Storybook Theater, a new performance series featuring four shows for families, opens this weekend with "Rapunzel!: A Very Hairy Fairy Tale" in Raleigh.
The series is a deviation from the usual family shows that Triangle audiences are used to. I'm talking about those major traveling extravaganzas that pop in every few months. They typically feature characters from popular children's TV programs with high-priced tickets that can price many families out of the experience.
Instead, these production will focus primarily on classic children's stories told by a cast of professional actors based at Forth Worth's Casa Manana Theatre. The plan is to create an affordable performance series for families. This season, four shows are scheduled between March and December. Individual ticket prices start at $14 for the general public.
"We need to develop younger audience, young families, young kids and bring them into the theater," said Jim Lavery, general manager of the Duke (former Progress) Energy Center for the Performing Arts, where the series is based. "That’s my goal here."
Storybook Theater is the brainchild of Lavery and Wally Jones, former CEO of N.C. Theatre. About five years ago, Jones moved to Fort Worth where he is president and executive producer of Casa Manana, which features self-produced and Broadway shows, along with a vibrant children's performance series.
Lavery and Jones kept in touch. And when Jones visited Raleigh in the spring, he pointed out that Raleigh's young demographic could make a children's series popular here. When Lavery looked at the numbers, it made sense, he tells me.
So Storybook Theater was born. The series got a boost from Marbles Kids Museum. The Raleigh museum has helped to promote the series and has offered discounts to its members. Marbles also benefits. It receives a fee for its part promoting the series along with $1 per ticket sold to help pay for its own programming.
Jones came up with the series titles, which includes this weekend's "Rapunzel." Showtimes are 6:30 p.m., Friday; 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Sunday.
It continues in April with "Disney's Winnie the Pooh, Kids;" in early November with "Dora the Explorer Live! Dora's Pirate Adventure;" and during the holidays with "Frosty the Snowman." The shows each are about an hour long, a perfect length for young theater goers.
Jones has scheduled it so when the shows close in Forth Worth, he brings it all - the actors, the sets, the costumes - directly here.
"It’s like a touring show," said Lavery, who worked on two versions of "High School Musical" with Jones. "He’s done a great job. It’s going to be really nice. It’s well done."
Lavery hopes the new series will bring more families to the performing arts center where they'll learn about all of the other performances offered there too ... from Broadway shows for the parents to classic performances such as the Nutcracker from Carolina Ballet to family concerts from the N.C. Symphony.
At the two nearly sold out Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! shows earlier this month, Lavery remembers seeing families who had never been to center before, asking where the bathrooms, box office, concessions and other areas were.
"We got those kind of questions just over and over and over," he said. "We really need to get people in our theaters."
For details and tickets, click here. And stay tuned: We'll have a giveaway for tickets on Monday!