Amid Bachelors in Paradise and Hannah Montanas, overly-produced multimedia spectacles and programs grotesquely referred to as “guilty-pleasure TV,” it can be a challenge to discover quality family entertainment that actually keeps everyone’s interest. You could indulge in modernity’s typical solution of trudging into a flashy, sticky movie theater to stare at the latest 3D animated “Super Characters 5: Please Let this End the Series” that boasts endless flying, singing, exploding pixel-people and a few mature innuendo every half an hour to somewhat keep parents engaged. Or you could consider looking to an actual theatre, with a curtain and a stage, for an alternative approach to Saturday night family time.
Much has changed in the realm of musicals in the past several decades: if Hello, Dolly! and Oklahoma! elicit an exasperated groan from your household, you are in luck, given the vast range of options beyond the corny dialogue and old-fashioned songs of shows past. If you’re ready to ditch the remote and treat your family to dose of culture and witty comedy, check out Charm City’s guide to our current selection of musical theatre on stage now!
The King and I
Venue: Kennedy Center
Date and time: Sat. August 19 at 7:30pm
Great for ages: 8+
A beloved classic from 1951, the King of Siam (modern-day Thailand) struggles to modernize his country while retaining the traditional values of their culture. An exuberant heroine from England, Anna, sets East against West amidst colonization, while a cross-cultural romance unexpectedly unfolds. Tons of children performers, beautiful costumes (the swirling, colorful hoop skirts and gilded Siamese headpieces will NOT disappoint!), and a unique foreign flavor will keep young audiences captive.
Love Never Dies
Date and time: Sat October 7 at 8:00pm
Great for ages: 13+
“Beneath a moonless sky…” true devotees of The Phantom of the Opera will relish this sublime sequel set forward ten years and an ocean apart: in sharp contrast to the high culture of Paris opera, Phantom has secluded himself in late Victorian Coney Island, directly in the center of a carnivalesque spectacle of American poshlust delights. Christine, Raoul, and son arrive in New York, and the dark romantic intrigue of years past floats to the murky surface. Confronted with the same decade-old choice, now clouded with more dire consequences, join in the danger and passion of one last chance to save Christine’s soul through music.
The Color Purple
Date and time: Sat October 21 at 8:00pm
Great for ages: 16+
This soulful, heavy performance does not shy away from the controversial content of the Pulitzer-prize winning Alice Walker novel, but paints a vibrant and powerful picture of the rural 1930s south and the egregious treatment of women. Despite the heartbreaking violence, experience a score of intense jazz, ragtime, gospel, and blues that delivers transformative emotion from pain to strength.
Venue: National Theatre
Date and time: Fri November 17 at 8:00pm
Great for ages: 13+
You won’t want to miss the world premiere of this new musical in DC this fall, before it even hits Broadway! Being popular in high school is a dramatic project to undertake, especially as a new student, and cliques of ferocious young women can be daunting. The Queen Bee of the teenage social hierarchy wields power and influence over clothes, boys, and all the essentials in high school life—and Mean Girls characterizes the social climb and ensuing chaos with scathingly witty comedy.
The Book of Mormon
Venue: Kennedy Center
Date and time: TBD November
Great for ages: 18+
From the creative team behind Avenue Q and South Park, this nine-time Tony award-winning musical is an explosion into the irreverent ridicule of religion, sexuality, social class, and race, playing “fast and loose with explicit language” – you may want to make this an outing for the adult crowd in your family. The story follows a naïve duo of Mormon missionaries to Africa, where devastating conditions complicate the matter of religious conversion. During its years on tour, this modern musical has drawn continuous crowds, never disappointing with old-school sound alike songs, hair metal homage, and parodies of absolutely anything under the Serengeti sun.
The Lion King
Date and time: Sat December 2 and Sat December 9 at 8:00pm
Great for ages: 6+
A close adaptation of the Disney classic with wild costumes, lively dance, real African savannah beasts paraded down the aisles, and all your favorite songs—definitely bring the children to this one! The energetic and exotic spectacle captures the hearts of young and old, so much so that the young may forget they aren’t watching a cartoon.
Date and time: Sat February 3 at 8:00pm
Great for ages: 12+
Originally starring Sara Bareilles, who also composed the music and lyrics, this romantic comedy movie-turned-musical with a passion for pies tells a typical story of feeling trapped in a loveless marriage with a baby on the way, while dramatic affairs ensue. An empowering tale that preaches finding your own way and embracing your dreams, even the music radiates “girl-power.”