My New Year's resolution: Take the kid to more live performances in 2012. Here are some highlights from Madison's spring arts calendar that could well make this the easiest resolution on my list.
The Magic School Bus Live: The Climate Challenge
Jan. 21, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 11 am
For 25 years, the Magic School Bus books and cartoons have done a great job of entertaining young children while slipping in easy-to-digest science lessons. I wouldn't be surprised if future Nobel Prize winners cite eccentric teacher Ms. Frizzle in their acceptance speeches.
This live version is a musical adventure about global warming, whisking kids around the world to witness signs of climate change and emphasizing the need for conservation. It's hard to imagine a catchy song about polar ice caps melting, but if anyone can do it, Magic School Bus can.
Feb. 11-19, Overture Center Playhouse
Children's Theater of Madison presents a theatrical adaptation of the unconventional children's stories, in which a suspicious bunny comes to live with the Monroe family. At least the household pets find him suspicious, concluding that he's a vampire. Why else would he be sucking the juice out of vegetables at night?
Expect CTM to squeeze every possible laugh out of this material. I envy the actor who lands the plum role of Chester, the cat with the overactive imagination.
The Peking Acrobats
Feb. 12, Overture Center's Overture Hall, 3 pm
The troupe bring the ancient Chinese art of acrobatics into the 21st century, making the impossible possible. Shrouded in fog and accompanied by a Chinese orchestra, they'll stack a half-dozen people on one bicycle and otherwise defy the laws of physics.
Of course if you try any of these stunts at home, kids, you will get a time out immediately.
Feb. 17-19, Overture Center's Promenade Hall
Baba Yaga is a witch out of Slavic folklore who eats children, flies around on a giant pestle and lives in a house with chicken-leg supports. We had a Baba Yaga picture book that both entranced and horrified my young son - and me too, truth be told.
Kanopy Dance's family-oriented adaptation brings the tale to life with masks, puppets and original choreography. In this telling, a young girl must perform three impossible tasks to win her freedom, with help from a magic doll.
A Brown Bear, A Caterpillar and A Moon: Treasured Stories By Eric Carle
Feb. 18, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 11 am
What's better than an Eric Carle story? Three Eric Carle stories, drawn from the picture books The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; and Papa Please Get the Moon For Me. Mermaid Theater of Nova Scotia mirrors Carle's unique style in its production design, which makes use of puppets, black lights, animation and music.
Will the Very Hungry Caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Will Papa bring the moon to his daughter? You'll just have to go to the show and find out.
Tall Stories: Twinkle, Twonkle
March 11, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 3 pm
The London company Tall Stories presents a musical show for kids 3-7, combining nursery rhymes and astrophysics. Two kids who like to gaze at the stars take a trip through outer space, where they see the cow jumping over the moon and other such scientific phenomena.
Duck Soup Cinema
March 17, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 2 & 7 pm
Overture's family-friendly series brings back the vaudeville era with a brisk variety show and a silent film, accompanied live on the Grand Barton organ. This installment features Irish folk music, Irish dance, an accordionist and a vocal ensemble, followed by a screening of Harold's Lloyd's The Kid Brother.
You might wonder if your kids will respond to silent comedy, but don't underestimate Lloyd's ability to speak to the videogame generation. My grade-schooler was rolling in the aisles during a Duck Soup presentation of his classic Safety Last.
Pedro and the War Cantata
March 23-31, Hemsley Theatre in UW Vilas Hall
University Theatre continues its wonderful tradition of offering a Theatre for Youth production. This year's show is the premiere of an English-language version of Pedro and the War Cantata, by Argentine playwright María Inés Falconi.
After a bombing raid, a boy is trapped in the wreckage of his school with an elderly neighbor. Sounds grim, but the play is about people's capacity for resilience in hard times. It's recommended for kids 9 and up.
Lord of the Flies
March 24-April 1, Overture Playhouse
Children's Theater of Madison presents an adaptation of William Golding's tale, in which schoolboys make their own society after crash-landing on an uninhabited island. No one who's read the chilling novel would consider taking a young child to this production (indeed, kids under 8 will be prohibited), but for preteens and up, it's guaranteed to be a thought-provoking experience.
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
May 5-20, Overture Playhouse
Children's Theater of Madison reprises its 2010 adaptation of Kevin Henkes' picture book - and why not? My family loved every minute of that charming production, which did justice to Henkes' inimitable brand of wit and whimsy. The self-confident title mouse is one of the most vivid characters in children's literature, and CTM brings her to life right in front of your eyes.
Plus, you might just see the locally based Henkes himself in the audience. Celebrity alert!
These touring shows at Overture Hall are really for older types, but you might want to consider them anyway: Fiddler on the Roof (Feb. 24-26); Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (March 2), Cats (March 16-18), and the techno-circus light show Luma Theatre (April 15). After all, the kids have to grow up sometime.