Things to Do in NYC: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Family Matinee

When it comes to dance in this country, one name comes to mind: Alvin Ailey. This past Saturday, my daughter and I had the opportunity to see the iconic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company perform live at the New York City Center.

For more than five decades, the esteemed African-American dance enterprise has graced stages in front of more than 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents—as well as millions who’ve witnessed their masterful artistry through television broadcasts, film screenings and countless online platforms.

So, to finally see the AAADT up close and personal with my 7-year-old daughter was an experience I won’t soon forget. Saturday’s show was part of the company’s Family Matinee series, which aims to get more families out to experience the beauty of the AAADT during the holiday season.

AAADT in Hope Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream. Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Hope Boykin’s “r-Evolution, Dream.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

Divided into three acts with two 15-minute intermissions, the show opened with “r-Evolution, Dream” an enthralling piece inspired by the speeches and sermons of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Led by Hope Boykin, veteran Ailey dancer — the Civil Rights era came to life through a mesmerizing ensemble that didn’t miss a beat. Through fluid movement and awe-inspiring narration by Tony award winner Leslie Odom Jr., the piece delved into Dr. King’s exceptional and unyielding message of unity during one of America’s darkest, yet most constructive times.

AAADT in Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The next piece, “Members Don’t Get Weary,” a remarkable display of the current social landscape picked up where “r-Evolution” left off. Set to the music of legendary jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, the piece captivated the audience with spellbinding steps and seamless choreography. The dancers’ bodies evoked immense emotion with every move—conveying a gripping story of triumph.

AAADT Alvin Ailey's "Revelations." Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The final rendition, “Revelations,” a cornerstone to AAADT’s legacy—was a soul-stirring, hand-clapping and foot-tapping performance that entranced the entire audience from start to finish. This signature masterpiece transfixes you and takes you to a spiritual place. With the stirring church songs and traditional organ chords, you’re transported to the church in which Ailey drew inspiration from while choreographing this piece. It’s as if your soul soars above the seats and floats center stage alongside the artists. Witnessing the effortless elegance and power of this performance is akin to an out-of-body experience (at least what I’d assume one to be).  It’s no wonder the ballet has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work—it’s that good.

From the brilliant, symbolic costumes, to the top-notch lighting, to the riveting music, the show’s overall production is beyond praiseworthy. While the artists were indeed the stars of the show, the staging was superb and allowed the dancers to elevate and showcase their breathtaking artistry.

To top off an incredible afternoon, guests were also treated to a Q&A session with the dancers and veteran Ailey dancer, Hope Boykin. Attendees learned about their inspiration, background and future aspirations.

Watching the uber-talented dancers demonstrate their creativity through movement has inspired me and my daughter. While I’m sure she didn’t understand some of the elements, art is universal and witnessing poetry in motion is something that everyone can enjoy. After the show, she couldn’t stop twirling and swaying her body from left to right. You never know, I might see her on stage with the ADDT one day. Now that would be a dream.

Below, please find the remaining Family Matinee schedule:

Saturday, Dec 16, 2pm – The Winter in Lisbon, Night Creature, Cry, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 23, 2pm – Four Corners, After the Rain, The Hunt, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 30, 2pm – Four Corners, After The Rain, Mass, Revelations

All performances will take place at New York City Center – 131 West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, New York, NY. For ticket information, please visit: www.nycitycenter.org

**Disclosure: I was given two comp tickets for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

 

Have you ever seen an Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performance?

‘Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic’ Show Will Make You a Believer

Do you believe in magic? If not, you’re going to change your mind after watching Jason Bishop’s mesmerizing new show, “Believe in Magic” at the New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The show aimed at kids ages six and up, is obviously created for younger audiences—but will keep parents just as entertained. With funny political and pop culture references sprinkled throughout, Bishop delivers laughs for adults in between mind-boggling tricks.

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Bishop, who made his New Victory debut last year, has updated his show with holiday inspired magic and surprises to add to the festive wonderment of the season. Plus, audience participation puts your budding magicians in the spotlight with fun stunts and tricks that will make them feel like a pint-size Whodini!

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Credit: Alexis Buatti-Ramos

From puzzling card tricks to unbelievable illusions, kids will be entranced as he seamlessly creates a magical experience they won’t soon forget.

And as always, the New Victory offers fun interactive crafts and games that complement the show in their stunning, newly renovated space. My kids loved the show from start to finish and couldn’t wait to go home to show their dad the tricks they learned.

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Jason Bishop’s “Believe in Magic,” is currently showing at the New Victory Theater, located 209 W 42nd St, New York, NY through December 30th.  For ticket information, visit the New Victory Theater.

**Disclosure: I was provided comp tickets to “Believe in Magic” for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

What shows or live performances are you taking your kids to see this holiday season?

BGG’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2017

With Christmas less than a month away, it’s time to put your holiday shopping into overdrive.

Still struggling to find the perfect gift for the loved ones on your list? Don’t panic, BGG’s got you covered. From personalized presents to must-have toys, we’ve rounded up the gifts that will make your friends and family shriek with delight.

Try not to keep most of them for yourself!

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IT Cosmetics It Girl Palette
With beautiful packaging and even better quality, your beauty-obsessed BFF will never want to use another brush set again. Available here, $50.

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Personalized Yankee Candle Jar
Want to instantly light up grandma’s face? Give her one of these personalized candles with a family photo—it’s guaranteed to warm her heart and make her home smell scentsational. Available here, prices start at $12.

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The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey
What we know for sure is that Auntie O knows her stuff. Give yourself the gift of wisdom with this book of gems. Available here, $25

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I Need A Baker Sweatshirt
This cozy sweatshirt will make you feel good as ’80s & ’90s R&B. Gift this to the girl in your squad who can’t get enough old school music. Available here, $54

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Disney Pixar Coco Spanish Edition Remember Me Game
Get your little cousins off their gadgets and into this family-friendly game. Similar to bingo, this traditional Loteria game features some of the character’s from Disney Pixar’s new animated film, “Coco,” where each player has a chance at luck. Bring on the fun! Available here, $15

 

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Google Home Mini
Know someone who needs a virtual assistant? Look no further than a smart speaker from the brand who’s been our online answer genie for nearly two decades. Available here, $30

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Bevel Shave System Starter
Guys have fully embraced the scruff and lucky for us ladies, the beard gang isn’t going away anytime soon. Keep your guy’s fuzz groomed with this ultra-luxe starter set. Bonus: It’s black-owned. Available here, $72.

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The Body Shop Strawberry Ultimate Collection
Treat your suds-loving sister to this sweet strawberry set. With a wide range of products included, she’ll be set and smelling good all season long. Available here, $50

The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-by-Decade History

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Score a home-run for the sports fan in your family with this historical, photo-rich tome celebrating one of baseball’s most beloved teams. Available here, $25

 

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Ikuzi Dolls
Not pleased with the doll selections at your local toy store? Ikuzi Dolls to the rescue! These beautiful dolls showcase realistic facial features, hair textures and skin tones celebrating the wide range of BG shades. Your mini-me will beam with pride. Available here, $80.

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Gerber Collection 
Celebrating a new addition to the family? The proud parents on your list will appreciate the quintessential baby getup gift: the onesie. A baby can never have too many. Gerber’s sets will outfit your cuddliest family member in style. Available here, $7.

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Love OPI XOXO Holiday 4pc Set
Nail your niece’s wish list with this eye-catching collection of holiday-inspired polishes. From sultry hues to metallic, she’s sure to find something fitting to keep her fingers fab and flawless. Available here, $15.

 

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Sunbeam Renue Neck Wrap
Your hubby will thank you for this thoughtful gift of healing. Sunbeam’s neck wrap will soothe his achy neck and shoulders while providing a relaxing, comfortable fit. Available here, $50.

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Guess Women’s Gold-Tone Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch
Nothing is as timeless as a watch. Sure, our phones may be able to tell us the time, but a classic gold watch will always make a statement. Available here, $125

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Paw Patrol Sea Patroller
Got a Paw Patrol fan in your home? With flashing lights and a removable anchor, this cool and coloful vessel will make him yelp with glee! Available here, $50

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Sugarfina Candy Trunk
The candy lover in your life will flip for this chic trunk filled with gourmet goodies from around the globe. Available here, $195.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
Making memories with your child is always high on most parents’ lists. What better way to create a lasting impression than the gift of theater? Treat your tot to a performance of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” based on the classic children’s book of the same name for a fun afternoon in the City at DR2. The experience will stay etched in your mind for years to come. Click here for ticket information.

What are you the most excited about this holiday season?

New Musical ‘Interstellar Cinderella’ Soars in Off-Broadway Production

Think you know the story of Cinderella? Think again.

New York City Children’s Theater’s latest production, “Interstellar Cinderella,” based on a book of the same title by Deborah Underwood, puts a fresh, new twist on the classic Disney tale.

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Set in 3017, “Interstellar Cinderella” takes theatergoers on a far-out ride into the future where Cinderella is a beautiful, self-assured science and tech-savvy space engineer in the making. Like the original, Cinderella still wants to escape the wrath of her evil stepsisters and hateful stepmother, but this time around, it’s not a Prince Charming she’s after—it’s independence and an opportunity to make her dreams come true.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Good with her hands, Cinderella, portrayed by Meadow Tien Nguy, has a knack for fixing things and coming up with out-of-this-world inventions—namely, a warp-speed rocket engine. After learning of a space parade hosted by the prince, she knows that it’s an opportunity she can’t miss—and thanks to a two-headed fairy godmother she doesn’t.

While at the ball, her ability to fix the prince’s rocket ship catches his eye and the quintessential fairy tale unfolds.

Directed by Marty Johnson, “Interstellar Cinderella,” emphasizes girl power throughout the STEM-centric production, which is refreshing and inspiring for young audiences, especially young girls. Plus, with music by Laurie Berkner, the famed children’s composer and former preschool teacher—the 50-minute musical is spellbinding and keeps everyone grooving along in their seats. “This is the best thing I’ve worked on today,” says Berkner of her participation in the production. “

My kids with the cast of "Interstellar Cinderella," at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

My kids with the cast of “Interstellar Cinderella,” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

Also, all of the characters bring something unique to the performance and showcases the actors’ remarkable talents.

If you’re looking for a funny, modern show that’s entertaining from start to finish, don’t miss out! Get your tickets for “Interstellar Cinderella” at the Beckett Theatre today.

What’s your all-time favorite fairy tale?

The Trusted Remedy When Mom’s TLC Doesn’t Work

First it’s a sneeze, then a cough and finally once you get out the thermometer, you realize your little one is coming down with a cold—or even worse, the flu.

As a mom, especially the first time around, seeing your baby sick is the worst. You feel helpless because you’re unable to magically make them feel better. Our kisses and hugs are comforting, but unfortunately they aren’t the antidote to making them well. Thankfully, there are plenty of over-the-counter medicine to help us moms out.

Little Remedies® is a brand that I’ve sworn by since my daughter experienced her first bout with congestion. Founded by a father and a pharmacist, I trust that their products will provide gentle, yet effective relief for my children.

Their all-natural Stuffy Nose Kit was a godsend when she could barely breathe out her cute, button nose. The saline drops were easy to administer and the aspirator was simple and didn’t seem to cause her any discomfort. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about any harmful side effects due to its non-medicated formula.

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Little Remedies Stuffy Nose Kit available here, $5.50

Since then, I’ve used Little Remedies® throughout the years on both of my kids. From stuffy noses to gassy tummies to mild fevers, the all-natural brand has been my go-to for those not-so-good days.

My son at the doctor's office earlier this year after suffering from an ear infection.

My son at the doctor’s office earlier this year after suffering from an ear infection.

In addition to their line of medicines, the company has recently released A Little More Wisdom, a parenting resource for caring for your baby’s health and wellness from day one. The book is a easy-to-read, comprehensive guide that outlines and simplifies commons questions that all moms have like “How can I soothe my baby?” “What are some tips for that first airplane ride?” and of course, “How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?”

As a mom of two, I still get nervous and a bit out of sorts when one of my kids gets sick. Luckily, I know there are brands like Little Remedies® that will help ease my fears and get them back up and running in no time.

What’s some of your little remedies for when your child gets sick? 

‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Musical Makes a Broadway Splash

Oh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you don’t know the next line to that catchy ditty, then maybe it’s YOU who’s been living in a pineapple under the sea! For those in the know, it’s of course “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

In case you didn’t get the memo, the world’s most famous sponge is making a big splash on Broadway right in time for the holidays. “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” is currently in previews at the Palace Theatre, and my kids and I had the pleasure of seeing it last week.

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The beloved, quirky character who’s been a mainstay on Nickelodeon for nearly two decades, comes to life on the Great White Way with the zeal and enthusiasm that only SpongeBob can bring. Ethan Slater, who stars as SpongeBob, excels as the upbeat, yet trouble-prone sponge.

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The plot revolves around an imminent catastrophe that SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom friends including Patrick, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Pearl Krabs and of course Sandy, the smart and science-savvy squirrel must find a way to avoid.

Jam-packed with cool costumes, the show, set in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom is as colorful as the cartoon that made the yellow sponge popular in the late 1990s and early aughts. The production is also topnotch with eye-catching set designs accompanied by a band outfitted in Hawaiian shirts—giving a tropical vibe that the animated series exudes.

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The show’s opening number set the tone for a dynamic afternoon of unforgettable original songs (earworm worthy) written by legendary artists like John Legend and Yolanda Adams. The talented ensemble didn’t miss a beat and brought the house down with every note.

Speaking of the cast, seeing the human versions of the popular animated cartoon crew was delightful. The performers masterfully embodied the quirks, twangs and mannerisms of their animated versions.

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While the show is aimed at kids, adults will find striking similarities to social issues facing the country today that are cleverly woven into the musical. Without giving too much away, there’s a theme of prejudice against certain creatures that sound unfortunately familiar in today’s political climate. But like the citizens of Bikini Bottom, hopefully the world will see that there’s power in optimism!

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If you’re looking for a fun, high-energy introductory Broadway show for kids, look no further than the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea!

Get your tickets today!

**Disclosure: I was given comp tickets to the show from Nickelodeon for review purposes only. All opinions are my own. 

Are you looking forward to seeing “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical?” What’s your favorite musical? 

Make Holiday Desserts Pop with Popcornopolis

This holiday season, ditch typical desserts like fruitcakes and pies and swap them with treats that are sure to pop. Popcornopolis’ gourmet popcorn options are the perfect hassle-free sweets that will satisfy guests while leaving you with more time to mingle.

Zebra Product Line photo

Popcornopolis Zebra is available at a variety of west coast retailers including: Safeway, Bristol Farm’s, Von’s and is also nationwide at Publix and Walmart.

The brand’s new Zebra line is comprised of crunchy, chocolatey kernels of goodness that are also guilt-free. With no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, surprisingly this gluten-free snack doesn’t compromise taste. Developed by the company’s Cordon Bleu-trained chef, each of the five new flavors (Chocolate Stripe, Chocolate Peanut Butter, White Chocolate Macadamia, Chocolate Candy Cane and White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice) are coated in delectable caramel and drizzled in chocolate, creating a combo that confectionery popcorn lovers crave.

From peanut butter to pumpkin spice, the new lineup has something for everyone on your holiday dinner guest list. As a dark chocolate and peppermint fan, the Chocolate Candy Cane is my favorite of the bunch. Its irresistible richness is complemented by the refreshing minty flavor, making a party in my mouth with every bite.

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Chocolate Candy Cane

If you’re looking for a wholesome, tasty and convenient dessert to serve at your holiday shindig, look no further than Popcornopolis. Pop open a bag and pour into decorative bowls for a festive cornucopia of delicious popcorn. If your guests don’t devour every kernel (we highly doubt that will be the case), don’t fret, the convenient re-sealable bag makes storing simple and easy.

Go ahead, give yourself the gift of time by serving a sweet snack this holiday season that doesn’t require any prep!

Which flavor from the new line are you the most excited to try? **GIVEAWAY**One lucky reader will get the chance to try them all!  I’m giving away the entire new Zebra line. Simply leave a comment or tweet me with your popcorn preference and a winner will be randomly selected and notified via email by November 27th. This contest is only open to U.S. residents. 

Sunny Days: Sesame Street Celebrates 48th Season at Metrograph

There are times when I’m amazed by the opportunities that my blog has afforded me.

One of those moments occurred this past Thursday when the kids and I attended Sesame Street’s 48th season celebration at the Metrograph in New York City. Over the years I’ve covered many events and worked with countless networks and brands, but there’s something so special about the iconic children’s program that brings out the kid in all of us.

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Held at Metrograph, the retro-chic movie theater/restaurant located on the city’s Lower East Side, attendees were in for a memorable “sunny day.” With healthy snacks and fruit juices lining the concession stand, kids could grab treats for the screening of the Sesame Street special, “The Magical Wand Chase.”

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Before the kids headed upstairs to check out the playroom and passed hor’s deourves, they snapped photos with the famous street’s most beloved characters including Big Bird, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Rosita and Cookie Monster. Seeing these classic puppets up close and personal is an experience my kids and I won’t soon forget.

Once we arrived on the second level of the venue, the kids enjoyed the toy area where they played with plushies, read books and let their imaginations run wild. After that, we headed back downstairs for the sneak peek screening in the theater.

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Airing on HBO today (Nov. 11), “The Magical Wand Chase,” is an hour-long special that celebrates diversity within large cities. In an entertaining, engaging and educational way, it shows children that they can explore and meet new friends from different cultures and communities right in their town’s backyards.

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If the character meet-and-greet and movie weren’t enough, as we exited the building, we were met with delightful  cookies and churros from Cookie Monster’s “Cookie Food Truck.” The unexpected sweet treat was the cherry on top of an unforgettable evening.

Happy 48th birthday, Sesame Street! Here’s to an eternity of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Be sure to watch “The Magical Wand Chase” tonight on HBO at 7pm EST. Also tune in to the season premiere next Saturday (11/18) at 9am EST.

Who’s your favorite Sesame Street character?

Nickelodeon’s ‘Top Wing’ Takes Flight Nov. 6

When it comes to the debut of a new animated series, my 4-year-old son is all in.

He anxiously counts down the days until the show airs and reminds me of its premiere every chance he gets.

The latest object of his obsession is Nickelodeon’s highly-anticipated new show, “Top Wing,” slated to land on TV screens Monday, Nov. 6, 12:30 P.M. (ET/PT). He’s been looking forward to seeing the CG-animated series aimed at preschoolers for weeks. So, you can only imagine his excitement when I told him that he could get a sneak peek of the show before it broadcasts next week.

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Immediately upon clicking on the link to the first episode, “Time to Earn Our Wings,” he was entranced. The action-packed series follows a team of four best friend cadets (Penny, Swift, Rod and Brody) whose mission is to help their island community and go on exciting adventures, all while staying the course to earn their wings as full-feathered rescue birds.

“Top Wing” is an engaging and educational series that will help preschoolers build self-confidence and develop enriching team-building skills, ideal for little ones new to classrooms and other social environments. Through relatable storylines, the series is set to captivate young audiences—it certainly did for my son. He’s watched the first episode multiple times and still can’t wait to watch the premiere on Monday!

If your preschooler is into planes and interested in learning about perseverance and hard work, this is a show he/she won’t want to miss. If the first episode is any indication of what kids can expect this season, it’s off to a flying start!

What are your kids’ favorite animated series?

‘A Sky for the Bears’ is a Must-See for Families this Fall

Like most working moms, the weekends are reserved for my two children. This past Saturday, we had the wonderful opportunity to see “A Sky for the Bears,” at New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The 60-minute shadow puppet show was fascinating from start to finish. The audience was treated to not one cute story, but two! Through smooth movements akin to ballet and impeccably-crafted puppets, both stories come to life before our eyes.

Photo by Serena Groppelli

Photo by Serena Groppelli

The first tale tells the story of an easy-going bear longing to become a papa bear. However, there is just one problem: he doesn’t know what he needs to do to become a daddy to a precious cub. After encountering several funny and ill-informed fellow animals giving him poor advice on how to make his dreams come true, he finally meets a creature who yearns to have a cub too, a female bear.

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The second story picks up where the first one left off. Now, the cub is born and on a mission of his own—finding a way to be with his dearly departed grandfather. After offering himself to seeming predators throughout his quest, he realizes that he doesn’t want to join his grandfather in the afterlife. Instead, he can imagine him dancing and playing in the sky without meeting him in the clouds.

Serena Groppelli

Serena Groppelli

Through imaginative dance and well-designed props, this family-friendly performance tackles heavy topics such as procreation and death in a smart and charming way that kids can understand. The engaging show presents a perfect opportunity to broach tough life moments with your little ones.

“A Sky for the Bears,” is appropriate for children ages 4-7 and showing at New Victory Theater through November 5, 2017. 

What show are you looking forward to seeing this fall/winter season?