All theater-loving parents everywhere have faced this dilemma: you want to expose your offspring to as many live productions as humanly possible, but there are only so many hand puppets your brain can take before you want to curl up in a corner singing “Baby Beluga” to yourself. We understand. Ease off the primary colors for a bit with these four exceptional shows, which are not only guaranteed to thrill the whole family, but are also performances that you’d totally choose to see on your own. (Which will happen again eventually, we promise.)
Brave things come in tiny packages, and Roald Dahl’s beloved heroine Matilda is no exception. Armed with her wits, an unparalleled imagination—and yes, maybe a tiny bit of telekinesis, too—brilliant (and fearless) Matilda dreams big and fights even bigger. Winner of four Tony Awards, the Broadway sensation is taking its first ever national tour to Chicago with every moment of the dazzling music and choreography that has made it a frenzied hit. It’ll be hard to say which is more satisfying; sharing the love of Dahl with the next generation, or teaching your kids how fantastic it can be to champion the underdog.
Runs through April 10 at the Oriental Theatre
Take a trip back, if you will, to the year 1992. Remember the very first time you let the multi-octave glory that is Sister Act flood your senses and inspire hysterical laughter (at jokes that might’ve gone slightly over your head)? Thanks to the hit Broadway musical of the same name taking up residence at Lincolnshire’s Marriott Theatre, you’ll be able to share every angelic Alleluia and hilarious holy moly with your tweens and teens. And with a highly acclaimed New York director, a cast simply oozing Broadway cred, and a show that’s been nominated for five Tony Awards, Sister Act is perfect show for all the discerning theatergoers in your house. (Besides, few things say “family show” like Mother Superior hiding a gangster’s moll as a clandestine Sister. It’s practically a Hallmark card waiting to happen.)
Runs through April 3 at The Marriott Theatre
Remember that friend you had, back when you were a twentysomething Chicagoan, the one who knew the coolest of the cool, under-the-radar shows? Lakeview’s Stage 773 is the equivalent of that friend for the kid-toting, Disney on Ice-fearing parent. The exceptionally enjoyable Inoffensive Comedy Series features a rotating lineup of shows that each and every member of the family will love. (No, really.) Between tap masters and laser displays, you can’t go wrong with any of the currently running weekend productions, but the long-running, silent clowning/sketch comedy hit Bri-Ko should be at the very top of your list. (When a show wins the Second City Best of the Fest award at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, that’s a pretty decent sign.)
Runs Saturdays and Sundays at Stage 773
Fans of the gloriously mesmerizing film Avatar will gasp (until they’re blue in the face) from the opening moments of TORUK: The First Flight, Cirque du Soleil’s prequel to the 2009 movie. Prequel to the prequel, in fact, since TORUK takes place on the moon called Pandora thousands of years before humans and the Na’vi people ever interacted. A prophecy, a quest and a cinematic score—not to mention a mythical creature who is Pandora’s only hope against certain destruction—will keep audiences on the edges of their seats during this adventurous tale. Go ahead and pretend it’s all for the kids; although if you’ve ever experienced one of Cirque’s eye-popping theatrical endeavors (which take the term “immersive” pretty darned seriously), you’ll have a pretty tough time keeping your cool.
Opens Aug. 3 at the United Center