With two five-year-old girls in the family, the American Girl Doll phenomenon has overtaken our home—quite literally. We have dolls, furniture, books, and an extensive wardrobe I find myself slightly envious of. "Julie" and "Maryellen" have hobbies we talk about, preferences on activities, and are with us so often that I sometimes forget that they're not real-life pals of my daughters. So, as you can imagine, when I announced we would be going to the all-new, first-ever American Girl Live show, I was met with shrieks of excitement—followed by weeks of planning outfits, accessories, and hair-dos, for both them and their 18-inch sidekicks.
American Girl Live, featuring six of the iconic dolls and an all-girl cast (not to mention an all-female crew and creative team behind the scenes) will be touring the country in 2019, with stops that include New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Long Island, and Maryland. In keeping with the American Girl mission, the show is all about "girl power," a message that came through to my girls loud and clear when I took them (and Julie and Maryellen, of course) to the Capitol Center of the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, one of the show's first tour stops.
What to Expect
Every venue will have a different feel, of course, but all of the American Girl Live shows are otherwise the same, clocking in at about 2 hours, which includes a leisurely intermission. (This felt just right, since the show moves from scene to scene quickly; and with an audience full of children, excited chatter and potty breaks were NBD). The show opens with a group of girls beginning their experience at American Girl Camp. As each camper introduces herself, she also introduces the American Girl doll she has brought along. My daughters are on the edge of their seats in anticipation. Will Maryellen and Julie be at camp? I'm also on the edge of my seat, because god help me if one of them didn't make it to camp this year! (Spoiler alert: Both dolls are in attendance). To spare you the same nerve-wracking two minutes, and to help you prep your little ones if their doll will not be on the stage: Rebecca, Maryellen, Julie, Melody, Nanea, and Luciana are the pint-sized stars of this particular show.
Sleepaway campers—with the help of the dolls they brought along—support each other through tricky life scenarios. Photo credit: Amy Boyle
We begin to watch the campers work together and support each other as they each earn the coveted "girl power medal." Maryellen's camper is up first. She's new to camp and doesn't know anyone. She's not sure who to talk to or how to make friends. Her doll Maryellen has an outgoing personality: She'd know what to do. She pushes her doll on a tiny bike off into the wings, and who should pedal back onto stage? A real-life Maryellen (an actual girl, dressed from head to toe just like the doll we all know and love) on a full-sized bike. The audience cheers: a cacophony of little girl squeals. My daughter is in awe as the doll she hangs out with all day long is bopping across the stage.
The other storylines receive the same empathy and enthusiasm from the audience. Our favorite might have been Luciana's. The doll's owner is a science-loving girl who's passionate about building and creating new things, but when the robot she built won't perform, she feels defeated. There are sighs from the audience: Her robot was going to clean her room for her, who wouldn't be disappointed? Luciana, who happens to be the American Girl Doll of the Year, walks out onto stage as an actual girl—in a full space suit! This time, instead of just cheering, my girls sit up a little more attentively, because they've never seen an "astronaut" in person before. Luciana teaches the campers that sometimes figuring out a problem means trying more than once, and even failing, in order to find the solution. The campers transform their bunk into a space ship and work together to navigate "space." Not only is the accompanying "Blast Off" song super catchy, but judging by the rapt expressions of many girls in the audience, I wouldn't be surprised if this scene inspires a future female astronaut. From here, it's clear that each doll will have a moment in the spotlight, and the girls in the audience are hugging their dolls in anticipation until their character makes an appearance.
The show wraps up with the camp talent show and the campers sing about friendship and girl power. "Who's got power?" ask the girls on the stage. My girls are up on their feet, because they are definitely feeling sure about the answer, in this high-energy atmosphere of mothers, daughters, and friends. Driving home I can hear them chanting quietly to themselves, "We've got the girl power!" It's the rare kiddie song I will happily listen to them sing over and over for weeks to come.
Plenty of little girls brought their own dolls along for the show. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Know Before You Go
- American Girl Live will be touring the country through May 2019, and tickets start at $25/person. See a full touring schedule here, and note that new locations may still be added.
- To really make your girls' night out extra special, purchase VIP experiences at an additional cost. The experiences vary by venue, but typically include perks like pre- and post-show parties and photo opportunities with the cast.
- While dolls are not mandatory, bringing your little one's favorite American Girl doll is totally welcome, typical among showgoers, and a great way to interact with the performance (and keep tiny hands busy).
- If your daughter is at an age at which she loves her American Girl Doll, she's the right age for the show. The message is easy to follow, but of course, you be the judge if your little ones (say, under 3) have the ability to sit for an extended period of time (there's one intermission built into the two-hour show). For younger kids, try to catch a matinee, since the evening shows can run pretty late.
- The theme of the show is "girl power," and I will say that the vast majority of audience members at the show I attended were female. However, boys are of course invited to join in, whether they love an American Girl doll or just someone–perhaps a sister or friend—who does. It's never too early to teach your little ones about equality, after all, and lessons about friendship, perseverance, and self-confidence are genderless.