Let’s face it: Broadway is expensive and so are children. Combine the two and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind memorable (but pricey) evening, so it’s important that you pick the right show for your child, whatever the age. After all, no adult want to sit next to a squirmy, bored kid, and no kid want to sit next to a squirmy adult during awkward moments of irreverent humor. In that vein, we’ve broken down the best shows on Broadway right now by most appropriate age group — elementary, middle and high school — and explained what makes them so great for each. After all, this is a night they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, so you might as well make it one of the best, too. Keep in mind that no matter the age, these are not simply “kid shows”; each offers joys for the more mature (and more seasoned) theatergoers among us as well.
See our picks below, and for more check out our family shows page.
SHOWS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
This showis a no-brainer for young girls. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic book, Matilda takes audiences inside the vivid mind of a girl in a difficult situation. She rebels in her own way — by creating an alternate world, something to which younger children can easily relate. Four different young actresses alternate in the title role (collectively, they won the Tony), so young ladies will likely be dreaming of making it on Broadway themselves. Not to mention, the musical is known for its astonishing stagecraft and toe-thumping songs. Trust us, there won’t be a squirmer in the house.
Elizabeth Furze, Managing Partner at AKA, the ad agency that handles the show says that parents particularly like that Matilda is “the story of a young girl who sees the world she lives in and wants to make it better for her and for those around her. For parents, that’s a smart message.” Get tickets
Disney’s newest Broadway offering is one spectacle after another — a genie ascends out of the stage, a cave entrance comes alive and, yes, a carpet flies. Young kids, especially those familiar with the movie, will be wowed by the effects in Aladdin and laugh heartily at the antics of the supporting cast. Girls will root for the independent-minded princess and boys will be thrilled by the sword fights, while the central messages of following your heart and standing up for what you believe in will appeal to children of both sexes. Get tickets
The Lion King
For elementary school-aged children of either sex, there’s The Lion King. The Disney musical is the granddaddy of all family shows. Most kids have seen the movie many times, and Tony-winner Julie Taymor’s staging brings it to life with unforgettable costumes and sets. Elton John and Tim Rice’s score really sings, making this one theatrical experience that will likely be on repeat in your own home for weeks or months to come. Get tickets
SHOWS FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
The Phantom of the Opera
Having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, The Phantom of the Opera has the distinction of being the longest-running show in Broadway history. The subject matter is ideal for middle-grade kids as it involves a sophisticated love story that brings up complicated issues of obsession and unattainable love. Chances are also high that kids of this age will be intimately familiar with the lush Andrew Lloyd Webber score. And that falling chandelier never fails to impress even the most seasoned of theater-goers. Get tickets
The gold standard for young girls and Broadway, Wicked is highly relatable to those undergoing the emotional roller coaster that is middle school. Subtitled The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, the musical has a hummable score by Stephen Schwartz that should be on every young theater fan’s iPod.
“This show has two amazing female roles that dominate the story, along with a score that appeals to younger girls because of its pop aspect,” says Pariseau of the Broadway Teaching Group. “It offers an immediately recognizable connection because of the two characters.”
Grace Gorant, age 14, who recently saw the show says she could easily relate to it. “I liked how much it connected with The Wizard of Oz and how there was a backstory with two sides to the characters,” she says, adding, “It’s just cool.” Get tickets
When it returns to Broadway this spring, Les Misérables will be back in New York for the second time since its debut here in 1987. What makes it great for middle graders is its savvy mix of music, story and theatrics. Like Phantom, the show has a score that most young theater fans will know inside and out. Set against the political landscape of the French Revolution, the show deals with meaty issues like crime and punishment, bringing them to life through unforgettable characters, so it’s far from a drab history lesson. Fans of the recent movie will also appreciate seeing it live and on stage. Get tickets
On the Town
If you’ve got a kid who is wide-eyed for the big city, On the Town is the show for all of you. It’s about three sailors who hit Manhattan with 24 hours of shore leave, and before they’re done, they’re going to see the sights, fall in love and sing some great songs, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Who wouldn’t love everything about this? There’s also amazing dancing and some saucy tunes like “I Can Cook, Too.” And they will be singing “New York, New York” over and over after the final curtain falls. For kids, this is a wonder: They get to experience the magic of New York City, and it all happens in a musical. Get tickets
SHOWS FOR HIGH SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Okay, fine, they probably don’t know Carole King’s back story and they have only heard her amazing songs coming out of your car stereo. But high schoolers will immediately identify with the opening scenes of Beautiful, when teenage Carole stands up for herself to pursue her passions, follow her dreams and really make it big. And then they’ll find themselves smiling when she pens “The Loco-Motion” (and chances are they’ll tap their toes too) and feel the emotion when King steps into the spotlight and sings such iconic classics like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” Just try not to embarrass them on the way home, when they are singing to the stereo right along with you. Get tickets
The newly minted Tony winner for Best Musical, Kinky Boots is a rare breed of Broadway show: edgy, funny and with a healthy dose of cross-dressing thrown in for good measure. It also has an on-point message about being yourself to fit in, a theme that high-school kids will likely embrace. A score by Tony-winner Cyndi Lauper, a book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein and a star turn by Billy Porter, who won the Tony for Best Actor, don’t hurt either.
“The show does a really good job about making it not about sexuality, but about individuality,” says Drew Hodges, the founder and CEO of Spotco, the theatrical advertising agency. “It’s about finding your own hopes and dreams, and that’s a really powerful message for high school time.” Get tickets
The Book of Mormon
The runaway smash from the creators of South Park and one of the co-creators of Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon is not your parents’ Broadway musical. Though the story line seems chaste — two young missionaries are sent to Africa to convert people to Mormonism — the show employs some pretty jaw-dropping humor. Its heart is in the right place, however, and theatergoers have fallen for this Tony award-winner for Best Musical big-time.
As for all those rude jokes, Turner Hall, age 14, was fine with them. “They used a lot of words that weren’t good to say, but it was all about the context,” he says. “And you have to remember, it’s just a show.” Get tickets
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