Best Broadway shows for kids
Disney's Tony-winning show continues to dazzle at the Minskoff. Any child who hasn't yet seen it must catch director Julie Taymor's wildly imaginative puppet spectacle. A cast of 46 sings the Elton John–Tim Rice score, which tells the story of Simba, a cub destined to be king of his pride. The vibrant costumes, singalong-worthy music and unbelievable sets can't be beat. Ages 6 and up.
The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), and his friends Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron (Paul Thornley), things turn dark very fast.
For the first time in forever, Disney's "Snow Queen"-inspired movie about sisterly love and a talking snowman is coming to Broadway. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and the whole gang will turn the St. James Theater into a winter wonderland full of songs from the original soundtrack. Expect phenomenal sets and stage-magic, plus a certain Oscar-winning song to get stuck in your head. All ages.
Based on novelist Gregory Maguire's 1995 adult variation on L. Frank Baum's Oz mythology, Wicked provides a prequel to the children's book and movie. The musical addresses complex themes, such as standards of beauty, morality and, believe it or not, opposition to fascism. Thanks to a witty book by Winnie Holzman (creator of ’90s cult angstfest My So-Called Life) and composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz's robust score, Wicked soars. While children five and up are permitted in the theater, little ones might be afraid of the flying monkeys—we'd recommend this show for kids that are a tiny bit older. Ages 8 and up.
This adaptation of the Disney classic tops the rest with its kiddie-crowd-pleasing laughs and upbeat music. Charming street urchin Aladdin brings his exotic world to Broadway along with beloved songs like "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me," plus several new tunes, which come to life onstage through music composed by Alan Menken and lyrics penned by Howard Ashman and Tony Award winner Tim Rice. Kids will be dazzled by the color-drenched production and awe-inspiring special effects, like a confetti cannon and fireworks. Ages 6 and up.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic, bombastic musical goes on. Directed by Harold Prince, The Phantom of the Opera is lavish and engaging enough to draw tourists more than two decades into its run. Although the score often strikes a cheesy 1980s synth-pop note, the spectacle and romance remain more or less intact. Ages 12 and up.
The show follows Dewey Finn, a failed musician posing as a substitute teacher at a refined prep school, as he shirks typical teaching practices to pass on his love of rock ‘n roll to his students. Regular NYC kids got the chance to jam out during open auditions for the show, and now they’ll hit the stage with Justin Colette—the energetic actor tasked with filling Jack Black’s shoes in the role of Dewey—to perform music from the movie, plus new tunes written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ages 8 and up.
In 1927 Leningrad, the scrappy, strapping Dmitry (Derek Klena) and the worldly, roguish Vlad (John Bolton) devise a scheme to pass off a street sweeper, Anya (Christy Altomare), as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna Romanov, rumored to have survived the massacre of the rest of her royal family in the Russian Revolution 10 years earlier. But as the con men school her, My Fair Lady–like, in the ways of nobility—hoping to deceive Anastasia’s grandmother in Paris, the Dowager Empress (an elegant Mary Beth Peil)—it emerges that Anya may be the real Anastasia after all. Who knows? Not Anya: She has amnesia. What former self might be nested like a doll inside her, waiting to be revealed? And might there be other dolls inside that one? Ages 12 and up.
Teenage girls rule in the tart but sweet new Broadway musical Mean Girls. But their system of high-school government is far from a democracy: It’s a reign of terror, angst and mall fashions, where popularity is arrogated and then ruthlessly enforced. Having spent her childhood being home-schooled in Kenya, nature and math enthusiast Cady (Erika Henningsen) is initially confused by the rigid caste system of her new school in Chicago. She tries to be nice, but the ruthlessness of American teenage culture brings out Cady’s predatory instincts. She reverts to the mean. A canny crossbreed of Heathers and Hairspray, the musical has been adapted by Tina Fey from her own 2004 cult movie, and updated to reflect the new realities of smartphones and social media. Ages 12 and up.
In this captivating original musical, Hello, Dolly! scene-stealer Taylor Trensch now plays the title role of a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. Ages 12 and up.
Based on the 2007 indie film by the late writer-director Adrienne Shelly, Waitress has been whipped (I’ll stop now) into an expertly constructed and emotionally satisfying tale of self-liberation in the face of limited options. Jessie Nelson’s broadly comic yet brooding book meshes wonderfully with a frisky, bright score by pop star Sara Bareilles, a seasoned songwriter who lets the Beatles and other Britpop influences shine through. Bareilles’s custom-built earworms address workplace pluck (“Opening Up”), first-date jitters (“When He Sees Me”), quirky, obsessive love (“Never Ever Getting Rid of Me”) and an eleventh-hour ballad of loss and regret (“She Used to Be Mine”), which will rip your heart out.