Three bears, one bull and a dancing rabbit: A spring 2011 kids preview

Animals attack in spring kids' shows

The spring season for kid-oriented performances looks to be richer than the fall's. And the fall's wasn't too shabby. Expect an invasion of rabbits (Peter), bulls (Ferdinand) and pigs (three little ones), plus a very hungry caterpillar who'll be flying before long.

The following highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out for every kids' show worth knowing about over the next few months.

Kids in the Rotunda
Overture Center, Saturdays through April 30 at 9:30 am, 11 am & 1 pm

Overture's series offers free fun on Saturdays, with an eclectic lineup that includes witty yo-yo master Mark Hayward (Jan. 22), eccentric juggler Truly Remarkable Loon (Feb. 12), the spunky Trinity Academy of Irish Dance (March 12) and cowboy singers KG & the Ranger (April 30). What better place than a $200 million culture palace to see yo-yo tricks and yodeling?

MadFest Juggling Extravaganza
Jan. 15, Wisconsin Union Theater, 7 pm

The word "juggling" doesn't really do justice to this delightful annual event, which showcases all manner of object manipulation. The format is a vaudeville-style revue, and you never know what's coming next. For kids, the fun begins even before the show as they bat balloons around the Union Theater's seats.

Celebrating Youth
Jan. 30, Monona Terrace, 11 am-5 pm

The annual children's talent showcase features art, theater, music and dance. Expect performances by the Young Shakespeare Players, Madison Unicyclists, Wild Rumpus Circus, Children's Theater of Madison, Yonim Israeli Folk Dance Troupe, and many others. So many, in fact, that there might be more kids on stage than in the audience.

Most Valuable Player
Feb. 19-27, Overture Center Playhouse

Children's Theater of Madison presents a play about Jackie Robinson, the American hero who broke major-league baseball's color barrier in 1947. If you don't come out feeling uplifted, someone's not doing his job.

Ferdinand the Bull
Feb. 20, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 3 pm

Arizona's Childsplay performs a musical adaptation of the children's book about a bull who prefers smelling flowers to fighting in the ring. There's got to be a lesson there, right? The production blends Spanish and English.

Duck Soup Cinema
Feb. 26, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 2 & 7 pm

Overture's Capitol Theater harks back to its glory days as a 1920s movie palace with a vaudeville-style revue and a silent film accompanied live on the vintage Grand Barton Organ. The film is Buster Keaton's The Three Ages, which jumps from prehistoric times to ancient Rome to the Roaring Twenties. If you think kids won't respond to a silent film classic, you've never been to Duck Soup Cinema.

International Festival
March 5, Overture Center

Here's a chance to take your kids abroad without leaving town. The free event showcases international traditions with food, performances and a craft bazaar.

The Surprising Story of the Three Little Pigs
March 5-March 13, Overture Center Playhouse

Children's Theater of Madison applies a Fractured Fairy Tales approach to the Three Little Pigs, the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Three Bears. The characters take matters into their own hands to change their classic stories, revising happily ever after.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
March 12, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 11 am

Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia brings Eric Carle's lovely picture-book tales of caterpillars, chameleons and clouds to life using puppets and black lights. The show is all about transformations, which the young audience knows a little something about.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
March 19-20, Overture Center's Capitol Theater

Madison Ballet is pitching choreographer Peter Anastos' adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy as a family show. It's true there are a lot of fairies, and someone changes into an ass. Kids love it when someone changes into an ass.

The Little Prince
April 8-17, Overture Center Playhouse

Children's Theater of Madison presents an adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's whimsical tale of a boy who comes to Earth from a tiny asteroid and learns that "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." I predict that CTM's production will tame the entire audience.

Peter Rabbit's Ballet
April 8-10, Mitby Theater at MATC-Truax

Dance Wisconsin presents its charming ballet based on four Beatrix Potter stories. As you can imagine, it will take some daring leaps and pirouettes for Peter Rabbit to escape that mean old Mr. McGregor.

Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre
April 15, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 8 pm

The South Dakota troupe performs "Cokata Upo! (Come to the Center)," which evokes Lakota culture with songs, traditional dances, video imagery and creation stories. It'll be an educational opportunity for the kids as well as a stirring night at the theater.

Pero, or the Mysteries of the Night
May 1, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 3 pm

A baker romances a washerwoman in Speeltheater Holland's magical show for younger children, based on a commedia dell'arte story. It features puppets, human actors, lively music, witty effects and a touch of poetry.

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