Parents (and grandparents) who want to expose their children to the wonders of theatrical storytelling—but know that a 5-year-old can't sit still for long—find a perfect place to take them whenever the Chicago Children's Theatre puts on a show. The nonprofit company bounced from venue to venue until in 2012 it landed a permanent home on the city's North Side, and celebrated by producing Harold and the Purple Crayon, a roughly one-hour show based on the wonderful, 50-year-old books by Crockett Johnson. The three-member cast led the audience through Harold's imaginative wonderland of cowboys, space travel, underwater adventure and more, and even the littlest attendees in the 235-seat theater sat, enraptured by the colorful, ever-changing sets and live band that accompanied it all.
The professional actors in the shows all work in Chicago's biggest-name theaters, and the production teams know how to tell stories in ways that the youngest children can understand. Programs include activites for kids to do while they wait for curtain time, a nice bonus. The shows change every couple of months, so go online to see what's coming up; show times are at kid-friendly 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets for our performance were $36 each, so this isn't a budget afternoon. But it feels good to support a nonprofit in a historic building and watch little ones sow their own love-of-theater seeds.