Chicago theaters embracing kids with special needs

Chicago is my kind of town for unparalleled theatrical experiences—the ones that include every single member of the family. Wondering what shows would be perfect for kiddos with special needs? These four terrific productions have the answer on this season’s ticket, leaving only one hard question: “Which one should we see first?”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at The Cadillac Palace Theatre

Long a beloved Disney classic, the dazzling show about Belle and her Beast is chock full of heroism, G-rated romance, and songs you’ve probably sung around your kitchen a time or two. This Broadway musical is being staged at the gorgeous Cadillac Palace and, as with all Broadway in Chicago productions, features an interpreted performance for the hearing-impaired princes and princesses among us.

Runs March 25-29

Sign interpretation for the hearing-impaired performance 2 p.m. March 28

151 W. Randolph St., Chicago

Red Kite, Blue Sky at The Ruth Page Center for Arts

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s annual multi-sensory live theater experience created just for children with autism and their families. Children embark on a bird watching adventure to the City in the Clouds where the Owl, Blue Jay, Hummingbird and Hawk reveal the exciting mysteries of Grandfather Sky. While seated in patches of soft pillow clouds, children will help the birds set into motion the natural order of things with an interactive rain dance and a maypole rainbow parade. With winter comes snow, and with snow – a snow ball fight! Then when everyone’s nice and tuckered out, actors and audiences will serenade the emerging stars together with a lovely lullaby, while a new constellation forms that promises to shine on forever. Free, registration required

Runs 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1 p.m., March 21-22: Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood St.; March 27-28: Ridge Park, 9625 S. Longwood Drive.

(872) 222-9555

Peter Pan at Special Gifts Theatre

Special Gifts Theatre, a company that brings drama classes and experiences to kids and teens with special needs, also strives to break down disability stereotypes with their vibrant and compassionate performances for the entire community. This spring’s Peter Pan, the company’s 15th anniversary production, features a cast of 18 peer mentors and 15 of Special Gift’s students—and more than a little pixie dust.

Runs April 18-19

Walter Sundling Junior High, 1100 N. Smith St., Palatine

(847) 564-7704

The Pied Piper at Strawdog Theatre

The Forks& Hope Ensemble—the creative minds that brought last year’s beyond-fun The Hunting of the Snark and hauntingly gorgeous The Just-So Stories—are back with The Pied Piper, a physical and immersive experience based on Robert Browning’s evocative poem. All performances are wheelchair-accessible, and one evening is dedicated to a pre-show touch tour, ensuring that everyone can join in with the scurrying and scampering.

Runs May 31-June 30

Touch tour at 6:45 p.m. June 18 at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway

(773) 528-9696

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The Forge is ‘No Limits’ for People with Special Needs

“We just wanted to make sure it was accessible to everyone," says co-owner.

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