Lively theater for lively children: Five "don't miss" family-friendlyperformances this fall
Soon after Labor Day, family calendars fill up fast with fall season activities. The weeks of September into October become a crush of commitments – a whirl of social catch-ups, birthday parties, sports practices, even doctors’ appointments.
As you filter and decide what’s worth your family’s time and what’s not, consider putting these performances on your family calendar. They’re created for children and promise to be engaging, entertaining and educational.
In the spirit of the presidential election season, families can catch Meet The U.S. Presidents and Duck for President. For those who prefer fairy tales set to music, there’s Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as well as Hansel and Gretel, presented by Houston Grand Opera’s Opera To Go! Finally, Harry Potter fans are in for a spellbinding treat: the Houston Symphony family concert’s upcoming theme is Wands and Batons: The Music of Harry Potter and More.
When: Sept. 24-28, 11 a.m.
Where: Miller Outdoor Theatre, 281-373-3386, produced by Houston Grand Opera Opera to Go!
Story line: This fully staged opera tells the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel – the brother and sister who get lost in the woods and stumble upon a mysterious gingerbread house. They are lured inside the tempting home by a witch. The siblings must outsmart the witch to escape. This performance will be sung in English with Englebert Humperdinck’s musical score.
Opera To Go! Director Kade Smith says, “Children love to watch their favorite stories come to life before their eyes, and nothing brings a story to life better than a live performance with music.”
Length: 45 Minutes plus Q & A
Ticket price: Free
When: Sept. 25-30, various times
Where: Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street, 713-315-2525
Story line: This is the classic story of a beautiful young woman named Belle and her encounter with the Beast. The Beast is actually a prince whose appearance was transformed by an enchantress. The Beast is told that the only way he can break the spell and turn back into the prince is by loving someone, and being loved in return.
“Beauty and the Beast is a timeless piece that appeals to children and adults of all ages,” says Fran Macferran, president of the Hobby Center Foundation. “Disney has taken this classic fairy tale and told the story through the magic of musical theatre. The music is enchanting and the sets and costumes vibrant. This show had its premiere in Houston over 10 years ago and we're thrilled to be bringing it back for the entire family to enjoy, all over again.”
Length: 2 Hours and 30 minutes with intermission
Ticket price: starts at $45
When: Sept. 29-Oct. 27; Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Where:Main Street Theater, Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose Blvd., 713-524-6706
Storyline: This children’s musical is based on the popular book by Doreen Cronin. Duck is unhappy with the working conditions on Farmer Brown’s farm and campaigns to put himself in charge. Many parents like this book because it provides insight into the election process and explores the matters of responsibility and hard work.
“We are very excited about Duck for President! This series of books by Doreen Cronin (Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type, etc.) is so funny and engaging for both children and adults,” says Vivienne M. St. John, Theater for Youth’s producing diirector. “The chance to continue Duck’s adventure during an actual election season is a bonus – but it’s not a political show inany way: it’s about a Duck, after all! This is a silly, happy musical that we hope will be fun for everyone.”
Length: 80 minutes with intermission
Ticket price: $12- $16
When: Oct. 2-26, Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 & 27, 11 a.m.
Where: Heights Church of Christ, 1548 Heights Boulevard, 713-862-7112, produced by InterActive Theater Company
Story line: Four actors play 44 presidents in this show about American history and the role of the commander-in-chief. The script incorporates the ideals of liberty, freedom, justice and truth. The story also touches on ballots and chads.
“We bring the show back every four years, during presidential election years,” says Robb Brunson, artistic director of InterActive Theater Company. “It’s important to teach children the value of voting and the electoral process by seeing the history of the presidency. We start the show with the first four U.S. presidents, all founding fathers, as superheroes, and we introduce the audience to every president within the hour. ”
Length: 1 hour
Ticket price: $10, Reservations required
When: Oct. 6; two shows 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Where: Jones Hall, Presented by Houston Symphony, 713-224-7575
Story line: Families are invited to enter the magical world of Harry Potter. Kids and parents can dress up in wizard regalia and bring their brooms. Conductor Robert Franz will join them in costume: his concert garb is always dictated by the theme of the family concert. This performance features music from Harry Potter and Wagner’s "Ride of the Valkyries" and Dukas’ "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice."
“Wands and batons will test your Harry Potter knowledge to the extreme,” says Franz. “Can you tell which character we are describing just by hearing the music? That will be the challenge laid before our young Harry Potter fans as the Houston Symphony performs these incredible movie scores by John Williams.
"Thrown in for good measure will be an older, yet equally as popular musical apprentice. Dukas’ “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” will round out the morning, giving parents the perfect opportunity to introduce their young ones to the music of this Disney classic!”
Families can arrive early before the 10 a.m. concert or stay after the 11:30 a.m. concert to participate in activities including an instrument petting zoo and arts and crafts.
Length: 1 hour
Ticket price: $16 for children, $24 for adults
Bernadette Versoza is founder of ParentsPost.com, a new website that covers new and exciting things for families to do in the Houston area.