Saturday, November 7-Sunday, November 15
Spellbound Theatre has always specialized in creating shows for the preschool set, but this is the first time the Brooklyn-based troupe has crafted a production for children with autism or other special needs. Audiences take a virtual, multisensory trip through Brooklyn's past in the historic Old Stone House. Saturday performances are open to the general public while Sunday shows are reserved for families with special needs. $15 for adults, $12 for children
Black Violin — Flatbush
Saturday, November 14
Ages 5 and up
More like a theatrical concert than a traditional show, Black Violin stars a classically trained duo who play a mash-up of rock, hip-hop, pop and Mozart that will totally change your perception of what string instruments can do. Part of the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts' family series. $18
I Laid an Egg — East Village
Saturday, November 14-Sunday, November 15
Head to the cutting-edge La MaMa Theatre for this offbeat puppet performance by Margot Fitzsimmons, inspired by a dream she had as a child. Margot and her imaginary pal, Egg, discover adventure in her own home as everyday objects transform into a fantastical landscape. Expect lots of interaction and mesmerizing visuals. $8
Top photo: The cows go on strike in Click, Clack, Moo. By Joan Marcus