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. In fact, this fall boasts more high-quality theater productions for young audiences than ever—so many in fact, we have a whopping 24 picks, and that's after whittling down the contenders.
Preschoolers will be excited to see a slew of puppet shows, a stage adaptation of Peter Pan, and the unstoppable Baby Shark Live!. Older kids can check out the return of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical and the silent spectacle of Mummenschanz. Plus everyone in your family can enjoy the Big Apple Circus. Best of all, many of our picks are $25 or less per ticket.
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Click through to our listings for all the details, including times and locations.
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway with James Hayden Rodriguez and Chris McCarrell. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical — Midtown West
Friday, September 20-Sunday, January 5, 2020
Ages 8 and older
This show has enjoyed quite the epic journey. A rollicking musicalization of Rick Riordan's YA favorite, this TheaterWorksUSA production started as a free one-act, then expanded to a full-length Off-Broadway show and now it's coming to Broadway for a limited run. You don't need to know the book series to follow the adventures of a 12-year-old modern-day demigod who overcomes challenges both mythical (Medusa, Hades, the Furies) and earthbound (dyslexia, ADD) to rescue his mom...with a little help from his powerful pals, of course. After seeing this funny and fast-paced tuner, featuring catchy pop songs, cool effects, and relatable tweenage angst, don't be surprised if your kids ask to hit the bookstore on the way home to pick up a copy of the novel. Save up to $50 per ticket with this discount code.
The Big One-Oh! — Chelsea
Saturday, September 28-Sunday, October 20
Ages 5 and older
And you thought turning 40 was tough! In Atlantic for Kids' musicalization of Dean Pitchford's book of the same name, introvert Charley decides to throw himself a party for his 10th birthday, hoping he can trade his imaginary friends for flesh-and-blood ones. Although he goes with a horror theme, he soon finds his celebration turning into a real-life nightmare. Any child (or adult) who's ever experienced social anxiety will relate. Note: There will be a relaxed performance for kids with sensory sensitivities on Saturday, October 12.
Billy Kelly: This Is a Family Show! Live — West Village
Saturday, October 5
Ages 8 and older
Grammy-nominated entertainer Billy Kelly performs a solo comedy show at the Minetta Lane Theatre with jokes aimed at the whole family. Nothing inappropriate here—his riffs on nocturnal animals, microwaves, Ben Franklin, and turtle throwing are strictly rated G. Plus no two-drink minimum, unless you count juice boxes. And your laughter will be captured for posterity: the show's being recorded by Audible Inc. for future release.
Tomte — East Village
Sunday, October 6-Sunday, October 20
Ages 4 and older
Inspired by literary adaptations of Scandanavian folklore, Tomte is a magical shadow puppet show at La MaMa Kids about the title gnome, who watches over humans and animals alike. On a chilly winter evening on a snow-covered farm, Tomte visits his charges, teaching them—and the audience—the importance of kindness, empathy, and helping each other.
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The Pout-Pout Fish at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
The Pout-Pout Fish — Midtown West
Saturday, Oct 12-Sunday, October 20
Ages 4 to 7
Deborah Diesen's whimsical picture book series comes to life at the New Victory Theater courtesy of TheaterWorksUSA. In this peppy puppet musical, the title frowny fish and a prized pearl are unexpectedly swept out to sea. Way out of his comfort zone, Pout-Pout is forced to rely on himself, and a few newfound friends, to make it home.
Big Apple Circus — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 12-Sunday, February 2, 2020
Our hometown's homegrown circus returns for its 42nd season at Lincoln Center with a brand-new female ringmistress, captivating chanteuse Storm Marrero (I have loved her on the burlesque scene for years, so I'm glad I can finally bring my daughter to a show she's headlining!). She gets to introduce a slew of acts, including America's Got Talent finalists the Savitsky Cats, a septuagenarian acrobat, horse-riding tricks, hand-balancing, juggling, the Wheel of Death, and other awe-inspiring feats.
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Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth. Photo by Norman Blake
Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth — Coney Island, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 13
Ages 3 and older
Kids can run away and join the circus (or just watch) at the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus' biannual youth variety show at Coney Island USA. All of the performers in this one-day-only showcase are younger than age 21 and perform a variety of feats, including juggling, hula hooping, tumbling, clowning, plate spinning, and even snake charming. Is your child more interested in being in the spotlight than sitting on the sidelines? Find out how your kid can apply to be part of the show.
The Little Lou and Renaldo Show at Symphony Space. Photo by Al Calienes
The Little Lou and Renaldo Show — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 19
The couple that clowns together, stays together! Silly spouses the Remarkable Renaldo and Little Lou bring their act to Symphony Space, an hour-long cavalcade of slapstick, tricks, magic, juggling, and other fine foolery. Renaldo has quite the resume, including gigs with the Big Apple Circus and SeaWorld, but I remember him best as my daughter's very first circus teacher when she was just 4 years old. He taught her how to hula hoop!
SOLE Defined at the Queens Theatre. Photo by Craig Foster
VIBEZ by SOLE Defined — Corona, Queens
Saturday, October 20
Ages 5 and older
Get ready to clap your hands and stomp your feet to this retro dance extravaganza at the Queens Theatre. A deejay spins '90s tunes while the performers do a mix of hip-hop, tap-dancing, and stepping. A great way to introduce kids to the diverse world of dance.
Nest at Lincoln Center Kids. Photo by James Allen
Nest — Lincoln Center
Wednesday, October 23-Sunday, October 27
Ages 0-14 months
A multisensory experience created specifically for babies, Akin Theatre's half-hour show takes place in a custom-made tent at Lincoln Center Kids. Parents get down on the floor with their little ones as the cast takes families on a trip through the four seasons via music, movement, puppetry, and play. An ideal first-time theatergoing experience for infants that includes plenty of hands-on exploration. Note: Only one grown-up allowed per baby,
Peter Pan — Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 27
Ages 4 and older
J.M. Barrie's iconic fairy tale flies onto the stage at Brooklyn's Kingsborough Community College. Adapted by Tony winners John Caird and Trevor Nunn, this low-tech retelling finds the Darling kids using their imagination to conjure the wonders of Peter Pan and Neverland, as pillows become clouds, an ironing board doubles as a ship's plank, and snowshoes serve as a crocodile's snapping jaws. This TheaterWorksUSA production also runs at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Saturday, December 14.
Aesop's Fables at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Keith Pattison
Aesop's Fables — Midtown West
Friday, November 1-Sunday, November 3
Ages 7 and older
Ancient Greek tales are given a South African twist in this exuberant opera by Capetown's Isango Ensemble at the New Victory Theater. Performed in English as well as a mix of South African languages, the production proves that the wisdom of these 2,500-plus-year-old fables is timeless.
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Showtime with Shakespeare at the Queens Theatre. Photo by Yasmeen Fahmy
Showtime with Shakespeare — Corona, Queens
Saturday, November 2
Ages 6 and older
Mary Pope Osborne's time-traveling Magic Tree House book series comes to the Queens Theatre with this adaptation of Stage Fright on a Summer Night. Brother and sister history explorers Jack and Annie find themselves in Elizabethan England, where they help Shakespeare put on a show. A gentle introduction to the poetry of the Bard for elementary schoolers. Note: There will be a relaxed performance for kids with sensory sensitivities on Saturday, November 2 at 3pm.
Jamie Adkins' Circus Incognitus — Tribeca
Saturday, November 2
Ages 3 and older
Talk about a minimalist circus! Watch as one very versatile and funny guy conjures an entire big top by himself at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. My daughter and I saw this show a while back and it's a comical but low-key experience as the mostly silent Adkins balances paper on his nose, uses ladders like stilts, and hands out fruit for the audience to throw at him...every piece of which he catches on a plastic fork.
Baby Shark Live! — Flatbush, Brooklyn
Friday, November 8
How do you make an entire live show out of a two-minute viral song? Don't worry, it's not an hour-long loop of that earworm (although your tots would probably love that). Head to Brooklyn's Kings Theatre to join Pinkfong the fox, Baby Shark, and their friends as they embark on an underwater adventure to learn about shapes, colors, numbers, and more, all while singing and dancing to new songs and old favorites, including “Five Little Monkeys,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “Jungle Boogie,”“Monkey Banana Dance,” and the title tune. Check out our full preview of the show.
Tales From the Shed at the Wetherby-Pembridge School. Photo courtesy of Chickenshed NYC
Tales from the Shed — Upper East Side
Saturday, September 14-Saturday, May 9, 2020
Don't expect to sit on the sidelines at a Chickenshed show. This NYC-based troupe is an offshoot of the venerable British company, which has been mounting interactive and inclusive productions for very young children for more than four decades. Get ready to sing, dance, and play along with various puppet characters in an intimate space at the Wetherby-Pembridge School. An excellent choice for first-time theatergoers.
Mummenschanz's Re:Play at the New Victory Theater. Photo courtesy of Mummenschanz Foundation
Re:Play — Midtown West
Friday, November 15-Sunday, December 1
Ages 6 and older
As a child in the '70s, I remember being so mesmerized by the kooky creatures conjured by Mummenschanz on Sesame Street that my mother took me to see the troupe's show on Broadway. As a parent, I was thrilled to introduce my own daughter to the Swiss mime company's surreal antics. This fall, Mummenschanz makes its New Victory Theater debut with its latest show, Re:Play, a combination of classic routines and fresh material. This is analog creativity as its most inventive, no technology required. Show your kids a couple of videos on YouTube and I suspect they'll be as hooked as I was 40 years ago!
WonderSpark Puppets: Fox Fables at Symphony Space. Photo by Chad Williams
Fox Fables — Upper West Side
Saturday, November 16
WonderSpark Puppets' playful exploration of identity at Symphony Space focuses on a fox who loses his tail along with his sense of self. He tries being a number of different animals before discovering the moral of his tale...make that tail.
A Charlie Brown Christmas — Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn
Sunday, November 17
Ages 4 and older
Celebrate the holidays early at On Stage at Kingsborough with this live stage adaptation of the iconic TV special. A lively jazz trio plays Vince Guaraldi's memorable music and Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang sing Christmas carols as they discover the true meaning of the season.
The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood — Chelsea
Saturday, November 23-Sunday, December 15
Ages 3 and older
TADA! Youth Theater is celebrating its 35th anniversary by presenting the first three shows the all-kid troupe ever performed. First up is The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, a stage adaptation of the 1965 TV special starring Liza Minnelli. In this twisted take on the old fairy tale, we see everything from the wolf's point of view as he complains about Little Red and her pals shunning him from their holiday party. This hour-long musical features songs by Broadway stalwarts Bob Merrill and Jule Styne, and stars members of TADA!'s Resident Youth Ensemble, talented local tykes ages 8 to 18. Tip: If your child is little, be sure to ask for a front-row bench seat for an unobstructed view.
Dragons Love Tacos — Tribeca
Saturday, November 30
Ages 4 to 9
TheaterWorksUSA presents a revue of mini-musicals based on popular picture books at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. The tuneful tales include Adam Rubin's Dragons Love Tacos, David Ezra Stein's Interrupting Chicken, Peter H. Reynolds' The Dot, Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, and Erica Silverman's Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: School Days.
Puppetkabob: Dirty Gerts at Symphony Space. Photo by Liz Joyce
Dirty Gerts — Upper West Side
Saturday, December 7
Puppetkabob's wildly inventive show about fitting in (or not) at school uses recycled paper products to tell its story. This one-of-a-kind puppet show at Symphony Space is as moving as it is mesmerizing.
Because I Say So at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Anna Drvnik
Because I Say So — Midtown West
Thursday, December 12-Sunday, December 22
What if kids ran the world? That's the premise of this romp for preschoolers by Sweden's Unga Klara. In this half-hour physical-theater piece at the New Victory Theater, the grown-up performers dance, pretend, and play with abandon as they bond with their young spectators.
OGO at Lincoln Center Kids. Photo by Théâtre des Petites Âmes
OGO — Lincoln Center
Saturday, December 14-Sunday, December 15
Ages 3- 8
Canada's Théâtre des Petites Âmes is behind this charming show at Lincoln Center Kids, which is inspired by Waiting for Godot but with a lot less existential angst. A trio of friends receive letters from the title character, who promises to take them on amazing adventures. But who needs to go anywhere when your imagination knows no bounds? Told through a mix of music, puppets, and live actors. Note: There will be a relaxed performance for kids with sensory sensitivities on Sunday, December 15 at 11am.