Best Family Theater in NYC This Fall from Winnie the Pooh to SIX on Broadway
By now you've probably heard that Broadway is back! But what about theater for young audiences? Because children under age 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, many beloved theater series for families, including BAMkids, Just Kidding at Symphony Space, La MaMa Kids, Central Park's Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and Lincoln Center Kids, are still on pause. Even the New Victory Theater is reopening with a show for high schoolers. However, if your family is craving the communal magic of in-person theater, there are some fabulous fall theater shows aimed at tweens and teens, plus an eye-popping Winnie the Pooh puppet show for the sippy-cup set.
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In terms of COVID-19 precautions, all theaters, on Broadway and off, require proof of full vaccination for audience members ages 12 and older. If your kids are younger than 12, they will need to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of showtime, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within six hours of the performance. Masks are also required at all the shows listed below.
Be sure to click through to our listings for all the details, including times and locations.
SIX – Midtown West
Already playing; open run
Ages 10 and older
If you've got a musical-loving adolescent in your life, you've probably heard all about this international sensation, a history-inspired concert in which Henry VIII's bedazzled wives belt out catchy pop songs about their dramatic lives with the moody monarch. Written by newcomers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, SIX already has a viral studio cast recording and multiple global productions. Now, after a long pandemic delay, it's finally on Broadway. My theater-loving teen and I watched a bootleg on YouTube during the shutdown and loved it, and we're psyched to see it on stage next month. The conceit may be gimmicky, but its execution is impressively effective. It's smart, sexy, and, in centering on the Queens instead of the absent King, unabashedly feminist. The all-women on-stage band seriously rocks!
The Tall Keyaki Tree brings the artistry of shadow puppetry to the La MaMa Puppet Series. Photo by Watoku Ueno
The Tall Keyaki Tree – East Village
Through Sunday, October 3
Ages 10 and older
La MaMa's annual Puppet Festival isn't child's play. Most of the shows in this year's edition explore grown-up subjects such as euthanasia, racism in comics, and dysfunctional families—only The Tall Keyaki Tree is kid-friendly. Inspired by the 19th-century novella Five-Storied Pagoda written by Japanese author Kōda Rohan, this shadow puppet fantasy centers on a carpenter who decides to build a towering pagoda using wood from a special tree he grew up with. It's a wonderful choice for families who love handcrafted, low-tech beauty.
Jeremy Jordon leads a star-studded cast that makes Little Shop of Horrors at the Westside Theatre a must-see. Photo by Emilio Madrid.
Little Shop of Horrors – Midtown West
Through Sunday, January 9, 2022
Ages 10 and up
Sure, Little Shop is a staple of schools and community theater that you can catch on stage frequently. But this production presents the camp classic the way it's meant to be experienced: in a small theater with big stars giving hilariously broad performances. Broadway and TV actor Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl, Newsies) plays Seymour, a nerdy flower shop worker who's manipulated into murder by a man-eating plant who promises him fame, fortune, and love. It's like Macbeth but with a lot more laughs! With iconic songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, including "Somewhere That's Green," "Suddenly, Seymour," and "Feed Me," amusing special effects, a hilarious performance by two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle as a sadistic dentist and a heartbreaking one by Tammy Blanchard as the fragile Audrey, this Little Shop is worth a visit.
Freestyle Love Supreme on Broadway at the Booth Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus
Freestyle Love Supreme – Midtown West
Thursday, October 7-January 2, 2022
Ages 10 and older
Long before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda was spitting rhymes as part of Freestyle Love Supreme, an improv hip-hop troupe he co-founded right out of college. The group has wowed audiences all over NYC during the past two decades, including a buzzy run on Broadway in 2019. Considering Miranda is one of theater's biggest champions, it's fitting he's getting the beatboxers and rappers back together for an encore engagement as Broadway emerges from the pandemic. Note that Miranda is not part of the core cast, though he is on the roster of rotating guest stars along with Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, James Monroe Iglehart, and Wayne Brady. Every performance is different as the bits depend on audience suggestions. The material tends to be PG-13—there's usually some profanity and sexual innuendo, but nothing kids haven't encountered by middle school. And certainly, this risqué humor is a lot more sophisticated!
Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation at Theatre Row. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Adaptation – Midtown West
Thursday, October 21-Sunday, January 30, 2022-
Ages 3 to 10
Puppet master Jonathan Rockefeller is well known for translating kid-lit classics to the stage: His previous productions include The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam. For his new show, he's collaborating with Disney Theatrical Productions to bring Winnie the Pooh and his eclectic pals to life through the magic of stunning, life-size puppetry. This hour-long show features the BFFs going on gentle adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood as they croon tunes by the Sherman Brothers, who penned songs for multiple Winnie the Pooh cartoons. It's an ideal first-time theater experience for little kids. And to make your life easier, the production is even offering free rapid COVID-19 testing on-site!
Generation Rise – Midtown West
Friday, November 5-Sunday, November 14
Ages 12 and older
While the New Victory Theater is known for mounting shows aimed at the youngest New Yorkers, every year it presents one production just for teens. And Generation Rise is actually made by teens for their peers. A group of Black, Latinx, and Asian-American adolescents from NYC tell their own stories of surviving 2020, not just the pandemic, but the challenges of remote learning and the calls for racial justice that got them marching in the streets. Co-produced by Ping Chong & Co and Urban Word, this is an of-the-moment piece that speaks directly to what young people are going through.
Nik Wallenda brings his star power and daring act to the Big Apple Circus. Photo courtesy of Big Apple Circus.
The Big Apple Circus: Making the Impossible, Possible! – Lincoln Center
Thursday, November 11-Sunday, January 30, 2022
Ages 3 and older
Talk about a comeback—NYC's homegrown circus has now survived bankruptcy and a pandemic! This fall, the troupe returns to its Lincoln Center home base with Making the Impossible, Possible!. Brazilian aerialist and America's Got Talent finalist Alan Silva serves as ringmaster, and the lineup of acts includes high-wire legend Nik Wallenda and comedic daredevil Johnny Rockett. Prepare to be awed and charmed.