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Broadway shows, children's theater, puppet plays, and more your family will love to stream at home.

By Ruthie Fierberg
March 26, 2021
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From darkened theaters on Broadway to shuttered national touring houses and closed-down local children's theaters and school plays, the pandemic has devastated the theater industry. But there is a silver lining: theater has never been more accessible.

Streaming services like BroadwayHD have bulked up their repertoire of productions, new digital platforms like Broadway On Demand have emerged, and theaters across the country have innovated to produce virtual performances for young audiences. You and your family can now experience the magic of theater from the safety of your home.

The best part? Theater engagement can encourage creativity, enhance academic performance, and improve overall mental health, which is why it's best to introduce your kids to the art form at an early age. Make theater a habit.

What's more, seeing theater as a family has never been more affordable. Tune in to a free performance, pay a low-cost monthly subscription fee, or pay a one-time rental fee. The choices can overwhelm, so here's a list of the best virtual performances so you can take advantage of this moment of peak accessibility.

For the Whole Family

Theater doesn't need to be "children's theater" to be for kids. There are numerous shows made for adults that appeal to all ages. (Take it from the woman who saw the national touring production of Cats at age 2 and became a lifelong theater fan.)

42nd Street

The tap dance extravaganza mesmerizes with its choreography and the sparkle and splash of a big Broadway show. This recording is a "capture," meaning the show was performed live onstage and filmed so you can enjoy the full production value as if you sat inside the theatre. 42nd Street is a wholesome musical about small-town Peggy Sawyer hoping to make it on Broadway. When the leading lady gets hurt, it may be up to Peggy save the whole show. BroadwayHD (Free seven-day trial. Purchase a subscription, $8.99 per month or $99.00 per year.)

Billy Elliott: The Musical Live

There's something magical about seeing kids your own age on stage and in the case of Billy Elliott, a child leads the show. Captured in London's West End (the Broadway of the U.K.), Billy is a young boy who chases his dream—trading boxing for ballet—despite criticism. Set against the backdrop of the 1980s miner's strike, the musical contains political undertones (likely to engage you, but float over your little one's head). It's a musical about being true to yourself with songs by Elton John. BroadwayHD / Ages 9 and up (Contains adult language)

Cats

One of the most playful musicals ever made, this is a 1998 capture of the London production. There is no plot, but loads of joy. Cats is a collection of T.S. Eliot poems set to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music (which wreaks of '80s synth and spirit). Your kids will delight in the realistic cats costumes and makeup. Don't be surprised if they start crawling around the house like felines. BroadwayHD / All ages

Cirque du Soleil: Kooza

The Quebec-born troupe has become a global phenomenon, reinventing circus arts. BroadwayHD offers 10 Cirque titles, but a good choice is Kooza which combines the signature acrobatic performances with light-hearted clowning. BroadwayHD / Ages 5 and up

Daddy Long Legs

A love story based on the eponymous novel, watch this capture of the acclaimed Off-Broadway production. Though you don't have to worry about anything inappropriate for the youngest of viewers, the sweet and endearing story of a man and woman who fall in love through letters will be most enjoyed by kids ages 10 and up. The sweeping, romantic score will have the whole family humming. BroadwayHD / All ages

Hamilton

You don't have to spend $1,000 per ticket to see the once-in-a-generation masterpiece. Watch the Broadway capture of the most Tony-nominated musical of all time in high definition. There are guns, some sexual themes in Act 2, and mild language that earns its PG-13 rating, though many kids younger than that have the cast album memorized. Disney+ / PG-13

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn

An old-school song-and-dance show reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this is a capture of the original 2016 Broadway production. The musical tells the story of a fabulous inn that puts on splashy shows to celebrate the holidays from Thanksgiving to Fourth of July. If your kids are High School Musical fans, they'll be excited to see grown-up Corbin Bleu as a tap-dancing extraordinaire. BroadwayHD / All ages

Into the Woods

Stephen Sondheim fuses familiar fairy tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and more) in this clever and whimsical musical. This production, captured at London's Regent's Park Open Air theatre, won the Olivier Award (see: U.K. Tony Awards) for Best Musical Revival. For the youngest children you may choose to stop watching after Act 1 as Act 2 gets a little dark. BroadwayHD / All ages, but Act 2 recommended for 8 and up

The King and I

This Tony Award-winning Broadway musical revival was later transferred to London, where this performance was captured. This is an opportunity for you and your kids to see the best of the best in acting and stage design. An English teacher (Tony winner Kelli O'Hara) arrives in Siam to teach the King's many children, but she and the King (Tony nominee Ken Watanabe) are the ones who truly learn the lessons. Rodgers' and Hammerstein's score soars. You don't get more lavish than this—the boat Mrs. Anna arrives on in the opening scene alone will blow your kids' minds. BroadwayHD / Ages 8 and up

Newsies: The Broadway Musical

You may have grown up with the movie musical starring Christian Bale, but this is a capture featuring the original Broadway cast led by Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl). The dancing is next level—you will gasp. It's a classic underdog story with music by Disney favorite Alan Menken (Aladdin). A must-watch. Disney+ / Rated PG

She Loves Me

Meet the 1960s musical version of You've Got Mail. This is the 2016 Tony-nominated Best Revival production with Tony winners Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), and Tony nominee Zachary Levi (Shazam!). BroadwayHD / Ages 11 and up

Shrek: The Musical

Everyone's favorite ogre (Tony nominee Brian d'Arcy James) steps onto the Broadway stage, complete with a diminutive Lord Farquaad, sidekick Donkey, and no-nonsense Princess Fiona (Tony winner Sutton Foster). The biggest delight of the musical capture is the fantasy world come to life in brilliant costumes and sets. Netflix / Ages 7 and up

Slava's Snowshow

Combining the traditions of mime and commedia dell'arte, this performance is a gentle and quiet introduction to theater. Without dialogue, Slava entertains with simplicity, hilarious antics, and a magical onstage snowstorm in this capture. BroadwayHD / All ages

The Woodsman

Another wordless play, The Woodsman is the origin story of The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man told via live actors and life-size puppets. But this isn't your basement puppet show. The special effects, mysterious quality, and dark tones will leave you breathless. BroadwayHD / Ages 12 and up

Just for Kids

Theater productions made specifically for children with abbreviated run times and educational themes interwoven.

Bradical and the Pink Socks

A breezy 20-minute original Zoom musical (performers play their parts from the safety of their own homes and appear in individual Zoom boxes) about being proud of who you are, even when bullies try to get you down. Off-Broadway writer Preston Max Allen wrote the music and lyrics to these catchy songs your kids will love. Broadway On Demand / Ages 5-10

Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story

This English-Spanish capture combines puppetry and live performers in a fresh take on the classic fairy tale, highlighting cultural heritage and the role of language in our lives. Located in Washington, D.C., the Kennedy Center is one of the top theatrical producers in the nation. It teams up with Glass Half Full Theatre for Cenicienta on demand through June 27. To watch, you will need to purchase a Performances for Young Audiences Digital Subscription ($60), that will also offer access to five additional productions. Kennedy-Center.org / Ages 5 and up

Center for Puppetry Arts

Jim Henson opened the Center (both a museum and performance space) in 1978. The Center released archival footage of 14 marionette shows, the most popular of which include Dinosaurs, The Body Detective, and Weather Rocks. Artistic director Jon Ludwig and producer Kristin Haverty count Ruth and the Green Book, Click Clack Moo, and The Little Pirate Mermaid as their top three. Take a peek at their work. Puppet.org $5 rentals / All ages

Frederick

Chicago Children's Theatre presents this delicate and engaging 10-minute puppet show of the Caldecott Award-winning picture book by Leo Lionni. Think of it as a theatrical Baby Mozart. Broadway On Demand / Ages 0-5

Grimmz Fairy Tales

Jay and Will Grimmz present this hip-hop retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including Snow White and the Seven Shawties, Down with Rapunzel, Hanzel & Gretel: Lost in the Streets, and Cinderella Remix. Captured at the Children's Theatre of Charlotte, the rhythm and lights will captivate your kids. Broadway On Demand (additional rental with subscription—only available through March 31) / All ages

My Wonderful Birthday Suit

A gorgeous exploration of friendship and race, this capture also comes from Children's Theatre of Charlotte. Your kids will feel like they stepped inside a rainbow for this birthday celebration, while also learning lessons like forgiveness. Broadway On Demand (additional rental with subscription—only available through March 31) / Ages 3-8

The Tiny Tree

With this great puppet production, travel to a distant galaxy as a father-son duo have to make a crash landing on an uninhabited planet. When they discover the unexpected, the pair learn the importance of caring for each other. Honolulu Theatre for Youth knocks it out of the park with this one. HTYWeb.org / Ages 3 and up

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

Eric Carle's classic children's book comes to life in this vibrant livestream production from Metro Theater Company in St. Louis. (The show received fantastic reviews during its New York run.) Featuring 75 puppets, this English-Spanish streaming presentation runs April 28 to May 16. Purchase a ticket ($20) to a select livestream to watch the live performance in real time. MetroPlays.org / All ages

Vasthy's Friends

Veteran Broadway performer Vasthy Mompoint hosts this free YouTube series, showcasing the artistry of her Broadway pals. Each video is only a minute long, but watch all 35 back-to-back and you've got yourself a full half hour of singing and dancing fun. VasthysFriends.com / Ages 2-7

Yana Wana's Legend of the Blue Bonnet

A poetic look at Indigenous culture through a theatrical lens, 13-year-old Maria "visits her Native grandmother and learns about the Yana Wana people's survival through a threatening drought." With music and Native dance, and tapping on Native traditions, this is a beautiful and moving performance. Broadway On Demand (additional rental with subscription) / All ages

Zócalo Festival

Beginning April 10, Child's Play theater in Arizona offers a virtual festival of music, dance, and theater performances in Spanish and English. All videos are free to the public. ChildsPlayAZ.org for more information

Autism-Friendly Theater

Sign up for the TDF Autism-Friendly mailing list at TDF.org/autism for access to these free events.

The Magic of Kevin Spencer: Virtual Magic Show

You have two chances to watch this magic show livestream that also features audience participation. On May 2, 2021 at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. ET, experience magic in a relaxed, judgement-free zone. All ages

For Teens

Andi Boi

Dallas Children's Theater's new production tackles gender identity and transitioning in this safe, compassionate, issue-driven play. Though serious, the play also offers comedy and heart in this capture (which also includes an augmented reality integration for tech-savvy teens). A post-show conversation is also available with the $20 ticket purchase. DCT.org / Ages 13 and up

Driving Miss Daisy

Two legends—James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury—star in this capture of the now-classic tale of race and friendship. BroadwayHD / Ages 14 and up

Falsettos

What does it mean to be a family? The capture of the revered Broadway musical revival revolves around a gay man, Marvin, his ex-wife, son, and partner who has AIDS as they navigate the answer to that question. BroadwayHD / Ages 14 and up

Memphis

Now you can watch the Broadway capture of the 2010 Tony-winning best musical at home. The birth of rock and roll hits the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and a forbidden love could fuel a cultural revolution. Includes themes of racial injustice and an incident of racially-fueled violence. BroadwayHD / Ages 14 and up

Pipeline

This is a powerful, must-see capture of the astounding Off-Broadway play. Nya is an inner-city public school teacher; her son is a student at a private prep school. When the son's rage gets the better of him, the disparities between public and private education, treatment of Black and white students, come to the fore. BroadwayHD / Ages 14 and up

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