Tag Archives: Arena Stage

Review: A Raisin in the Sun at Arena Stage

Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Photo courtesy of Arena Stage



Whenever I write a review of show for the blog, I always feel like prefacing it with a reminder that I am not a professional theatre critic. I love going to the theatre and the whole experience of it — seeing stories brought to life on stage, admiring the talent and courage of actors, appreciating the set design and stage direction, and just losing myself in a (hopefully) good production for a while.

But when it comes to writing about theatre… I’m no expert. That said, I always hope I can at least convey a good sense of what a show is about, make age recommendations, and give readers an idea of whether it’s something they want to experience with (or without) their kids.

I feel compelled to say this because my lack of expertise may not always do a show justice, especially one as outstanding A Raisin in the Sun, currently running at Arena Stage. There are some productions that nail it on many levels, and to me, this is one of them.

Written by Lorraine Hansberry and first performed on Broadway in 1959, the play follows a 1950’s African American family as they yearn for a better life from their Chicago tenement and have the opportunity to realize it when they receive a windfall from a life insurance policy. The Youngers — Ruth and Walter, their son Travis, Walter’s mother Lena, and his sister Beneatha — all live together, but have differing views on what will make for a better life and how they will attain it.

Their diverging dreams are sources of conflict within the family and, at times, within the characters themselves that are played out brilliantly by the cast. Especially stellar is Lizan Mitchell in the role of Lena. Her emotion is palpable, and you can almost physically feel it watching her tremble with a mix of frustration, yearning, and a deep love for her family. It’s this love, plus a steadfast pride in who they are, that maintain a strong family bond despite their differences.

The show is poignant, hopeful, and thought-provoking as it spotlights struggles and issues that our society still grapples with today. And taking place on the Fichandler Stage, the intimate theatre-in-the-round setting is just right for this production, almost making you feel like a guest in the Younger’s living room.

As for age recommendations, I think kids about middle school ages and up could appreciate the story and performances (my friend who joined me for the show agrees). However, it’s a long production — nearly three hours including a 15-minute intermission — something to keep in mind for young theatre-goers who might get antsy. Of course, this would make for a nice KidFree outing, too.

A Raisin in the Sun is running at Arena Stage through May 7. Tickets are $40-111. And if you love theatre, I highly recommend considering a subscription to Arena Stage, which are now available for the 2017-18 season — more details are available here.

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to A Raisin in the Sun from Arena Stage, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote programs, places, and services that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under 2017, Date Night, DC, Live Entertainment, Middle Schoolers, Parents, Teens, Tweens, Weekdays, Weekend

Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage is Musical Theatre Perfection

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It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know the specifics of Dear Evan Hansen before I took Owen to the see it with me last week. The world premiere musical playing at Arena Stage covers some pretty heavy subject matter that, had I just read or heard about beforehand, likely would have made me decide it was too mature for my 9.5-year-old.

The press materials I’d received ahead of the performance only gave a vague description of the show, though they did say it would appeal to middle schoolers and up. But since Owen isn’t too far off from that age, has a real interest in theatre as both a budding actor and viewer, and is a huge fan of the Pitch Perfect movies in which Dear Evan Hansen star Ben Platt is a major character, I thought it would be, well, perfect to bring him to the official opening performance with me.

I’m glad I didn’t know the specifics, because it turned out my instincts were right. I couldn’t have asked for a better theatre companion for the show that is both heartening and poignant as it explores aspects of adolescence, family, parenting, and human connection.

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Evan Hansen is a teenager longing to fit in and be seen when tragedy coupled with a misunderstanding give him the opportunity to have that and much more — but at the expense of the truth. And while his lie starts with good intentions, it snowballs and forces him to question whether what has been gained is worth what has been compromised.

The story itself is thought-provoking and emotional (I don’t want to spoil it, but you can find plot details here), but it’s the on-stage execution that makes it especially powerful. The performances are brilliant, and every actor makes their characters feel so relatable. Watching Evan Hansen and his peers, I recalled the angst and awkwardness of my own teen years and contemplated what my kids could possibly face in the future (which, accompanied by the stirring music, had me sobbing by the second scene).

Even more, I empathized with all of the parents and the desperation for their children’s happiness, so deep in one case they cling to an incredibly tenuous story. Because as a parent, isn’t that what is paramount in life — our children’s happiness?

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Much of this is conveyed through musical numbers that are exceptionally moving and evocative. Tony Award nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul did a phenomenal job composing the score, and the talented musicians and cast really did it justice. (Scroll down for a teaser…Owen and I can’t get the song out of our heads.)

Do you ever go to a show — a musical, play, concert, or any kind of live performance — and feel like you’ve just witnessed something really special? That you were part of an experience bonding you with everyone there, even a roomful of hundreds of strangers? That’s Dear Evan Hansen. And at a play about the need for human connection, it’s so apropos.

The person I connected with most, though, was my sweet boy, who left the theatre after the standing ovation exclaiming, “That was so touching! There were so many lessons…” When I asked what specifically he said, “That you should always be yourself. Because if you think you are happy when you’re not being yourself, then are you really happy?”

Yep, I’m definitely glad I chose Owen as my date.

Dear Evan Hansen is playing at Arena Stage through August 23. Running time is about 2.5 hours, including a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $55-70, and for families with kids/teens interested in a theatre outing, Arena offers pay-your-age tickets (for patrons 30 and under) and the Family Fun Pack (four seats for $125). More details about both programs are available here.

A few warnings before you go:
1) As mentioned, the subject matter is heavy (this New York Times review has plot details.) It’s probably best for middle school-aged kids and older, but as noted, Owen (9.5) did okay with it, though there is adult language and adult references that garnered several amused, wide-eyed looks from him. There were a few other kids at our performance, including one who was definitely younger (and who came up to Owen in the lobby and told him how nice it was to see another kid at the theatre — so cute). Parents are the best judges of what’s appropriate for their children.
2) There is a good chance you will cry. Bring tissues.
3) Be prepared for the lyrics, “Tap tap tapping on the glass…” to play on repeat in your head.


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Filed under Date Night, DC, Live Entertainment, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend

Giveaway: Enter to Win a Family Fun Pack of Tickets to ‘Fiddler on the Roof’

"Fiddler on the Roof" is at Arena Stage through January 11

“Fiddler on the Roof” is at Arena Stage through January 11



A few weeks ago, I received a last minute invitation to join a friend and her in-laws to see “Fiddler on the Roof” at Arena Stage when her husband couldn’t make it. While I’d seen the film, and have known the story and songs since I was a kid, I’d never experienced the show live on stage. Well, the wait was worth it, because this particular production is fantastic, easily sustaining Fiddler’s reputation as a Broadway classic.

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Fiddler on the Roof presents the story of Tevye, “a humble Jewish father who finds his devotion to God severely tested by his headstrong daughters, who want to be their own matchmakers, and the increasingly ruthless government forcing him from his land.” It’s a wonderful production, with emotional and playful performances from the actors, jubilant musical numbers, and superb stage direction. The venue itself — the Fichandler Stage, a small theatre with the audience surrounding the stage — heightens the experience with a cozy, intimate feel. Every seat offers a good view, and you’re so close in (we were practically sitting on the stage), you almost feel like you’re part of the family.

The show runs over two and a half hours, including intermission, but it’s so entertaining it seems to go by much more quickly. And while I saw it with a group of grown-ups, I think this is one children could also enjoy. Arena Stage agrees and are currently offering a Family Fun Pack: Four seats for only $125 — a great deal. (Orders must include a minimum of two patrons between ages 5 and 17 per Family Fun Pack; cannot be combined with any other offer or applied to previously purchased tickets; limit two Family Fun Packs per household. All standard fees apply. Must be purchased by phone or in person. Other restrictions may apply. Contact the Sales Office to check on appropriate family shows.)

Fiddler on the Roof is running at Arena Stage through January 11. Individual tickets are $50-99 and can be purchased online, by phone, or at the box office. You can also try to win a Family Fun Pack in the giveaway.

Giveaway: Arena Stage has given me a Family Fun Pack (4 tickets) to see Fiddler on the Roof to give to one lucky reader. For a chance to win it, simply leave a comment below telling me an activity or event you’re looking forward to in 2015. To be eligible, you must like KFDC on Facebook and subscribe to the blog (see sign-up in top left corner). This giveaway will run through Sunday, December 14, and a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


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Filed under DC, Giveaway, Gradeschoolers, Live Entertainment, Music, Preteens, Teens, Theatre, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Stay Entertained Through Summer

There’s no lack of live entertainment to enjoy around the DC area this summer. Here’s what you can catch the rest of the season, from currently running shows and series, to productions opening today, to performances coming up over the next few weeks. Most descriptions are pulled straight from the websites, and just about all tickets can be purchase online.

The Wind in the Willows
Where: Imagination Stage
When: June 22 – August 15
Tickets: $10 – $22 (Use the code Willows25 for a 25% discount)
Go on a wild ride with Mr. Toad! It’s early in the twentieth century, and Mr. Toad embraces the motor car with reckless abandon. When it is clear that he is on a road to disaster, Toad’s friends Mole, Ratty and Mr. Badger decide to intervene. Can they save Toad from himself? In an adventure with police chases, prison breaks and bandits, Mr. Toad learns the true meaning of friendship. This musical event is faithful to the classic, enchanting novel. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Charlotte’s Web
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: June 24 – September 5
Tickets: $17
E. B. White’s popular tale of love and devotion, takes theatergoers to Zuckerman’s Farm, where the delightful runt pig Wilbur appears headed for the dinner table — as main course, not as guest. Yet he is saved by the remarkably crafty spider, Charlotte, and the whole town begins talking about it. Some pig! Recommended for ages 3 and up, the show runs about 1 hour.

Children’s Theater in the Woods
Where: Wolf Trap
When: June 28 – August 13
Tickets: $8 for a day pass – two shows in one
With 70 performances from late June through early August, Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods presents family-friendly shows at 10am and 11:15am on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All performances are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade. The full schedule of shows in available of the Wolf Trap website.

Oklahoma!
Where: Arena Stage
When: July 14 – October 2
Tickets: $61-106
The classic show is back by popular demand, remounting its fall production after receiving numerous accolades, including 4 Helen Hayes Awards. Inspired by the toughness of the prairie, Artistic Director Molly Smith sets her production in the robust world of territory life filled with a dynamic cast as rich and complex as the great tapestry of America itself. With Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless music, Oklahoma! celebrates the vigor of America’s pioneering spirit with athletic dance and boot-stomping energy that will thrill audiences young and old. Oklahoma! runs approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. Every Saturday afternoon, free family-friendly events will be held in and around the Mead Center from 12:30-1:30pm., prior to the 2:00pm matinee. Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo, learn some of the award-winning dance moves, or share a box social lunch with your friends and family.

Rocknoceros
Where: Jammin’ Java
When: July 16, 11am & 7pm
Tickets: $10
The local band adored by kids is doubling up the entertainment with two shows in one day. It’s the hometown debut of their new album “Colonel Purple Turtle,” which tells tales through song of the Colonel and his friends in their make-believe home of Soggy Bog. Families can opt for a mid-morning performance at 11am or rock out at the 7pm happy hour show.

Boogie Babes
Where: North Hall of Eastern Market
When: Thursdays at 10:30am through August 25
Tickets: $5/child, free for siblings 6 months and under
Make a weekly date with the Boogie Babes all summer long! Little ones can boogie along with their favorite local musicians in the cool, open space of Eastern Market’s North Hall every Thursday morning. Go for the show, then grab lunch in the Market and stay to play. See the line-up of performers on the Boogie Babes website.

Backyard Theatre for Children
Where: Strathmore
When: July 21 & July 28 ,9:30am & 11:30am
Tickets: $8, free for ages 2 and under
This theatre series brings children the music and mystery of exotic locales from around the world – all outdoors under a big tent! In the two weeks of the season, travel to India and Russia through these performances. Bring blankets or low chairs to sit on and a bag lunch for a picnic after show.

The Wizard of Oz
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: July 22 – September 4
Tickets: $10
This new version of L. Frank Baum’s “Great American Fairy Tale, “ recreates the characters illustrated by W.W. Denslow in a wide variety of puppet styles. Based on Baum’s first, best known, and best-loved of the classic Oz tales, rather than the 1939 MGM movie, the “wicked witch” is a minor character, dispatched easily with humor, and adventures never seen in the movie are brought to fore.

Tiny Tots
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: Ongoing – Wednesdays, Saturdays, & Sundays at 10am
Tickets: $5
The series presents puppet shows designed for the youngest theater patrons (ages 0-4). They are shorter, the lights stay on, and the doors stay open. They have an arsenal of shows that they switch up every performance, so be sure to check the schedule to see what’s playing when you go.

Reptiles Alive!
Where: Discovery Theatre, Ripley Center, Smithsonian
When: July 20-22, 10:15am & 11:30am
Tickets: $6/adult, $5/child, $3/under 2
Reptiles Alive! is the most popular traveling wildlife education program based in the Washington Metropolitan area. We are very pleased to be welcoming them back to Discovery Theater to present Snakes Alive! Uncover the secret life of snakes during this spectacular show. Myths will be debunked about these misunderstood animals. You might see pythons, boa constrictors, legless lizards, milk snakes and more sssuper sssnakes! Recommended for ages 6 and up.

The Wizard of Oz
Where: Encore Stage
When: July 22 – 31
Tickets: $15/adults, $10/children
After a tornado whisks her away to the magical land of Oz, Dorothy and her new friends, a scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion, set off to find the powerful Wizard who can send her home. Based on the books by L. Frank Baum, this production will be performed by the Act III Theatre Company, an Arlington group presenting musical productions that are ideal for children and adults of all ages.

Just a Dream: The Green Play
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: July 25, 7pm
Tickets: FREE, RSVP to cmorrison@adventuretheatre.org by July 22
Adventure Theatre will make its international debut with Just a Dream: The Green Play, which in the Spring of 2011 took the message of environmentalism to over 50 Washington, DC-area schools and organizations. Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburgtt, the play will be presented in Singapore and Malaysia, but you have a chance to see it first. Adventure Theatre will also be hosting a free open rehearsal and kick-off party of this earth-friendly show at Glen Echo Park.

Urban Artistry
Where: Discovery Theater, Ripley Center, Smithsonian
When: July 26-29, 10:15am & 11:30am, July 27 & 29, 1:00
Tickets: $6/adult, $5/child, $3/under 2
They are guided by the origins of the drum, the energy of the underground dance movement and the art that documents all of our histories. Urban Artistry illuminates the counterculture styles of urban dance (often referred to as hip-hop), and their calling to create a diverse community of people with whom to share the experience. Returning to Discovery Theater this summer after a sold out run in 2009, this award-winning dance troupe will inspire you to get up on your feet! For ages 2 and up.

Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies
Where: Wolf Trap
When: August 4, 8:30pm
Tickets: $20-52
Hear National Symphony Orchestra perform music from Disney’s hit movies at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, and more come to life with video clips and songs from your favorite Disney movies on giant screens in-house and on the lawn.

Fox and Branch
Where: Jammin’ Java
When: August 20, 10:30am
Tickets: $10
Dave Fox and Will Branch play a timeless kind of music. Their crowd-pleasing mix of old blues, jug band songs, fiddle tunes, New Orleans-flavored numbers and Cajun tunes makes people stop and smile. The duo has played to appreciative audiences at clubs, festivals, schools and libraries all over the Midwest, as well as on the east coast and south to Louisiana. Their music has been played on folk radio across the United States and Canada.

Peter Pan
Where: Wolf Trap
When: September 1-4
Tickets: $55-70
Tony Award-nominee Cathy Rigby takes flight in an all-new production of Peter Pan, filled with timeless magical moments and a captivating hook. The legend you thought you knew is now the adventure you never dreamed possible…Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan!

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Filed under All ages, DC, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre