Kids' play list

Kids' play list

Little Seraphina Koh was a little tense when she watched her first theatre production, The Gruffalo, last year.

"She was very scared as it was dark and she didn't know what was going to happen," says her mother, Mrs Micki Koh, 33.

Thankfully, Seraphina, now four, soon recognised the characters from the books she had been reading with her mother, which dispelled the jitters.

"Now, she looks forward to going to the theatre, like she's going on an adventure," says Mrs Koh, an educator.

She plans to take Seraphina to two shows this year - The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favourites by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, Canada, and presented by Act 3 International; and Stick Man presented by ABA Productions and Britain's Scamp Theatre.

With 12 shows and festivals catering to children aged two and up opening in the next six months, parents such as Mrs Koh will be spoilt for choice. There were about nine such shows or festivals held during the same period last year.

But the spike in numbers is a double-edged sword. Industry players tell Life!Weekend they feel the heat from the growing competition, but are also thrilled with the more lively scene.

"We're all competing for the same family time and there's always an exam coming up and other commitments. We just have to keep delivering," says Ms Charlotte Nors, 47, executive director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT).

Its children's theatre arm, The Little Company, stages five shows a year, including the current Mandarin run of The Nightingale.

Brian Seward, 57, artistic director of I Theatre, which is presenting four shows this year on top of the annual ACE (Arts and Creativity for Everyone) Festival, echoes this sentiment: "It does cause me to lose sleep - if we don't sell tickets, we will die. There's an awful lot of competition from overseas as well."

Overseas productions include those brought in by players such as ABA Productions and Base Entertainment Asia, which are usually held in Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa.

Tickets to such shows go for about $50 to $200 each, compared with home-grown shows which usually charge $15 to $40 a ticket, besides family packages at discounted rates.

To stand out, companies here strive to offer something different for the pint-sized crowd. These include using puppets, visual effects and different techniques to encourage audience participation.

Adults watching such shows for the first time may suffer from culture shock.

Talking during the show is not only tolerated, but in fact encouraged, with characters addressing the audience directly and getting them to do singalongs or even "dancealongs".

Besides keeping the little ones engaged, these shows often weave in educational messages and life lessons too.

Ms Diah Mastura Roslan, 33, recently caught the English version of The Nightingale with her three daughters, six-year-old twins and their older sister, aged seven.

Staged by The Little Company, it tells the story of how the Emperor of China learns the values of friendship and freedom after his new friend, the Nightingale, lost her ability to sing when he insisted on keeping her in a cage.

"Before I could even ask, my elder daughter told me what the moral of the story was. I was quite surprised," says Ms Diah, a full-time blogger.

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