The Arden Experience

I always forget how much I love live theater until I go. I grew up going to live theater productions, and I’m glad that it’s something we’ve been able to do with our kids. It is actually my husband who instigated our first visit to the Christmas Panto at a theater in our area, and our kids love it so much that it has become an annual tradition.

A few weeks ago, we were invited to the Arden Theater in downtown Philadelphia for the opening night performance of Charlotte’s Web. For those not familiar with the theaters in Philadelphia, the Arden is a small theater committed to bringing stories to life — usually children’s stories, so it is geared to families with kids. The main stage seats only about 350 people, and it is designed so that there is truly not a bad seat in the house. We were in the next to last row on a far side, and I felt like I had a front-row-center-stage view. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When we arrived, about an hour and a half before the show, we were greeted by a light dinner buffet provided for the entire audience and various crafts and activities set up throughout the rooms. There was even a live pig (a little one) in a petting area for the kids to see and touch. My daughter was enthralled (I was just glad I brought hand sanitizer in my purse!!)

After I managed to tear her away from the pig (the poor child really NEEDS a pet) and got everyone fed, we started making our rounds. The girls made a beeline for the face painting — YES! Face painting before the show!

As you can see, my other daughter is in the back, trying on her newly designed pig snout.

They each made several crafts, while the adults hung out and sipped on coffee from a local coffee shop.

I hung out with my other PSMM peeps, Kelly and Melissa, and I was able to say a quick hello to JessicaCaitlinJennifer, Linda and Courtney. (We had our hands too full of coats and crafts to take a picture.)

By the time we were ready to go sit down for the show, we had already had enough fun to make it worth the trip. Well, all of us except for my 12-year-old son, who thinks he’s too cool for crafts and face painting.

But thankfully the night was young, and there was plenty of fun for him to come. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the play, and I feared it might be geared to the younger kids, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This production was a class act. From the second the actors entered the stage, I knew we were in for a treat.

They managed to walk that fine line between making it understandable for the younger set and appealing to older kid and adult humor. I appreciated that they kept it clean (which you would expect, as it’s a children’s theater, but these days I’m shocked by what people consider appropriate for younger audiences. And yes, I have now become my mother.)

Many of the actors took on duplicate roles, and the speed at which they could change from one costume to the other was impressive. What was truly spectacular, though, was how they impersonated the animals. They weren’t dressed in animal costumes; they simply added a couple of pieces of clothing and immediately took on the posture and mannerisms associated with their particular animal. It was hysterical.

Taking pictures during the show wasn’t permitted, but they provided us with some photos in my press kit. This is Fern and Wilbur.

And Charlotte making her first appearance.

And my favorite characters, Goose and Gander (also Mr. and Mrs. Arable):

I wish there was a better picture of the set; it was really cool the way they built the wood beams to look like the inside of a barn.

Even my 6-year-old daughter was sorry to see the show end, and once we were outside the theater, she asked, “Is there going to be a second one?”

Yeah, no double features at the Arden, but it’s always good to leave wanting more, is it not?

Oh, and speaking of wanting more. After the show, everyone was served ice cream from Franklin Fountain.

I mean, really, what more could you ask for?

Oh, but there IS more! After the show, the actors took a few questions in the theater, and then they hung out in the lobby, chatting with the guests and answering more questions. My daughter was enthralled with Charlotte and had a bunch of questions for the actress, Sarah Gliko, who was lovely and gracious and patient with all the kids lined up to talk to her.

The play is recommended for families with kids 5 and over, so at 6, 8 and 12, my kids were the absolute perfect age for this experience. It is showing until the end of January, so if you are local to Philadelphia and looking for a fun family outing over the holidays, be sure to check it out. At around $20/ticket, it’s a lot of bang for your buck. This is the perfect place to take your kids for their first (or twenty-first!!) live theater experience. We will definitely be back!

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets for Charlotte’s Web on behalf of Arden Theatre Company. All commentary and opinions expressed are my own.