KidTripster Teen: Which family-friendly shows are worth your time, effort & money.
I’ve been going to see Broadway shows since I was three years old. I love experiencing live theater; it has a magical way of captivating audiences. Many shows on Broadway will spark your imagination and even blow your mind. However, some shows - as amazing as they may be - aren’t very family-friendly. So I’ve come up with a list of my favorite productions that are great for kids and teens, all while entertaining parents too.
KidTripster Tip: Some shows are so popular, you must book in advance, and you’ll rarely find discounted tickets. But if you’re flexible and looking to save money, the best way to get cheap tickets is to wait in line at one of the city’s three TKTS booths on the day of the show. Check the website to see what shows are generally being sold. Also the most popular TKTS booth (with the longest line, always!) is in Times Square. For a shorter line, try the one at South Street Seaport (corner of Front & John Streets) in Lower Manhattan.
KidTripster Tip: Looking for ways to score discount tickets to Broadway? By visiting Broadway Direct, you can enter for a chance to win a pair of discounted tickets to participating shows every day.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated to include current shows.
Photo courtesy: Joe Buglewicz
235 W. 44th St., Broadhurst Theatre
Everyone will love Anastasia! This show embodies girl power and gives audiences a female role model to look up to. It’s one of my favorite shows on Broadway right now. Based on an old legend and more recently, the 1997 animated flick, Anastasia tells of a young girl, Anya, suffering from amnesia in 1920s revolutionary Russia. She crosses paths with Dimitri and Vlad, who decide they will try to pass her off as the lost Romanov Duchess in order to collect a hefty reward from her grandmother in Paris. They soon discover that this girl knows way more about the Romanov family than she could ever learn in any book. Could Anya actually be the famous Duchess or is it all in her head? The costumes and sets are stunning, and the performances - especially from the wildly-talented Christy Altomare - will take your breath away. Recommended age: 7 and up. Be advised, there are a few mildly distressing scenes containing subtle violence.
KidTripster Tip: Sign up for information on Broadway Week, a program that offers buy one-get one free tickets to various shows twice a year.
Photo courtesy: Anastasia The Musical
1564 Broadway, Palace Theatre
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Not SpongeBob SquarePants! He recently relocated from Bikini Bottom and has taken up residence on stage in New York City. I know what you’re thinking – an animated sponge on Broadway? No way! Well, don’t discount this a-dork-able yellow Porifera (that's science talk for sea sponge) just yet. I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but I left the theater a devout fan of this wacky new musical. While it does pay homage to the Nickelodeon series, this stage version has a surprisingly, different take than the original. The creative team brings the cartoon to life in a novel way – and no, there aren’t any corny, plush costumes like the ones found at theme parks. Instead, they use the striking juxtaposition of wildly imaginative and neon-colored sets with the cast – real people dressed in everyday street clothes. It may sound weird, but it works because the characters are so perfectly cast. The actors flawlessly embody their cartoon counterparts and make you believe that they’re real. Ethan Slater, who plays SpongeBob, has a captivating stage presence that will make you fall in love with the Sponge all over again. And though the plot is about as shallow as an island tidal pool, it somehow manages to cleverly deliver an upbeat message about the value of friendship, power of positivity, and the unstoppable force of a can-do spirit. The show is appropriate for all ages.
Laine Messier is a homeschooled high school student, who currently splits her time between Los Angeles and New York City. She’s lucky enough to be able to explore the globe with her parents and is always on the lookout for unique experiences. When she’s not writing for KidTripster, you might find her surfing, jamming on her guitar or searching for new adventures with her trusty canine sidekick, Tess.
Photo Courtesy: SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical
256 W 47th St., Brooks Atkinson Theatre
What do you get when you combine a sentimental story set in a small southern town with a superb score from Grammy award-winning pop star Sara Bareilles and then add a little sugar, butter, and flour? A perfect recipe for a hit musical, that’s what! Waitress serves up the touching tale of pregnant, pie-baking, Jenna, who is stuck in an unhappy marriage but manages to persevere, even through the toughest trials of the heart. With its catchy tunes and compelling stage performances, this show is a treat for both the eyes, ears and nose; the theater actually smells like fresh-baked pie! I’m not going to sugar coat this piece of advice though; the plot does address some very grown-up themes, and I believe that it’s more appropriate for a mature teen audience. Recommended age: 13 and up.
KidTripster Tip: At the concession stand, you can actually purchase a small mason jar of pie to snack on!
Photo courtesy: Waitress The Musical
4/School of Rock
1634 Broadway, Winter Garden Theatre
School is now in session! Classes will emphasize the proper technique for “base face” and how to “stick it to the man!” Just like the 2003 Jack Black movie, the show follows Dewey Finn, a washed-up musician in need of a paycheck who underhandedly lands a job substituting at a fancy prep school. Teaching the only subject that he’s familiar with, Finn convinces his 5th graders to trade their books for instruments, so they can prepare for the ultimate rock competition. Will Dewey and the kids make it to the Battle of the Bands before getting caught? Find out in this must-see musical that features face-melting guitar solos in a rockadelic score from none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber and stellar performances from a few insanely-talented, pint-sized rock stars. Recommended age: 8 and up. Be aware that there is some salty language used during the show; after all, it is rock-n-roll!
KidTripster Tip: Plan your trip for the annual Kid’s Night on Broadway, which offers free tickets to various shows for any child who attends with a paying adult.
Photo courtesy: School of Rock The Musical
222 W 51st St., Gershwin Theatre
Want to discover how to defy gravity? Go see Broadway’s long-running smash hit, Wicked. The show has been thrilling audiences for well over a decade, becoming a worldwide phenomenon. And it’s no wonder. This knockout is one of the best shows ever to grace a Broadway stage! Its original debut made household names of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. But the reason that it’s remained so popular? It’s that captivating tale of a fragile friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, the witches of Oz, which keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Find out what happened in the Emerald City before a certain girl from Kansas wandered down the yellow brick road. Recommended age: 8 and up.
Photo courtesy: Wicked
226 W. 46th St., Richard Rodgers Theatre
I wish that I could tell you the secret for getting last-minute tickets to this box-office, mega hit, but sadly, those tickets simply don’t exist. If you want to see the winner of 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical, you’ll have to plan several months ahead. And even then, be prepared to pay prices that would have made the first Treasury Secretary’s head spin. Hamilton traces the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through song and rap, inspiring your teens to rediscover American history. The show is nothing short of sensational. Recommended age: 12 and up; know that there's strong language and suggestive content.
KidTripster Tip: It’s a long shot, but you can enter a lottery for $10 tickets to Hamilton, either online or via the Hamilton app. The lottery opens at 11 a.m. two days prior to the performance and closes at 9 a.m. the day before.
KidTripster Tip: Got a reader? Have your teen read the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow prior to seeing the show.