One of my favorite perks of Julieverse is being able to review movies and shows for families — sharing how appropriate a story’s portrayal may be for children, the “types” of people who may like the show and how to complement viewing a show or film with learning and enrichment at home. Over the years, I’ve refined my review system to focus on what I feel is most important about taking your child to a quality show or movie. Repeatedly, I’m asked about recommended ages for theater and if a Broadway show (New York or on tour) has a theater age policy.
First and foremost, you know your child best, so keep that in mind while I share my opinion.
Several years ago, I was told by a friend that Broadway had a rule in its ticket sales: No tickets for children under age 5. I went on to believe the rule and never questioned it, until the questions started pouring in at Julieverse. Research took me to 1995, when Playbill published a Family Guide to Broadway, written by the League of American Theatres and Producers Inc.Through more research, I learned that individual shows and theaters determine age limits, its heresy that all of Broadway has a ruling.
When asked, the Kimmel Center of Philadelphia (the association of theaters in my home city) responded with the following:
We list [age 6] as a general guideline and you can find those guidelines on this page. It is also included in all of our Playbills. We use this as a guideline to ensure the best possible experience for all of our patrons and it is a Kimmel Center suggestion, not a blanket suggestion for all traveling theater.
Productions like Beauty and the Beast and some of our other family-friendly programs, like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, are created with a younger audience in mind so the recommended age is for children 3 and older.
Last Fall, when I brought my 12-year-old to see his first show, Matilda, we were frustrated. Frustrated because of the 3 children sitting in front of us. Their parents had purchased tickets for the kids separate from their own. And while the kids, mostly, quietly whispered to each other when they had questions, the children “sat” on booster seats that raised them high above adults’ heads, including my own and my son’s. (Sat is in quotes because there was a genuine lack of sitting for one of the children.)
When they stood, I estimated 2 of the children to be between ages 8-10. The taller child made it difficult for us to see over her head. The younger child, probably age 4 or 5, simply wasn’t sitting. I’m sure all three loved the music, enthusiasm and talent of Matilda, but the patrons who sat around these children surely did not have the best possible experience. (Though we certainly made the best of it, as we loved the show.) Matilda is recommended for ages 6 and older, and I believe that’s due to the depth of the storyline. I also mentioned in a previous post that most of the younger children in the theater that evening were carried out, asleep, on their parents’ shoulders. They simply weren’t old enough for the show.
After inquiring about the appropriate age for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I brought all three children to the theater — ages 12, 10 and six. My youngest loved the show. In fact, she was so excited when she knew a song or recognized a part of the biblical story, she couldn’t hold back in her excitement and I found myself shushing her several times. At intermission, we spoke of the importance of respecting other patrons, which seemed to help calm her for the second act. Likely, this was a conversation we should have had prior to the show.
To determine whether your child is old enough to attend a show, it’s best you call the theater prior to purchasing tickets. While I can offer (what I think) is an excellent recommendation, the true rules are the responsibility of the theater.
The Kimmel Center will soon host Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Academy of Music. Tickets are now available and the Kimmel Center has shared that the recommended age is 3 and up.
All photos (except the theater seats image provided) by The Kimmel Center and associated agencies.
© 2016, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.