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Best NYC Kids’ Shows for Fall 2011: 9 Fun Family-Friendly Productions

So far this week we’ve highlighted 16 cool concerts and 8 awesome museum exhibits that we’re excited to take our kids to this fall. Now we come to my personal favorite: theater.

Although a few of veteran children’s troupes, like TADA! Youth Theater and the Atlantic Company for Kids, won’t be debuting new productions until spring, there are still plenty of wonderful children’s shows hitting New York City stages this fall.

We’re skipping pricey Broadway musicals and familiar fairy tales in favor of more eclectic and inexpensive fare, like Eric Carle’s classic stories told through black-light puppetry, a multi-genre dance mash up and a lot of stage adaptations of beloved children’s books. Here are our top picks for children’s theater this autumn.

The Reluctant Dragon – Park Slope
Through December 18: Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30pm and 2:30pm
PuppetWorks
338 Sixth Avenue at 4th Street
$8 for adults, $7 for children
Ages 3 and up
This Brooklyn mainstay regularly presents puppet shows of popular tales. The main attractions here are the gorgeous, handcrafted marionettes, as well as the cheap ticket prices. This adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's 19th-century fantasy sounds a bit like How to Train Your Dragon, only with a little girl befriending a poetry-reading creature (and no noisy special effects).

Uncle Pirate – Upper West Side
September 24-November 14: Saturdays and Sunday at 11am and 1pm
Vital Theatre
2162 Broadway at 76th Street, Fourth Floor
$25 and up
Ages 3 and up
Vital Children’s Theatre is reviving its musical adaptation of Douglas Rees' fanciful chapter book, about a sad-sack kid whose goofy pirate uncle comes to town and makes him cool. While most of Vital’s other page-to-stage adaptations appeal mainly to girls (Pinkalicious, Angelina Ballerina), this show has a male lead and lots of boyish attractions. Not that girls won’t like it. My daughter certainly did—especially the talking penguin.

The Little Prince – Midtown West
October 1-16. Click here for schedule.
New Victory Theater
209 W 42nd Street between Broadway and Eight Avenue
$14-$38
Ages 6 and up
Perhaps I’m a little dead inside, but ever since I was a kid I’ve hated Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous children’s book about a plane-wrecked pilot who meets a young royal on a seemingly endless interplanetary quest to understand the meaning of life. But this puppet adaptation by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar looks magical, and reportedly eliminates a lot of the aviator’s dull dialog and adds a few musical numbers. There are also two Bunraku puppetry workshops being offered in conjunction with the show.

White – Midtown West
October 13-November 13. Click here for schedule.
New 42nd Street Studios
229 West 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue
$20
Ages 2-5
A great offering for first-time theatergoers, this wordless, interactive show stars a pair of pals who live in an all-white world. But as color creeps in they start to embrace rainbow hues. Presented by the New Victory Theater, this play is performed in a small studio, where families sit on cushions on the floor, and the performers and audience are on the same plane. It's a wonderful way to expose preschoolers to the magic of theater.

Treasured Stories by Eric Carle – Greenwich Village
Friday, October 14 at 10am, Saturday, October 15 at 11am and 2pm, Sunday, October 16 at 11am and 2pm
Jack. H Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 Laguardia Place at Washington Square South
$15-$25
Ages 3 and up
The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia has brought its beautiful, black-light puppet spectacles to the city before. I’ve never seen them personally (maybe this year), but the photos are amazing, and we all know how much preschoolers love Carle’s simple and sweet stories. This triple bill includes the troupe’s signature show, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, along with two new Carle adaptations: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – Tribeca
Saturday, October 15 at 1:30pm
Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street near West Street
$25
Ages 3-9
Another adaptation of a kid-lit classic, William “Shrek” Steig’s Caldecott Medal -winning book comes to life courtesy of the Enchantment Theatre Company. Sylvester is a childlike donkey who finds a magical pebble, which brings chaos to his life. He also learns a lot of lessons of course, including the importance of family and friends.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Growing Up on the Prairie – Tribeca
Saturday, November 5 at 1:30pm
Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street near West Street
$25
Ages 7-12
I absolutely loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books when I was a kid—I think I even liked them better than the TV series Little House on the Prairie. The ArtsPower National Touring Company dramatizes the harrowing adventures of an American heartland family in this musical, which tackles some pretty serious stuff like scarlet fever, poverty and eviction. We bet this will be a hit with the American Girl Doll-loving set.

Untapped! – Midtown West
November 11-27. Click here for schedule.
New Victory Theater
209 W 42nd Street between Broadway and Eight Avenue
$14-$38
Ages 6 and up
A group of acrobatic tap dancers from Australia are backed up by a live band and a beat boxer. The press materials caution that this show has a “loud, rock concert atmosphere,” which makes it sound like a must-see to us. There are also a handful of dance workshops being offered in conjunction with the show.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical – Greenwich Village
Friday, November 25 at 2pm, Saturday, November 26 at 11am and 2pm, Sunday, November 27 at 11am and 2pm
Jack. H Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 Laguardia Place at Washington Square South
$15-$25
Ages 3 and up
I saw this musical by the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences on Tour when it made its New York City debut earlier this year and I thought it was really smart and funny. Much as my daughter and I adore Mo Willems’s popular book, it needed a lot of fleshing out to turn it into a 50-minute show. My favorite addition was the Laundromat nightmare sequence, when Trixie’s dad literally dives into a washing machine and battles giant dirty clothes. But the show’s not for everyone: A fellow Mommy Poppins writer thought it was kind of dumb, although she admits her six-year-old son was transfixed. Although three is the recommended minimum age, I saw many families there with babies. Expect crying.

Find out about additional seasonal activities in our Fall Fun Guide.


Puppetworks
338 Sixth Avenue
Brooklyn , NY 11215

Vital Theatre
2162 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

New Victory Theater
209 W 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Jack. H Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 Laguardia Place
New York, NY 10012

Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10013

New 42nd Street Studios
229 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036