Ask any theatre performer what their first Broadway show was and they will launch into a tale from their childhood: “When I was eight years old” or “I was only four” or “I actually didn’t see my first Broadway show until high school, but—.” Theatre is an art form for all ages—even if they don’t have professional aspirations—and Playbill wants to help you navigate the Broadway boards. From elementary to high school, a night (or matinee) at the theatre makes meaningful family memories. Here are the 19 family-friendly shows currently running on the Great White Way. And if you click here, you can find tips for saving money on theatre tickets!
A Bronx Tale The Musical
Opened: December 1, 2016
Based on the movie of the same name, the Broadway show is less gritty and graphic than its namesake film; more doo-wop and dance with a score by Newsies Tony winner Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. A story based on actor-writer Chazz Palminteri’s life growing up in the Bronx, the musical is about a boy torn between his hardworking father and his mob-boss mentor—a boy also torn between his Italian-American community and his love for his African-American classmate. Ultimately about family and the challenges of growing up, the production will have your family snapping and humming.
Opened: April 24, 2017
This Disney Theatrical Productions recreates the magic and mysticism of Agrabah from the beloved 1992 Disney animated film, complete with renditions of “One Jump Ahead,” “A Whole New World,” “Prince Ali,” and an eight-minute show-stopping “Friend Like Me.” Nominated for five Tony Awards, the musical also features new songs like “Proud of Your Boy,” and “These Palace Walls.” With 337 original costumes and 20 tons of scenery, Broadway’s Aladdin brings new meaning to glitz and glamour, and is right for even the youngest ticketholders.
Twenty years after the stunning score from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty—the composing team behind Ragtime and Seussical: The Musical—hit the silver screen in 20th Century Fox’s Anastasia, the tale of the lost Russian princess arrived on Broadway. This incarnation includes 16 additional songs and a Drama Desk-nominated performance by leading lady Christy Altomare as the titular princess. Sweeping and romantic—with comedic relief provided by characters like Lily and Vladmir—Anastasia is perfect at any age.
The Band’s Visit
Opened: November 9, 2017
The quiet and contemplative new musical received a rave from The New York Times. After wowing audiences Off-Broadway in 2016, the award-winning production just opened on Broadway in a similarly intimate staging. Whirring on an engine of human emotion, the musical with a score by Tony nominee David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses is best for a teen audience and above—not due to anything overtly mature in plot, but rather due to the subtlety in storytelling.
Opened: July 31, 2016
If you’ve never seen Cats live, you only have until December 30 to see the Andrew Lloyd Webber phenomenon that changed musical theatre when the original production debuted in the ’80s. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the iconic musical is poetry in motion. Featuring Gillian Lynne’s graceful and explosive choreography reimagined by three-time Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler, the musical is a portrait of furry felines. The youngest theatregoers will go wild for the cats slinking down the aisles, as well as the larger-than-life set by John Napier featuring oversize odds and ends from the junkyard.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Opened: April 23, 2017
Thebeloved movie starring Gene Wilder (and the book by Roald Dahl) comes to life onstage in the musical adaptation starring two-time Tony winner Christian Borle as Willy Wonka. This show was made with families in mind—and with Dylan’s Candy Bar providing intermission concessions, the seats are packed with tiny theatregoers. Let your children live vicariously through Charlie as he discovers the Golden Ticket inside Willy Wonka’s mysterious factory—and watch their faces light up as they giggle at the kiddie-curated humor.
Come From Away
Opened: March 12, 2017
A 2017 Tony nominee for Best Musical, Come From Away delivers a message about the kindness of strangers and our need to support each other that’s well worth the prices of admission, for older elementary school kids to decades-long theatre fans. At only 100 minutes, the show takes place in Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes were diverted after U.S. airspace closed on September 11, 2001, and thousands of passengers were taken in by the residents of the tiny Canadian town. With a folk-rock score, the uplifting musical is a great choice for families.
Dear Evan Hansen
Opened: December 4, 2016
The winner of six 2017 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations has been resonating with families who have seen it onstage, as well as those across the U.S. playing the cast album on repeat. Tackling issues of mental illness, teen suicide, and the overwhelming feeling of the need to belong, Dear Evan Hansen has become a bridge of communication between parents and children thanks to the moving writing and delicate performances. Definitely for families with kids in their teens, the show can be an important bonding experience.
Opened: August 6, 2015
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical has inspired everyone from elementary school teachers to camp counselors to look at American history through a new and musical lens. Though difficult to nab a ticket, it’s far from impossible—especially if you’re willing to plan in advance. The high-octane non-stop production will get the whole family stoked about the life of the founding father while teaching you about the establishment of the United States through addictive melodies and hard-hitting choreography.
Opened: April 20, 2017
A throwback to the musicals of yesteryear, Hello, Dolly! will introduce your family to the unbridled joy of theatre. You’ll leave the Shubert Theatre giddy and humming tunes like “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” “Elegance,” “It Only Takes a Moment,” and “Hello, Dolly!,” with a skip in your step inspired by Gower Champion’s original choreography. With humor and wit, extravagant sets and bold period costumes, the Tony-winning Best Revival about clever matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi is a perfect choice at any age.
Opened: April 4, 2013
When Kinky Boots kicked its way onto the scene in 2013, it earned 13 Tony nominations and won six trophies, including Best Musical, Best Score for Grammy winner Cyndi Lauper in her Broadway debut, and Best Actor for Billy Porter. Now, Porter and his Tony-nominated original co-star Stark Sands have returned to the cast through January 2018 as Lola and Charlie, an unlikely duo of a drag queen in need of sturdier boots and the man who needs to save the failing shoe factory he inherited from his father. At its heart, the story written by Harvey Fierstein is about acceptance—a worthwhile lesson at any age, though the show may be best suited for middle-schoolers and up. With heart-pumping choreography from Tony winner Jerry Mitchell and all the flash and spectacle of a glitter cannon, Kinky Boots will have your family bopping in your seats and dancing down the aisles.
One On This Island
Opened: December 3, 2017
The production from Tony-nominated director Michael Arden completely re-imagines the island tale by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Anastasia). The Romeo & Juliet-esque tale of Ti Moune and Daniel invites audiences into the immersive world of the French Antilles blessed by the gods. There’s not a bad seat in the house, as Arden stages the show in the round with a mindblowing set by Dane Laffrey—real sand and lagoon included. Received with raves, the show is best for families with tweens and above—the thunderstorm and Papa Ge, Demon of Death, may be a tad frightening for the tiniest viewers. A 90-minute sung-through musical, the jubilant score will have your family singing and rejoicing all the way home.
The Lion King
Opened: November 13, 1997
Disney’s The Lion King must be seen to be believed. A groundbreaking achievement in theatre, the stage adaptation of the 1994 animated film just celebrated its 20th anniversary on Broadway—and it’s no secret why. The African chants added specifically for Broadway (plus the costumes, maskwork, and storytelling techniques) will expose kids and adults to other cultures. From its timeless coming-of-age story to the bond between father and son, from the contemporary choreography to the awe-inspiring spectacle as the Pridelands of Africa emerge onstage, The Lion King is unlike any other theatrical experience—one the whole family will treasure.
The Phantom of the Opera
Opened: January 26, 1988
Broadway’s longest-running musical is about to turn 30—and for good reason. Directed by the legendary Hal Prince, the musical is the ultimate in romance. Having earned ten Tony nominations in 1988, taking home Best Musical, the production is as fresh as it was when it first opened. The masked Phantom may be a tad intimidating to tiny theatregoers, but older elementary kids and above will find themselves enthralled in the love story, the lush costumes, and music. With a sweeping score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and stirring lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, you won’t find another like it.
The Play That Goes Wrong
Opened: April 2, 2017
Though the show wasn’t necessarily written “for families” in mind, the now longest-running play on Broadway is a fantastic option for all ages. A feat in physical comedy and stagecraft, The Play That Goes Wrong shows what happens when, well, everything that could go wrong onstage does. From simple gags to major stunts, the show has audiences belly-laughing night after night. No one is too young to see this show!
School of Rock The Musical
Opened: December 6, 2015
If you loved the movie starring Jack Black, you’ll flip for School of Rock onstage. Your kids will live vicariously through the students at Horace Green who follow their substitute teacher, Dewey Finn, to create a band worthy of winning Battle of the Bands. All the actors onstage are the actual age of their characters and play their instruments live in a rockin’ display of talent. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the show’s original music—which includes rock tunes like “Stick It to the Man” and more classic musical theatre songs like “If Only You Would Listen”—so adults needn’t worry about it being watered down. Trust us, you want to be with the band.
SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical
Opened: December 4, 2017
This joy machine is the choice for theatregoers of every. single. age. Appropriate for tots. the matinee crowd and everyone in between, the musical brings the Nickelodeon cartoon to life with the heroic trio of SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, and Sandy Cheeks, plus the moody Squidward, the greedy Mr. Krabs, the evil Plankton and your favorite inhabitants of Bikini Bottom—from Patchy the Pirate to Mrs. Puff to Perch Perkins. The wildly inventive scenic and costume designs by David Zinn will keep everyone wide-eyed in discovering the underwater world. The hilarious plot—focused on SpongeBob as he tries to save Bikini Bottom from a volcanic Armageddon—will have you cracking up and the songs by the world’s greatest recording artists (Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, David Bowie and Brian Eno, Plain White T’s, Lady Antebellum, and more) will satisfy everyone’s musical tastes.
Opened: April 24, 2016
With an all-female lead creative team, this is the female empowerment show your daughters and sons need to see. This musical, nominated for four 2016 Tonys, is best for tweens and up—since the musical does address being stuck in an unhapy marriage and a love affair, but that’s also what makes it so worthwhile. This is a story about a woman who overcomes, with an incredible score by six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. Centered around Jenna and her two best gal pals, an evening at Waitress is as heartwarming and fresh as a slice of Jenna’s famous pie.
Opened: October 30, 2003
The prequel to The Wizard of Oz, the musical tells the story of “two friends, two good friends, two best friends” as they grow up to become The Good Witch of the North and The Wicked Witch of the West—also known as Glinda and Elphaba. Just like its predecessor, Wicked is a musical made for the whole family. With Tony-winning costumes by Susan Hilferty and a Tony-winning set by Eugene Lee, Wicked immerses audiences in the fantasy world of Oz with musical numbers that will wow and move theatregoers of all ages.