On Jan. 25, 2000, the Theatre Development Fund and the League of American Theatres and Producers will present the fourth annual "Kids Night on Broadway." The "Kids Night" event will provide children ages 6 - 18 the chance to experience a Broadway show free, when accompanied by an adult who purchases a full-price ticket.
Tens of thousands of children are expected to participate in the event, which will be held on various dates in nearly 20 cities nationwide.
New York City's "Kids Night on Broadway" takes place Jan. 25. As in most other participating cities, theatres are going to be offering the younger audiences a special 7 PM curtain as well as restaurant discounts. While many individual city schedules have not been finalized at this time, the League's Broadway Line at (888) BROADWAY or (212) 302-4111 in the NYC area, will provide certain regional updates.
"Kids Night" also serves as an anchor event for two other programs. The first event that ties in is the Oct. 17 "Rising Stars Live Broadway Talent Contest," which kicks off the first day of ticket sales to "Kids Night" and takes place at the Broadway Ticket Center (located within the Times Square Visitors Center on east side of Broadway between West 46 Street and West 47 Street).
The talent contest will be conducted between 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM on a first come, first served basis. A cut-off will probably be necessary, but either a schedule or a certain limit on the number of contestants has not been announced. Entrants must be children, ages 8-18, who must come with a photo and sheet music, prepared to sing 16 bars of their favorite song.
Winners will receive tickets to Broadway shows, signed posters, CDs, and more.
The Grand Prize winner will perform at the "Kids' Fan Fair" on Jan. 25 prior to the "Kids Night" theatre performances.
There will be celebrity judges on hand, and the children will also be judged by professional agents. Beyond the top prizes, every entrant will be given the opportunity to be seen by a Broadway talent agent.
The second tie-in event takes place Jan. 25, 2000, prior to "Kids Night" itself. The free "Kids' Fan Fair" takes place at the Roseland Ballroom, 239 West 52nd Street from 3 - 6 PM. The fair offers backstage activities and precedes the Jan. 25 "Kids' Night" theatre performances. Children will be able to experience backstage activities meant to provide young theatregoers a sense of the behind-the-scenes magic of Broadway. Fair activities include specialized dance lessons, stage face painting, makeup design and trying on costumes from various Broadway shows.
In their joint statement, the League and TDF said that children can expect "free souvenirs, and much much more."
"We are thrilled to present "Kids Night on Broadway" in New York and across the country for the fourth straight year," said League president Jed Bernstein. "Over the past few years, the number of young theatregoers under the age of 18 has more than doubled from 500,000 in 1991, to 1.1 million in 1997. Programs like "Kids Night on Broadway" have helped to cultivate that growing young audience to insure that future generations will enjoy the magic of Broadway." A League spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that statistical evidence supports the claim that the programs to expand the youth demographic are working.
Younger theatregoers, meaning those who are under 18 years of age, have increased as a demographic group by 162 percent in the past ten years. In the late '80s, young theatregoers represented 4 percent of the total audience, but today account for over 10 percent. The League says that for the same period, theatregoers in the 18 - 24 age range increased their attendance profile by 60 percent, up from 600,000 to just under 1 million.
The program to increase initial theatregoing opportunities for young audiences reflects a belief held by many in the theatre community.
"I don't know anyone, including myself, who didn't begin their love of the theatre by being taken to see a show by a family member," added TDF's executive director Jack Goldstein. "Taking a kid to see their first curtain go up is an eye-opening, life-changing experience - for both the adult and the child."
Since its inception in 1996, "Kids Night on Broadway" has helped 150,000 young people attend theatre productions in New York and across the country.
The shows participating in "Kids Night on Broadway" include: Annie Get Your Gun, Cats, Chicago, Epic Proportions, Footloose, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, Jekyll & Hyde, Kat and the Kings, Kiss Me, Kate, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Saturday Night Fever, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scent of the Roses, Swing.
There is a Restaurant Program connected with "Kids Night" that provides one free child's dinner for every full-priced adult dinner. The New York City restaurants participating in the "Kids Night" program include: Bangkok Cuisine, Bistro 43, Broadway Diner, Broadway Joe Steakhouse, Cafe Un Deux Trois, Cancun Restaurant, Casa DiMeglio, Danny's Grand Sea Palace, Dillons, Dish of Salt, Hamburger Harry's, La Rivista, La Stanza Verde, La Strada, Le Bouchon, Les Pyrenees, Manhattan Chili Co. (1697 Broadway only), Matt's Grill, My Most Favorite Dessert Company, Pergola Des Artistes, Playwright Tavern & Restaurant, Playwright Tavern Act II, Puleo's, Puleo's Too, Rene Pujol, Swing 46, Texas Texas, Zona Grille, Stage Deli.
The following road shows are participating in the "Kids Night" program: Cats, The Civil War, Footloose, Les Miserables, Peter Pan, The Sound of Music and Titanic. Cities that will participate with their own "Kids Night" programs are: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Hartford, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Louisville, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, Wilmington.
For additional or specific information on "Kids Night on Broadway" call The Broadway Line at (888) BROADWAY or (212) 302-4111 in the New York City area.
-- By Murdoch McBride