Spring Theater for NYC Kids: Peppa Pig, Acrobats, Peter Rabbit
Beloved children's characters spring to life this season. Our top theater picks for the coming months include page-to-stage adaptations of classic kid stories like Peter Rabbit and the oeuvre of Dr. Seuss. There are also a number of immersive, multi-sensory productions created specifically for preschoolers while tweens can thrill to offbeat circus performances and the just-opened The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, which we highlighted in our winter theater roundup.
While the highly anticipated family musicals Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Anastasia both open on Broadway this month, there's no need to shell out big bucks to give your kids a memorable live entertainment experience in NYC. Most of the 15 shows we're spotlighting are just $25—or less—per ticket.
Click through to our listings for all the details, including price, complete schedule, and location.
Something — Midtown West
Friday, March 31-Sunday, April 16
Ages 6 and older
A combination of physical theater, dance, and circus skills, this comic spectacle at the New Victory Theater features seven acrobats who are as funny as they are flexible. The wacky brainchild of Italy's Liberi Di company, Something is a series of surreal and silly vignettes in which everyday activities go amusingly awry. Although it's officially aimed at ages 6 and older, there's no plot or dialog to follow, and it's just an hour. If you've got an attentive preschooler you can probably make Something work. There is also an Autism-friendly showing for those with sensory sensitivities.
The immersive Campfire at Lincoln Center Kids takes young theatergoers on a virtual adventure. Photo by Alexis Buatti-Ramos/courtesy of Lincoln Center.
Campfire — Lincoln Square
Saturday, April 1-Sunday, April 9
Trusty Sidekick, one of NYC's most innovative theater companies for young audiences, brings this immersive show for preschoolers to Lincoln Center Kids. Families gather inside a large "tent" and go on a virtual outdoor exploration. Young adventurers gaze through binoculars at the stars, meet exotic puppet creatures, and enjoy other make-believe alfresco fun. This hourlong experience completely engages the sippy-cup set, who get in on all the action. There are also several performances scheduled to welcome those on the Autism spectrum with a more relaxed environment.
Ferdinand — East Village
Saturdays April 1-May 13
Ages 3 and up
An inventive, contemporary twist on the iconic tale of a bull who preferred frolicking in flowers to fighting. In this version, Ferdinand is the child of a single dad struggling to raise his son with love and empathy. But how can the father teach him to be kind in a society constantly urging him to battle? This one may hit home even more with parents than kids.
Circus 1903 — Midtown West
Wednesday, April 5-Sunday, April 16
Ages 3 and older
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey may be going the way of the dodo but there's a new over-the-top circus coming to the Theater at Madison Square Garden featuring thrills, chills, and elephants. But before you call PETA take note: These pachyderms are actually incredibly lifelike puppets created by Significant Object, the same troupe behind the amazing steed in War Horse at Lincoln Center. The entire show has a retro, turn-of-the-20th-century vibe and aesthetic, with classic acts performed by world-class acrobats, aerialists, strongmen, contortionists, and sideshow stars.
In a Pickle, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, is done with tots in mind. Photo courtesy of theater company Oily Cart.
In a Pickle — Lincoln Square & Fort Greene
Saturday, April 22-Sunday, May 16
Jointly presented by BAMkids and Lincoln Center Kids, this interactive, hourlong riff on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale was created by England's Oily Cart, a theater company dedicated to very young audiences. When a shepherdess and her sheep discover an abandoned baby, the audience must help them find the family, a quest that takes tots through the woods and across the sea thanks to evocative scents, textures, colors, songs, and the power of imagination. The show runs at BAM April 22 to 30 and then moves to Lincoln Center May 6 to 13 (though seats for the latter are scarce so call if you want to try to snag tickets). Both venues are hosting a handful of "relaxed" performances, which cater to children on the autism spectrum or with other developmental differences.
Seussical — Corona, Queens
Sunday, April 23
The witty rhymes and kooky characters of Dr. Seuss come alive in Theatreworks USA's hourlong production, a truncated version of the Broadway musical created especially for kids. The Cat in the Hat guides audiences through numerous interwoven stories, which should be familiar to young fans of the author—especially if they love Horton the Elephant since his literary adventures figure prominently.
Nivelli’s War tackles serious themes like displacement for school-age kids. Photo by Carrie Davenport/courtesy New Victory Theater.
Nivelli's War — Midtown West
Friday, April 28-Sunday, May 7
Ages 8 and older
Inspired by a true story, this WWII drama examines the friendship between Ernst, a young evacuee from Frankfurt who meets Mr. H, a mysterious stranger who owns a magic shop. Together they set off on a treacherous journey to reunite Ernst with his family. Aimed at tweens, this hourlong show is a delicate way to introduce school-age kids to the terrible realities of war and displacement with a relatable adolescent character at its center.
New York, New Year — Chelsea
Saturday, April 29-Sunday, May 21
Ages 3 and older
All of TADA!'s shows star members of its Resident Youth Ensemble, a diverse group of talented tykes ages 8 to 18. But once they age out of the program they don't disappear. Case in point: Former Ensemble member Christina Franklin appeared in New York, New Year when it originally premiered back in 1999. Eighteen years later, she's not only directing the show, she has also revised it! The hourlong musical follows the misadventures of a young girl who moves from Missouri to New York City with her family. But will she be able to find a place where she belongs in her new home? If coming with tots, be sure to ask for seats in the front row—that bench is reserved for TADA!'s youngest audiences.
If you have a Peppa fan at home, the Peppa Pig Live! show won't disappoint! Photo courtesy of the production.
Peppa Pig Live! — Staten Island
Saturday, April 29
If your preschooler missed Peppa Pig when she made her U.S. stage debut last year, your family has another chance to catch her at Staten Island's historic St. George Theatre. The proper British swine and all her animal pals put on an upbeat, song-and dance-filled puppet performance, complete with muddy puddles and plenty of snorts. An excellent first-time live entertainment experience. By the way, Peppa just announced a second live show for fall 2017 (Peppa Pig's Live Surprise), though there aren't any NYC dates on the calendar yet.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale — Tribeca & Flatbush
Saturdays, April 29 and May 13
Ages 5 and older
African dance, drumming, and songs are used to bring John Steptoe's beloved picture book to the stage. When an African king goes searching for a wife, Mufaro’s gorgeous daughters are definitely on his radar. But beauty is only skin deep—which one is worthy of his love? You can catch this production on April 29 at Brooklyn College's Walt Whitman Theatre or the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on May 13.
Golden Dragon Acrobats — Flatbush
Sunday, April 30
Ages 4 and older
China's Golden Dragon Acrobats swing into town for an eye-popping spectacle at Brooklyn College's Walt Whitman Theatre. Athletic feats are the focus here, like hand-to-hand and bicycle balancing, plate juggling and spinning, and aerial arts, all performed in gorgeous traditional costumes. A great introduction to China's take on the ancient art of circus.
Kids are the stars at Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth. Photo by Mommy Poppins.
Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth — Coney Island
Sunday, April 30
Ages 3 and up
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 children love seeing their peers on stage juggling, hula hooping, tumbling, clowning, plate spinning and even snake charming. Is your kid 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.
A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular — East Village
Thursday, May 4-Sunday, May 14
Ages 5 and older
Speaking of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, cofounders Stephanie Monseu and Keith Nelson and some of their talented pals present a spectacular starring grown-ups at the Connelly Theater. As the title implies, this production spotlights circus skills, comedy, and a DIY aesthetic as acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, vaudevillians, and sideshow performers show audiences what they've got. In the past, Bindlestiff only catered to family crowds at weekend matinees, but all performances during this two-week run are kid-friendly.
The Bremen Town Band — Morningside Heights
Saturday, May 6
Ages 6 and up
This brand-new puppet adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale features a motley crew of animals who band together to travel to Bremen in the hope of becoming musicians. The large-scale silhouette puppets, some up to six feet in height, and original tunes played by a live band bring the whimsical story to life at Columbia University's Miller Theatre.
Peter Rabbit — Greenwich Village
Saturday, May 6
In honor of author/illustrator Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday, Enchantment Theatre Company brings her tale of a mischievous bunny to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Colorful masks, colorful puppets, and evocative scenery help conjure Peter's misadventures in Mr. McGregor's vegetable garden.
Top photo: In a Pickle at Lincoln Center Kids and BAMkids. Photo courtesy of Oily Cart.