Fall Theater Preview: Chicago’s Best Shows for Kids

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Fall’s hottest tickets are for children’s theater. From teddy bears and picnics to llamas and their mamas, these are the family-friendly shows we’ll be first in line for.


“The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”
The itty-bittiest of theatergoers (ages newborn to four years) will be enthralled with Emerald City Theatre Company’s first production for this impressionable age bracket. Billed as a “play with me play,” the show takes the classic nursery song and turns it into a hands-on performing arts experience. Crawling on stage is not only allowed, but encouraged.

September 15-January 5
Tickets are $14 for ages one and up, $7 for those under one
Emerald City Theatre’s Little Theatre
2933 N. Southport Ave.
Lincoln Park
773-529-2690 x 810
Online: emeraldcitytheatre.com

“Llama Llama”
Little ones who love the Anna Dewdney “Llama Llama” books will get a kick out of this show which follows the furry character and his mama as they go through their daily routine. You’ll relate as the pair tackle everything from school stress to grocery store grievances to bedtime foibles. It’s best suited for ages 3-6.

October 5-January 5
Tickets are $10-$16
Apollo Theater
2540 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
Online: emeraldcitytheatre.com

“A Year With Frog & Toad”

Back by popular demand, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s production brings the beloved Arnold Lobel Frog & Toad books to life. The adventures are melded into a whimsical musical that follows the amphibian twosome through the four seasons and all the fun activities that go with them. With a song titled “Cookies,” you can’t go wrong.

October 9-November 24
Tickets start at $25
Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1076 N. Dearborn St.
Gold Coast
Online: chicagochildrenstheatre.org

“Hansel and Gretel”
The classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale plunges you into the world of two rascally children wandering into the words, where they discover a candy-covered cottage. Pint-sized audience members have a say in the action and can guide the two as they escape and make their way back home. With the help of an online guide, parents and teachers can turn a trip to the theatre into an educational outing.

October 12-November 16
Tickets are $10
Chicago Playworks at Merle Reskin Theatre
60 E. Balbo Dr.
The Loop
Online: theatre.depaul.edu

“Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat” 

Grab your little ghosts and goblins for a musical based on the new book written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin (the same team that wrote “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type” and “Dooby, Dooby Moo”). In it, a group of farm animals are having a Halloween party and, despite the protests of an ornery farmer, are determined to really whoop it up. On Saturdays and Sundays, go to the Stories Come Alive Hour, where you’ll get to know the drama through storytelling and on-your-feet games.

October 19-November 24
Tickets are $15; Stories Come Alive Hour is an extra $5
Lifeline Theatre
6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Rogers Park
Online: lifelinetheatre.com

He’s got no strings to hold him down. He also has help from kids in the audience, who are encouraged to guide him to make the right choices so that he becomes a real boy. Running just one hour, this show keeps even the most restless engaged as a favorite story comes alive — growing noses included.

October 17-November 27
Tickets are $12
Chicago Kids Company at Beverly Arts Center
2407 W. 111th St.
Online: beverlyartcenter.org

Wicked TourEmerald City

It’s back. The big Broadway production plunges you into the once-upon-a-time friendship between two “Wizard of Oz” characters: Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. We recommend this show for ages six and up, due to potentially frightening plot twists and stage effects (Elphaba flies across the stage on a broomstick).

October 30-December 21
Tickets are $37-$107
Oriental Theatre
24 W. Randolph St.
The Loop
Online: broadwayinchicago.com

“Mary Poppins”
You won’t need a spoonful of sugar to make this production go down smoothly. With classic songs like “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” combined with exciting dance numbers, parents will take a trip down memory lane. Meanwhile, kids make memories they’ll keep forever.

October 23-January 5
Tickets are $40-$48
Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre
10 Marriott Dr.
Online: marriotttheatre.com

“The Hundred Dresses”
Peppered with music by Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills, this production based on the Eleanor Estes book focuses on an elementary-school girl who gets teased by her classmates. Ultimately, it teaches kids about compassion and standing up for what is right. For families who want to extend the theatre going experience, there is a post-show discussion with the cast and a take-home program filled with activities and games.

November 1-10
Tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for children under 18
Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theatre
Northwestern University
2240 Campus Dr.
Online: communication.northwestern.edu

“Alice in Wonderland Jr” and “Into the Woods Jr”
Would your little one love to see other kids instead of adults take the stage? If so, head to Naperville for Kidz Kabaret’s fall productions of “Alice in Wonderland Jr” (performed by grades K-4) and “Into the Woods Jr.” (performed by grades 5-12). Both musicals get the audience singing and tapping their feet, and may inspire your kiddo to take the stage, too.

Performances of “Alice in Wonderland Jr” are December 12-16 and “Into the Woods Jr” are November 14-18
Tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for students and seniors
1665 Quincy Ave.
Online: kidzkabaret.fairladyproductions.net

Which of these shows will you buy tickets for? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Jen Peterson

Photos: Courtesy of Emerald City Theater Company, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Lifeline Theater, Joan Marcus / Broadway in Chicago