Yes, you can take your kids to the Shaw Festival

Plays such as Peter and the Starcatcher and next season’s Alice in Wonderland are among the family-friendly treats that await in Niagara-on-the-Lake

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Published in The Hamilton Spectator in September 2015

It had been almost ten years since we last brought our daughters to Niagara-on-the-Lake. They were five and eight then and we spent the morning watching them splash in the wading pool in the beautifully landscaped Simcoe Park in the centre of town before taking them on a bike ride along the Niagara Parkway, stopping at a roadside market for local peaches to add to the picnic lunch we had packed. We left at dusk, making the mandatory stop for ice cream on the way home.

Seeing a play at the Shaw Festival was out of the question; no way they’d sit through some lofty Shavian production debating the finer points of socialism, regardless of how witty it might be. There was nothing on the playbill that remotely appealed to kids.

A decade later, things have changed. Not only can our kids sit through and appreciate a full scale theatre production, there are actually a number of family-friendly productions on the 11-show playbill this season, all of which run to the end of October.

They include the magically rambunctious and sweetly sentimental Peter and the Star Catcher, a pun-filled prequel to Peter Pan complete with Miley Cyrus references; the high-stepping song-and-dance visual feast of Sweet Charity; and even a Shaw show, Pygmalion, with a modern-day setting in which technology-obsessed professor of phonetics Henry Higgins totes an iPad instead of a notebook.

And the good news is the Shaw Festival has announced it will continue what one hopes will become an annual tradition of having at least one big show for families when it stages the much-anticipated world premiere of Alice in Wonderland in 2016, a production it promises will use “a dazzling combination of contemporary technology and old-fashioned magic.”

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