Even though the performance schedule for Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap changes from week to week, this review is relevant to the entire season. Because at the annual summer theatre series, what’s around the stage factors into the experience just as much as what’s on it. The charming outdoor setting — an intimate wooden amphitheater nestled among tall trees that form a leafy canopy overhead, plus the lovely scenery beyond — plays a big role in the two-act show, adding an air of enchantment to the outing.
The kids and I, along with some friends, caught the series last week, just a few days after it kicked off for the season. City Dance, a local youth dance troupe, and Milkshake, the popular kids music group, performed for what looked like a sold-out crowd. We’d never seen either act perform before, but having attended the program last summer, we anticipated a great time based on the in-the-woods aspect alone.
When I say what’s around the stage factors in to the experience, that begins as soon as you leave the parking lot. A paved path leads up a gentle hill to a few screened-in pavilions and restrooms. (Note: making a pre-show pit stop is probably a good idea, as a loo isn’t convenient to the amphitheater.) The path continues through a scenic area with a big grassy field, edged by woods and a small creek just beyond. The box office is a cute, little kiosk at the end of the path; there guests can pick up will-call or purchase tickets. From there, a dirt trail leads to the amphitheater about 50 yards away, and there is stroller parking just outside. Seating is general admission, but the cozy configuration offers good views from just about every angle, and the natural setting makes for a relaxed, fun vibe.
While this was all a big part of our enjoyment at last week’s show, we were also treated to wonderful performances from both groups. City Dance wowed with a contemporary dance journey through the Amazon, evoking images of the region’s creatures with inspired choreography, creative costumes, and powerful music befitting the jungle theme. I am a big fan of dance (if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you might recall my homage to a particular dance show last year) as is my five-year-old son, Owen, and we were both captivated by the performances of the group, all ages 12-19. The rest of the audience seemed rapt right along with us.
In the second half, Milkshake put on a super fun show for the kids. Though I personally wish there had been a little more music and less talking, the younger audience members really seemed to enjoy the interactive performance. The band included kids in the entertainment, inviting them to tell jokes and dance on stage. They also threw out big inflatable balls for the audience to toss around. Both little ones and parents were grooving and singing along to the quirky tunes.
(As mentioned already, the schedule changes weekly, so both acts are no longer performing there, but I recommend both if you have a chance to see them at another venue.)
The fun in the woods doesn’t end with the performances. Many times, the audience is invited to meet guests after the shows, as we did between the two performances. And when when both shows are over, you can stay to eat lunch at one of many picnic tables or in the big field. Pack your own food (and blanket if you opt for the field), as only ice cream treats are sold post-show. Kids can also run around the field and play in the creek, which is a shallow trickle just feet from the picnic tables. It’s the perfect way to end the outdoor theatre adventure.
Tickets for Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods are $8/ages 3 and up for both shows, ages 2 and under are free. The series runs through August 13, with two new acts performing every week. See the complete schedule on the Wolf Trap website.