Spring Theater Preview: 15 Family-Friendly Stage Shows in NYC

Catch the Paw Patrol gang live during The Great Pirate Adventure at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of VStar Entertainment.
Catch the Paw Patrol gang live during The Great Pirate Adventure at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of VStar Entertainment.

This spring, the family theater scene is finally back in full bloom! There are page-to-stage (or screen-to-stage) adaptations of preschooler favorites (Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, The Pout-Pout Fish, PAW Patrol Live!); inventive theatricalizations of beloved grade-schooler books (Dog Man: The Musical, Charlotte's Web); and powerful productions aimed at adolescents (Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Step Afrika!'s history-inspired Stono).

Best of all, most of these 15 family-friendly shows have tickets starting at $25 or less, so you can take the whole family for less than the price of one ticket to our favorite Broadway shows!

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In terms of COVID-19 precautions, as of press time, many theaters continue to require proof of full vaccination for audience members ages 5 and older, though some will allow children under 12 to present a negative COVID-19 test instead (either a PCR test taken within 72 hours of show time or an antigen test taken within six hours of the performance). Masks are usually required for everyone. Before purchasing tickets, be sure to verify the production's COVID-19 rules to avoid disappointment.

Click through to our listings for all the details, including prices, schedules, and locations.

Broadway Family Favorites – Noho

Sunday, April 3
Ages 6 and older
NYC-based casting director Stephen DeAngelis is behind this series at the Sheen Center, which invites families to introduce their kids to the magic of musical theater. Five Broadway vets perform classic and contemporary show tunes from beloved shows, followed by a Q&A session. A great way to prep your wee ones for their first trip to Broadway!

The Pout-Pout Fish comes to life on stage in puppet form in this page to stage family-friendly theater production
TheaterWorksUSA brings The Pout-Pout fish to life in puppet form at two local theaters this spring. Photo courtesy of the production

The Pout-Pout Fish – Corona

Sunday, April 3
Ages 3-10
Deborah Diesen's whimsical picture book series comes to life at Queens Theatre 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 find the way home. Can't make it on Sunday, April 3? The show is also playing at the Sheen Center in Manhattan on Saturday, May 14.

The Little Match Girl: The Concert – Harlem

Friday, April 8
Ages 10 and older
Yaya Youth Theater is behind this new musicalization of Hans Christian Andersen's poignant tale about a little girl selling matches on the street on New Year's Eve to help support her family. Performed at Harlem's glorious Riverside Church, this concert presentation features soaring songs and a talented young cast.

RELATED: Best Off-Broadway Shows for Kids: Affordable Children's Theater in NYC

The Selfish Giant/El Gigante Egoista is one of our favorite family-friendly stage shows in NYC
The Selfish Giant/El Gigante Egoista at Queens Theatre. Photo courtesy of PinProductions

The Selfish Giant/El Gigante Egoista – Corona

Saturday, April 9
Ages 5-10
As part of its Latin Culture and Dance Fiesta, Queens Theatre presents a timely take on Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, with one performance in English, the other in Spanish. At an unspecified border wall, itinerant peddlers use their wares to put on a play about a giant who builds a barrier around his garden to keep out the town's children, with magical unforeseen consequences. A fairy tale with an of-the-moment message.

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears – Park Slope, Brooklyn

Saturday, April 9-Sunday, April 10
Ages 3-8
Back in 1980, Nicolas Coppola opened the quaint Puppetworks theater, where he presents short adaptations of classic fairy tales. Preschoolers can marvel at just how much the title interloper eats, sleeps, and destroys in this rendition of Goldilocks & the 3 Bears, which stars whimsical hand puppets instead of the theater's usual marionettes. A great first-time theatergoing experience.

PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure – Midtown West

Saturday, April 9-Sunday, April 10
Ages 18 months-8 years
The perky puppy heroes of preschooler TV favorite PAW Patrol go on a pirate adventure at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Join the cool canines on the Sea Patroller as they set sail to save their mateys, Carlos and Tracker, and find some pirate booty before Mayor Humdinger steals it! Expect plenty of singing and dancing and adorable oversize puppy puppets.

Pinocchio: Carlo Collodi's 1883 Adventures of a Marionette – Park Slope, Brooklyn

Saturday, April 16-Saturday, August 6
Ages 3-8
Another production from the aforementioned Coppola's Puppetworks. This iteration of Pinocchio harks back to Carlo Collodi's original 19th-century novel, a metaphor of the human condition, though tots will still be captivated by the puppet boy's antics.

Step Afrika! in Stono
Step Afrika! in Stono at the New Victory Theater. Photos by Torrey Allen.

Stono – Midtown West

Editor's note: The live run of this show has been canceled due to the challenges of the pandemic. The show will still be available to stream beginning Friday, April 22. 
Step Afrika! returns to The New Victory Theater with a powerful performance about the 1739 Stono rebellion in South Carolina, which led to the Negro Act that stripped enslaved Africans of many rights, including the use of drums. The troupe uses its signature blend of percussive, traditional African and contemporary dance for this exhilarating history lesson about resistance and resilience. 

RELATED: Best Broadway Musicals for Families

Goldilocks & The Three Bears plays the stage at the 92nd Street Y this spring.
Goldilocks & The Three Bears plays at the 92nd Street Y. Photo courtesy of 92Y

Goldilocks & The Three Bears – Upper East Side

Sunday, May 1-Sunday, May 8
Ages 3-10
The 92nd Street Y's Theater for Young Audiences series puts an Upper East Side spin on this iconic fairy tale. It's the first day at Camp Yomi at the Y and Goldilocks finds herself in quite a porridge with a trio of tap-dancing bears. Expect original tunes and some unexpected twists.

How to Catch a Star – Midtown West

Wednesday, May 4-Sunday, May 15
Ages 3 and older
Oliver Jeffers' picture books are beloved for his winsome illustrations and charming stories. Lauded Irish children's theater company, Branar Téatar do Pháistí, has managed to capture the magic of his How to Catch a Star through gorgeous puppetry and music by Colm Mac Con Iomaire, a violinist and singer for the Dublin rock band The Frames. Wee ones and their parents will be enchanted by this tale of a little boy with a seemingly impossible dream: to bring a star down to Earth. Presented by the Irish Arts Center.

Charlotte's Web – Noho

Saturday, May 7-Sunday, May 8
Ages 6-12
Bring tissues to TheaterWorksUSA's stage adaptation of E. B. White's classic novel about the unlikely friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig at the Sheen Center. That bittersweet ending gets us every time.

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Midtown West

Friday, May 20-Sunday, June 5
Ages 16 and older
For more than a quarter-century, New York City Children's Theater has been presenting exceptional stage adaptations of kids' books for young audiences. But this spring, the venerable company expands its reach with a mature show aimed squarely at teens and adults: a theatricalization of Maya Angelou's harrowing 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Adapted by award-winning playwright Idris Goodwin, it's fashioned as a memory play, with Maya visiting the abandoned general store where she grew up and recalling how she overcame her tumultuous upbringing. Be warned, while it's ultimately an inspirational journey, the 40-minute show includes moments of verbalized child sexual violence, racist slurs, and violent imagery, so heed the age recommendation.

RELATED: Dazzling Flip Circus Is Set for New York, New Jersey Tour

Dog Man: The Musical is a family-friendly theater show in NYC this spring
Catch up with Dog Man on stage at the Queens Theatre in May. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Dog Man: The Musical – Corona

Sunday, May 29
Ages 5-10
Based on Dav Pilkey's bestselling picture book series of the same name, this TheaterWorksUSA musical at Queens Theatre follows BFFs George and Harold as they try to transform their crime-fighting comic book canine into a stage star. Half-human, half-dog, and all goofy hero, Dog Man wants to save the city he loves from a cavalcade of kooky villains. But he'll only win if his creators can find a way to finish the show. Written by the team behind the stage adaptation of Click, Clack, Moo and the Emmy-winning PBS series Peg + Cat, Dog Man: The Musical is catnip for fans.Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster
Mo Willems' classic storybook starring Leonardo comes to life at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Manual Cinema.

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster – Midtown West

Saturday, June 4-Sunday, June 26
Ages 5-7
The endlessly inventive multimedia collective Manual Cinema is behind this charming stage adaptation of Mo Willems' popular picture book Leonardo, The Terrible Monster at The New Victory Theater. Using surprisingly expressive paper puppets, projections, and live music, the troupe conjures the tale of a monster who's terrified he's not scary enough. When he seeks the most sensitive kid in the world, will he frighten or befriend him? If you can't make the show in person, a recording is available to stream beginning Saturday, June 4.

Pinkalicious' pink indulgence lands her at the doctor's office with Pinkititis in Pinkalicious the Musical at the Soho Playhouse. Photo courtesy of the production

Pinkalicious The Musical – Soho

Through Sunday, June 26
Ages 2-7
Vital Children's Theatre presents an encore run of its musical based on Victoria Kann's picture book about a little girl who eats so many pink cupcakes she turns that hue! At first she's tickled pink, but ultimately she learns it's not her color. A whimsical argument for making your kids eat their greens!

Winnie the Pooh is back on stage at Theatre Row this spring
Larger-than-life puppets bring Winnie the Pooh (and Piglet, too!) to life on stage at Theatre Row. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Winnie the Pooh – Midtown West

Saturday, June 18-Sunday, July 31
Ages 3-8
Puppet master Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam, brings his well-received adaptation of Winnie the Pooh back for an encore engagement. A collaboration with Disney Theatrical Productions, this sweet, hour-long musical brings the honey-loving bear and his eclectic pals to life with stunning, life-size puppets and classic songs by the Sherman Brothers, who penned the tunes for multiple Winnie the Pooh cartoons. An ideal first-time theater experience for preschoolers. Read our full review.

Places featured in this article:

Broadway Family Favorites and Charlotte's Web at the Sheen Center

The Pout-Pout Fish, The Selfish Giant and Dog Man: The Musical at Queens Theatre

The Little Match Girl: The Concert at Riverside Church

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears and Pinocchio at Puppetworks

Stono and Leonardo! at the New Victory Theater

PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden

Goldilocks & The Three Bears at 92Y

How to Catch a Star at Irish Arts Center

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Winnie the Pooh at Theatre Row

Pinkalicious at Soho Playhouse
Sparkling the Heart of Fordham
Bryan Park - 4:00 PM Pick
Carroll Park Holiday Tree Lighting
Carroll Park Carroll Gardens - 5:00 PM Pick
The New York Botanical Garden - 5:00 PM Pick
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