By Kristi Casey Sanders
Any parent can tell you that finding a show the whole family will enjoy is tricky. Kids may not have the attention span to enjoy classic adult shows, and kids’ shows can try adults’ patience. Luckily, The Fox Theatre presents a range of family friendly programming – from Theater of the Stars musicals and stage versions of Disney films to children’s shows presented this month by the Atlanta Ballet (Cinderella ) and Broadway Across America-Atlanta (Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue ) – combining entertaining stories and familiar characters with educational value.
“You have to recognize half the audience, or more than half the audience, is adults,” says Stuart Rosenstein, senior vice president, resorts and theatricals, Nickelodeon Recreation, which created Go, Diego, Go Live! “You want them to enjoy being there with the kids.”
Nickelodeon’s shows for children are adaptations of popular shows on its Nick Jr. channel. “Every show on Nick Jr. has an educational advisor,” Rosenstein says. “Our performances [are] interactive from the moment audiences walk in to the moment they leave. [In Go, Diego, Go Live! ,] there’s problem-solving along the journey, and animal facts, and it gives [kids] the sense that there’s a bigger world that they need to be made aware of … it’s very adventure-based.”
Seeing live theater also can open up new possibilities for young people. Atlanta Ballet dancer Christine Winkler discovered dance as an audience member. “I saw The Nutcracker when I was about 10 years old because a friend was in it,” she remembers. “I came home so thrilled. I told my mother I had to be a ballerina, so she put me in classes.”
The last time the Atlanta Ballet performed Cinderella , it was a part of the adult season. This month’s version was created with kids in mind. Atlanta Ballet dancer John Welker says, “You’re always striving, as an arts organization, to create new audiences and to create a [repertory] for those new audiences. We’ve done a lot of storyline ballets that are family friendly.” Winkler adds, “We always do them with something dramatic, like [Romeo & Juliet ], something that’s more adult. So it’s something families can come to and feel comfortable about it.”
Introducing children to the power of live performance has shifted from something that was part of the school curriculum to something parents need to do, if they want their children to experience it. Welker says, “It’s is something that’s not really available in education. Even music’s been cut quite a bit from schools. Not only is dancing a physical act – to get out nervous energy – it is a creative act, a form of self-expression. I’ve noticed that kids don’t have the same inhibitions adults do about moving their body to music. So, if you encourage it at an early age, it’s very empowering. Most of what they see of dance is on MTV. It’s quite a different form, isn’t it?”
Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue plays The Fabulous Fox Theatre Feb. 1-3. Cinderella plays Feb. 16-17.