What’s Playing at Children’s Theater in Minneapolis

Junie Edwards (Lonnie) in _Locomotion_ at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota - photo by Glen Stubbe Photography

Want to know what shows are coming to the Children’s Theatre Company? We provide parental reviews and kid-friendly guidance for current and upcoming plays and musicals at the most popular children’s theater in Minneapolis. In 2022-2023 CTC invites audiences to “Witness acts of bravery come to life before your very eyes and discover your own tremendous courage along the way.”

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    Now Playing at Children's Theatre Company

    LocoMotion

    I really wanted to take my 11-year-old to see Locomotion at Children’s Theatre Company, but he had a cold, so I took his dad instead. As I watched, I kept thinking how much Mr. Eleven would have connected with the character of Lonnie as he found his poetic voice. However the play also made a great date night. The audience was made up of at least half adults without kids, So, while it was based on a children’s book, it appealed to adults as much as children.

    Notes: FFTC was provided complimentary tickets for the show.  All thoughts are my own. Banner Image: Junie Edwards  as Lonnie  in Locomotion at Children’s Theatre Company – photo by Glen Stubbe Photography.

    Locomotion

    I did not pre-read Jacqueline Woodson’s novel, Locomotion prior to seeing this play, but I really want to now. The story reminds me of Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, another book in which a child works through and begins to heal from Trauma through classroom poetry assignments. Both books are written for tween readers and the play is recommended for ages 9+, so this could be a fun way to explore poetry with middle grade students, culminating in a trip to Children’s Theatre.

    The cast is made of 5 actors with the two adults playing multiple characters. It may take a moment for kids to catch on that the student actors are portraying much younger children. The actors are all in their teens. Lonnie’s age varies between 3 and 11 as much of the story is told through 11-year-old Lonnie’s memories. His sister is three year’s younger than Lonnie, so her age also varies through flashbacks. Lonnie’s best friend, Enrique, is always eleven.  It would probably help in their understanding and enjoyment if kids are given a heads up.

    Know Before You Go

    Note: Some of these numbered paragraphs contain spoilers, but nothing that wasn’t foreshadowed from the beginning of the play.

    1. This show is recommended for ages 9+. It is one hour long with no intermission in the slightly less comfortable Cargill stage. Younger or more squirrelly kids may have a hard time sitting through the show. It touches on frightening subjects like loss of parents and bullying and may be a little too mature for sensitive kids.
    2. I recommend reading the book, but if you go in cold, you’ll still follow the story. As I mentioned above, this would be a fun culmination to a poetry study with school age kids. It wouldn’t hurt to read some Langston Hughes as part of your preparation – particularly Dream Variations, which is a favorite of Lonnie & Enrique.
    3. There is no intermission, but snacks are available before the show.
    4. The ride home is a great time to talk about not judging others from the outside. Lonnie chose not to share his parents’ deaths with Enrique, and Enrique chose not to share his illness. Maybe our school friends don’t share their own difficulties. We can’t always know what is happening to others, so we should choose kindness and acceptance.
    5. The show demonstrates sibling love. As a parent of four fighting kids, I love stories that honor brothers and sisters who care about each other. Lonnie often sacrifices for his younger sister. These instances may be somewhat subtle. Parents may want to point out some ways Lonnie gave up his own interests to put Lili first and ask if the kids noticed any others? What would you do if you were split apart from your siblings?
    6. Costumes are important in this production as they help the audience keep track of time shifts. Lonnie always puts on a hoodie during his flashbacks to age 8 and younger.
    Personal age recommendation:

    I wouldn’t hesitate to take a child over the age of 10 and this show also made a nice date night.

    How to Dress for This Show:

    It’s wintery in Minnesota. Dress in layers you can peal off. Its fun to dress up, but if you’re going to walk from your parking spot to the theater, winter gear is totally appropriate. However, theaters get hot, thus, the removable layers. There is a coat rack at the entrance of the theater, as seating is close, you may want to plan to leave winter gear in the lobby.

    Masks are encouraged, but not required, in the theater . Note that the Cargill stage is a much smaller and more intimate stage than the UnitedHealth Group Stage.

    About “Locomotion

    The book, Locomotion by author Jaqueline Woodson was a finalist for the National Book Award. The stage adaptation was also written by the author.

    Locomotion takes the audience into the life of 11-year-old Lonnie Motion, as he finds new tools – the result of a school poetry assignment – which help him to process the tumult of life in foster care. As Lonnie discovers the power of poetry, he experiences deeper connections to his new foster mother, his school friend Enrique, his teacher Ms. Marcus, and his beloved younger sister Lili.
    Uprooted from his family,
    surrounded by the unfamiliar,
    Lonnie couldn’t feel more alone. 

    But this year, his class is learning to write poetry.

    Lonnie’s verses take him
    from his foster home
    to the classroom,
    into the streets,
    and back to a time when
    his family was all together.

    As Lonnie finds his voice,
    you’ll discover how poetry can bring you
    closer to others and to yourself.”

    Details and Information

    Locomotion runs January 24, 2023 through March 5, 2023 on the Cargill Stage

    • Based on the book of the same name, it was written and adapted for stage by Jacqueline Woodson.
    • Directed by Talvin Wilks
    • Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the ticket office at 612.874.0400.
    • Best enjoyed by ages 9+ Lap passes are not available for this show.
    • Runtime: 1 hour with no intermission.

    Upcoming Events - Children's Theatre Company 2022-2023 Season

    Corduroy

    February 14 – April 2, 2023

    Age Recommendations: Ages 4+

    CTC’s beloved Corduroy returns this spring for another delightfully destructive romp. While you wait for our new review, enjoy our previous review:

    Corduroy has always been one of my favorite books. Don Freeman was able to tell a timeless children’s story while also making contemporary social statements without ever feeling preachy or forced. I never noticed that as a kid though; I just loved the idea of Corduroy wandering the department store at night and finding Lisa to love him at the end. It seems fitting that this wonderful book should be made into a stage production because Don Freeman reportedly loved the theater.1

    Corduroy, The Book

    One of the things that makes me LOVE the Corduroy book is the characters. Corduroy is both curious and full of wonder as he wanders the store a night. The night watchman is kindly and protective in the way he returns Corduroy to his place when he finds him. Lisa seems mature and compassionate in her choice to spend her savings on Corduroy above all the other toys in the store. Lisa’s mom, who readers only get to know through one drawing and one sentence, seems sophisticated, sensible and competent. For such a short book, it really does endear the reader to the characters.
     

    While preparing for this play, I learned several interesting things about Don Freeman and Corduroy.

    When Freeman decided to write Corduroy, it was with the idea of writing about someone who explores a department store at night2. I don’t know if it was his intention to ease childhood fears, but that was the effect for me. As an anxious child, the idea that I might accidentally end up somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be was something that worried me. It now worries my anxious children. The story plays on that fear, but ultimately leaves the reader reassured. The kindly night watchmen simply put Corduroy back where he belonged. Lost children should know that they can go to someone in charge to help them find there way back to mom and dad.

    Another goal of the author was to highlight the vast difference between the luxury we see in department stores and the simpler life most people live2. While Corduroy exclaims over the mountainous escalator and the palace-like home department, it is Lisa and her simple bedroom where he finds a friend and a home. In a world where kids are inundated with the message to consume, this is a sweet story to counteract that idea.

    While I find no official biography regarding Freeman’s inspiration for Lisa, writer Lisa Roseburg states Lisa was based on her as a child.3 A 1967 letter from the publisher to Freeman corroborates that statement. The character of Lisa is discussed, suggesting that Freeman use a real “negro” child to base his drawings of Lisa on “[t]o avoid  the slightest suggestion of caricature”.4 A couple years before the publication of Corduroy, Nancy Larrick published the now infamous article, The All-White World of Children’s Books5. It would appear that Freeman rose to Larrick’s challenge when creating the character of Lisa. Lisa may even be the reason his publisher changed its mind after it (and several other publishers) originally rejected the book2. Although, The Snowy Day was published in 1962 and won the Caldecott award in 19636, according to Larrick’s research, there were very few children’s books up through the late 60s that portrayed minority children at all and fewer still that portrayed them as normal, modern children. For the 1960s, these books were trailblazing.

    Don Freeman seems to have had a gift for taking big issues and making them appropriate for children. If you don’t already own this wonderful book, you can purchase a copy through our Amazon affiliate link and Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on sales through our site.

    Corduroy, At The Children’s Theatre Company

    So here’s the thing about the play: It is NOT the book as I read it. It follows the same plot. It has the same characters, but most of what I described above as my reasons for loving the book are not in the play. You would think this would mean that I disliked the play, but I didn’t have time to reflect on the differences because I was laughing through the whole thing.

    Children’s Theatre’s adaptation of Corduroy adds a silly slapstick quality to the story. One that was, for the most part, always hidden in the story, but that I never saw. How would an otherwise sane night watchman react to a commotion in the store with only a stuffed bear to be found? This night watchman was depicted as a blowhard suffering the unlucky fallout of the inadvertent pandemonium caused by Corduroy’s single-minded quest for a button. The part was so obviously written around Reed Sigmund, who was still out with an injury, but his understudy, Dwight Leslie competently stepped in and kept the comedy rolling. (If you are reading this in 2020, you see Sigmund in the virtual production.) CTC’s Corduroy, played by Dean Holt, is more clownish than curious. Holt uses his gift for physical comedy to keep the audience laughing.

    Lisa lost a bit of her maturity in exchange for more slapstick moments; and I identified with her mother, acting as the straight man to Lisa’s foibles, more than I did with the sophisticated drawing in the book. I think kids will identify with Lisa when it comes to trying to complete chores to their parents standards.

    Even more important than my own enjoyment of this production was the fact that my 6-year-old loved it. When I say he LOVED it, I mean he stood jumping through the whole thing because he was cheering and laughing and routing for Corduroy to find his button and for Lisa to win over her mother. On the bus ride home, he made plans to act out the whole show as a family.

    More About Corduroy from CTC

    The design team for Corduroy includes Scenic Designer Torry Bend, Music Composer/Sound Designer Victor Zupanc, Ivey Award winning Costume Designer Trevor Bowen, and Lighting Designer Craig Gottschalk.

    “On this 50th anniversary of the publication of Don Freeman’s classic Corduroy, I’m incredibly honored to help bring about its first stage adaptation,” states playwright Barry Kornhauser. “Who doesn’t remember a special childhood toy that we thought of as a real friend? And one that came to life (if only in our imaginations)? Of course, I’m incredibly excited to once again be given the gift of working with Peter and his brilliant and passionate team to build upon Freeman’s book, exploring what might have gone on the rest of that night with Corduroy and the Night Watchman in the department store, and also with Lisa and her mom in their apartment, in this beloved story of longing and friendship.”

    Parental Guidance for Corduroy

    I have been shy to bring the whole family to shows recently as I usually end up having to take one of the younger kids out. However, in hindsight, if I was only going to do one full family show this season, this should have been the one. It’s not at all scary; it is short, clocking in at an hour and a half, including an intermission; and the physical comedy is funny for all ages. I would agree with CTC’s rating of “All Ages” on this production.

    Corduroy Details and Tickets

    • Corduroy will next run at Children’s Theatre Company during the 2022-2023 Season
    • February 14, 2023-April 2, 2023.
    • Tickets Starting at $15.00

    Citations:
    1 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Don Freeman and his Children’s Books edited by Roy Freeman. (Page 8, Question 6).
    6 Association of Library Services to Children 1963 Caldecott Medal Winner.

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    An American Tale - The Musical

    April 25 – June 18, 2023

    Age Recommendations: Ages 9+

    Discover how poetry can bring you closer to yourself and others

    A Parent's Guide to Children's Theatre Company

    Age Appropriateness

    CTC researches well and does an excellent job of rating their shows appropriately. There have been very few times I have disagreed with their age recommendations. Some shows will be perfect for first time audience members while others will be geared toward tweens & teens. All ages are welcome at any shows and there is a “Quiet Room” at the back of theater on the left side of the main theater. If you the brighter lights and space, the lobby usually projects the show on screens so you can watch while a smaller child works out the wiggles. When our youngest was a toddler, I would book family shows for times with the Minneapolis Institute of Art was open, so we would have access to the museum’s family room to play with blocks.

    Discounts and Coupons to CTC Performances

    Shows start at $15 in Price Level C. This is close to the prices of other children’s theatre’s around the Twin Cities. However, when you are making it a family outing, this pricing can still be out of reach for some families. We have never seen a legitimate coupon for any main stage performance at Children’s Theatre Company. However, there are several ways to get discounted tickets.

    CTC’s ACT Pass Program is a needs-based scholarship program for tickets, classes, and camps. You can read more about Joy’s experience with the ACT Pass Program here. In short, if you qualify for any type of assistance, school lunches, WIC, MA, etc., it is worth applying for this program.

    Besides the ACT Pass program, CTC suggests other special offers and ways to save on tickets. These include:

    1. Military ID discount: For adults with military IDs and partners of employed military.
    2. Plan Ahead with Preview performances: Tickets for the first Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday performances of each show can be purchased in advance and are substantially discounted.
    3. Be Spontaneous with Rush Tickets: Starting 2 hours you can show up at CTC and purchase unsold seats for $15 each at the ticket office. While this is the same price as the C Level tickets, the seats will be better.
    4. Check reciprocal benefits. We recently saw a 10% off discount through AAA.
    5. Season Tickets. If you plan to see several or all the shows, than season tickets will net you the best prices.

    Family-Friendly Amenities

    CTC is built for families and offers several family-friendly amenities, including:

    • A Private Nursing Room.  Just ask the staff if you want to use this space (but remember in Minnesota you have a legal right to nurse your child anywhere and CTC will support this right). You can also use the room for prayer or other private needs.
    • Sensory Tools. The concierge desks will loan ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones and fidget toys as well as listening devices and other basic necessities.

    Theater Arts Training (TATS) Helps Kids Discovery the Artistic Process

    The ACT Pass Scholarship Program Makes All Patrons’ Theatre Experiences Possible

    Past Productions

    Some shows come back around on a regular basis. These are some shows we have reviewed in the past. Children’s Theatre Company provided our tickets to facilitate our reviews.

    How The Grinch Stole Christmas

    Cast of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota 2022
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas Children's Theatre Company. Sunday, November 6, 2022 Photographed by Glen Stubbe Photography for Childrens Theatre Company

    Age Recommendations: All Ages

    Children’s Theatre Company rotates the Grinch with other fan favorites as its Holiday show, bringing it back every few years. The most recent production was Christmas 2022.

    The musical follows and expands on the storyline of the original Dr. Seuss book with both original music and some music from the animated classic. The musical and lyrics were created by playwright  “You’re a mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which was originally written by Seuss and composer Albert Hague for the 1966 TV special.Timothy Mason with music by Mel Marvin and adapted from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. You’ll recognize

    The whole cast was amazing. We love Reed Sigmund’s portrayal of the Grinch and the puppy Young Max was perfectly performed by Audrey Mojica to contrast Dean Holt’s Old Max. Although my daughter loved Cindy Lou Who (played by Elsa Dungan-Hawks) the best.

    I’m so glad we had a chance to finally see this family favorite at CTC. It was worth the wait. We laughed at Grandpa Who’s misheard statements, got a bit teary when The Who’s candle-lit singing and belted along with Deck the Halls at the end.

    A miserly and miserable, ever-so-cantankerous Grinch has observed the despicable Christmas joy of the Whos with disdain, from a distance, for decades. Enough! In this favorite holiday story, filled with music and Seussian rhymes, he conceives a dastardly plot to destroy the holiday they love. It’s the smallest of the Whos, tiny Cindy Lou, who extends a hand. Through the combination of kindness and community, we witness not only a change in the course of Who-History, but the size and capacity of the cantankerous Grinch’s heart.

    “Since the moment I applied that first dab of green makeup, ten years ago, The Grinch has been my absolute favorite role to portray,” said Reed Sigmund. “It’s a character that’s endlessly rich with opportunities to dynamically explore the full spectrum of human emotions. And I love stories of transformation. This story reminds us that fear and hate are easy, but difficult growth and change are more rewarding for ourselves and our communities. Plus, it comes at a time of year when I get to pound gallons of Christmas cookies. This is a show I can’t wait to celebrate once more.”

    Details and Information

    • Based on the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
      • Book and lyrics by Timothy Mason
      • Music by Mel Marvin
      • Directed by Peter C. Brosius
      • Choreography by Linda Talcott Lee
    • Best enjoyed by all ages. Lap passes available for children 3 years and younger.
    • Runtime: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.

    Circus Abyssnia

    acrobats from Ethiopia balancing and
    Circus Abyssnia is packed with high-flying acrobatics, hand balancing and unbelievable

    This brand new season begins with a show that was delayed from January 2022 to September 2022, and it has been worth the wait: Circus Abyssinia Tulu.

    I brought my 17-year-old daughter to the show.  I wrote about my education in motherhood of teens in our newsletter.  If you are interested in learning more about what happened in the audience, you can sign up for our weekly mailing list and learn hear some of the behind-the-scenes stories. Otherwise, check out what we thought of the show!

    Circus Abyssinia Tulu

    The story of Circus Abyssinia began long before it arrived at CTC. It wasn’t designed specifically for young audiences, but while watching kids of all ages will be in awe.  The little girl I was sitting next to kept hiding her face while at the same time not being to look away at the children’s theater stage.

    “We’re seriously over the moon to be coming back to Children’s Theatre Company,” state the creators, Bibi Tesfamariam and Bichu Shimellis. “With our new show, Tulu, we’ll be pulling out all the stops to celebrate the story of Ethiopian icon and Olympic legend, Derartu Tulu, the first African woman to win Olympic gold. After a delay of so many months, we’re more excited than ever to perform with the wonderful audiences of Minnesota again!”

    Derartu Tulu grew up in a small village where she tended cattle and lived to run up and down steep valleys, and over dusty plains where hyenas prowled. With breathtaking displays of circus virtuosity, Circus Abyssinia celebrates the ferocious skill and tenacity of young Derartu: how, unmatched in speed and guile, she chased her dreams all the way to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and won gold in the 10,000m with a heart-racing sprint to the finish.

    The Lorax

    Meghan Kreidler and Rick Miller and H Adam Harris puppeting The Lorax in Dr. Seuss's The Lorax at Children's Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Dan Norman.
    Photo by Dan Norman

    The Lorax, a classic Dr. Seuss story, introduces our responsibility to the environment. In its usual exciting Children’s Theatre Co. fashion, we are transported into the colorful world of Truffula Trees, Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee Swans, and Humming Fish.  Giant puppets, a dazzling set, eye-popping costumes and props, lively music, and Seusstastical rhyme all convey the message of The Lorax.

    This musical  is based on Dr. Seuss’s story and expounds on the story of the Onceler. It fills in the details that picture book glosses over.

    Surrounded by a family that digs Miff Muffer Moof for a living, they frown on his creativity and ingenuity. “Just keep digging.” But his heart isn’t in it, and his family sends him packing.

    The Onceler hits the road in search of his fortune and comes upon a Paradise where the Truffula Trees grow. Everything lives in perfect harmony. That’s just the beginning of the story.

    The Lorax and the Onceler start off as friends and work together.  But they end up facing off in a war, a battle for their ideals.

    Age Recommendation:  Age 8+, but there was a five year old there who loved it.

    We are thrilled to bring our audiences the U.S. premiere of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, a powerful, witty and important story for all generations. We are excited to welcome the London production’s creative team to Minneapolis, and delighted that after our production the fabulous cast of Minnesota actors will all travel to The Old Globe in San Diego. Our partnership with The Old Globe and The Old Vic further advances our mission of reaching multigenerational audiences both in our state and across this country with extraordinary theatrical productions.

    Children’s Theatre Company Artistic Director, Peter C. Brosius

     

    Bina's Six Apples

    Cast of Bina's Six Apples in The Children's Theatre Company production of Bina’s Six Apples. Photographed by Glen Stubbe Photography for Children's Theatre Company, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minn.
    The Children's Theatre Company production of Bina’s Six Apples. Photographed by Glen Stubbe Photography for Children's Theatre Company, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Minneapolis, Minn.

    Bina’s Six Apples is a story about a young girl, Bina, and her family as they journey from their home to a hopefully safer place during the Korean War. While the play is fiction, it is based on Playwright Lloyd Suh’s own family lore. Suh’s father was given apples to carry as his own family fled the fighting in 1950.

    Bina’s Six Apples was an emotionally exhausting but ultimately gratifying experience. Stories like this always are. While I hope to never have to experience war or displacement first hand, I believe it is important to experience hardship through fiction and stories so we can gain some understanding. Bring your older kids to this and, if they don’t talk much about it, that is okay, sometimes it takes time to process.

    Bina’s family grows the finest apples in all of Korea. But when war forces her to flee her home, Bina is alone in the world with just six precious apples to her name. Can these meager possessions help her find her family? Join Bina on her adventure that ranges from the heartbreaking to the humorous. Encountering new challenges at every turn, Bina is forced to rely upon her apples and their meaningful legacy as she begins to discover the power of her own resilience. Often mesmerizing, always heartwarming, Bina realizes she’s not the only one on a difficult quest for a place to call home.

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    Diary of Wimpy Kid Set at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN
    Set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    I brought my ten year old  to Diary of a Wimpy Kid because he was currently reading the Wimpy Kid books. I’m honestly not sure which of us enjoyed the show more. It was non-stop funny, but still managed to pull at our heartstrings and make us think a little. I came away with a little more of an understanding of the world that my tween boys navigate. I would definitely say you don’t need to be familiar with the books or movie to enjoy the musical, but I do have the audio version of the first book on order from the library now, and I’m looking forward to listening to it.

    If you love theater that is just pure fun, then Diary of a Wimpy Kid is your show. You don’t need to know the Diary of the Wimpy Kid book series to enjoy this middle school comedy. The music is amazingly catchy and the characters are endearing and funny. You’ll break out in laughter over the dreaded cheese touch, connect with Jeff Kinney’s popular character, Greg Heffley and his best friends.

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