10 picks for family theater

Todd Yard as P.T. Barnum in “Barnum.’’
Earl Christie Photography

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE STAGE A production that introduces young audiences to the elements of live theater. Kids will find out what is meant by terms like “upstage’’ and “stage left,’’ and will learn what goes into an actor’s preparations to play a character. Volunteers from the audience get a chance to rehearse scenes onstage and to portray costumed characters. City Stage Co. interactive performances at Boston Children’s Museum. Ongoing. 617-426-6500,

FRANNIE A blend of songs and improvisational sketches that parodies the musical “Annie,’’ adhering loosely to that show’s plot but soliciting suggestions from the audience that help determine what occurs at each performance. Directed by Kristen Mazzocchi and featuring a cast of six. All ages, but recommended for ages 8 and above. Through June 25. Improv Asylum, Boston. 617-263-6887,

BARNUM As the curtain begins to come down on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, this bio-musical about P.T. Barnum takes us back to the beginning. Spanning the years 1835-81, “Barnum’’ focuses on the relationship between the flamboyant showman, portrayed by Todd Yard, and his wife Charity, played by Shonna Cirone, as Barnum tries to put together a show spotlighting the likes of Tom Thumb. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and book by Mark Bramble. Through April 30. Moonbox Productions. Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-933-8600,


THE KING AND I Laura Michelle Kelly, as the British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, and Jose Llana, as the King of Siam, sustain the necessary equilibrium on the verbal seesaw in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical while also generating some genuine chemistry in the lavish touring version of Bartlett Sher’s Broadway production. Through April 23. Broadway in Boston at Boston Opera House. 800-982-2787,

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ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST A cast ranging in age from 14 to 25, including student actors from the New England TheatreWorks program, tackles Dale Wasserman’s stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s landmark novel. Set in a psychiatric facility, “Cuckoo’s Nest’’ focuses on an epic, ultimately tragic battle of wills between rebellious Randle McMurphy and tyrannical, abusive Nurse Ratched. While Boston Children’s Theatre executive artistic director Burgess Clark acknowledges that “Cuckoo’s Nest’’ is “not normal children’s fare,’’ he says: “We are hoping it broadens the horizons of what children’s theater is.’’ The production is recommended for 14 and older; younger children won’t be admitted without permission of a parent or guardian, according to the theater. Through April 29. Boston Children’s Theatre. Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts. 617-424-6634,

THE RELUCTANT DRAGON Created and performed by David Stephens, this humorous, pun-filled show uses Muppet-style moving-mouth puppets and elaborate medieval costumes to tell the story of dragon-loving Princess Penelope. When the princess befriends a kind-hearted dragon, she devises a plan to protect him during battle with Sir Reginald Thwebes. Recommended for ages 4 and up. April 18-20. Production by All Hands Productions presented by Puppet Showplace Theater, Brookline. 617-731-6400,

THE NEW LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD In this play by Jack Neary, Little Red Riding Hood plans to quit and let someone else take on the responsibility of journeying through the woods to Grandma’s house. But when Red starts to conduct auditions to choose her own replacement, she discovers that she’s not prepared to step aside after all, triggering tumult in the land of fairytales. May 4-6. Acting Out! Productions. At Firehouse Center for the Arts, Newburyport. 978-462-7336,

ANNIE It was 40 years ago that “Annie’’ premiered on Broadway, directed by Martin Charnin, who also wrote the show’s lyrics. Now Charnin is at the helm of a touring production of the Depression-era musical about an indomitable orphan and the benevolent billionaire, Daddy Warbucks, who takes her under his wing and is transformed in the process. With music by Charles Strouse, a book by Thomas Meehan, choreography by Liza Gennaro, and set design by Beowulf Boritt. May 9-21. Wang Theatre at the Boch Center, Boston. 800-982-2787. Accessible: 800-745-3000.


A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Athenian lovers encounter magic and romantic mayhem while wandering in the woods in this ever-popular Shakespeare comedy. Directed by Patrick Swanson and featuring Steven Barkhimer as the hilariously clueless Bottom, Paula Plum as Titania, and Sarah Newhouse as Puck. Recommended for 13 and up. May 10-June 4. Actors’ Shakespeare Project, at Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge. 866-811-4111,

BLUE MAN GROUP The enigmatically entertaining performers are ramping up their performance schedule during school vacation week, with 23 shows planned from April 16-23, including weekday matinees. Before certain shows, kids can have their faces painted in Blue Man style. Charles Playhouse, Boston. 800-BLUEMAN, For info specific to school vacation week:

Don Aucoin can be reached at