Bringing Kids to See the Lion King in San Francisco

Taking a nine year old to see SHN’s production of The Lion King in San Francisco was an easy decision. It was taking my six year old that needed more consideration. He’s well behaved, but he’s six and a typical boy, so sitting still for long periods isn’t always his thing. Not to mention, the show began 45 minutes after his bedtime. The two major reasons to take him won out: he hates being left behind while his sister gets to go out; and he’d already seen The Lion King on Broadway.

Yes, he’d seen it before. He was only four when we saw the production in New York, and I thought that seeing it again at age six would not only reinforce the memory, but he’d be able to understand better and enjoy it more. He did understand it better – getting more of the jokes – and enjoy it more, but it didn’t reinforce the memory of New York because he didn’t remember seeing The Lion King at all before. So much for Broadway. (He does remember a candy store from that same visit. Go figure.)

The Lion King at the Orpheum was perfect. My son covered his ears during one scene, which was his way of decreasing the scariness without missing out on the action. If he’d been really scared, he would have asked to go to the bathroom, which is his typical M.O. Mostly he laughed, smiled, and heartily clapped.

My nine year old enjoyed it and compared it to the Broadway show, saying that she loved the differences in the San Francisco version. The story was the same, but the show was new.

I loved the closeness of the Orpheum. The characters walking down the aisle were right there, so close we clearly saw all four people working the elephant, and the baby elephant following behind. (I still cannot believe the large elephant fit down the aisle.) My kids loved how the show left the stage and came close, even if only briefly. It was beautiful and pulled the audience in, in a way most shows do not.

Some tips for taking kids:

* If you’re worried about how your child will react to the story line, have them watch the movie first. Oddly enough, I don’t think my kids have ever seen the movie.

* Bribe them with candy. I let my kids pick out one candy each from concessions before the show, then they can snack whenever their attention wanes.

* Try to sit near the aisle, but maybe not put a young child on the aisle seat. My son was the second seat in, next to my husband on the aisle. This was the perfect proximity for my son: close enough to be up close, but not right next to one of the characters in case things went crazy.

* Go to the bathroom before the show. The lines are much shorter than during intermission.

* Grab a cushion. My kids both sat on cushions provided complementary to help boost them up in their seat. There is nothing like having the person in front block your child’s view. The cushions level the playing field.

* If you’re worried about the time, head to a matinee. My son made it through the show, but fell asleep in the car on the way home. It was a late night, but so worth it.

* We ate dinner at Show Dogs down the street before the show. The hot dogs are good, but it’s a dicey walk at night.

* Don’t overlook street parking. We parked near the library, right by the theater for free. Perfection.

It was a great night out, and my son woke up talking about it. I think this time he’ll remember.

Disclosure: SHN provided our tickets for the show. All opinions are my own. The Lion King runs at the Orpheum through Jan. 13.


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