Salt Lake City theater companies offer holiday shows for children — and their adults

(Courtesy dav.d daniels of dav.d photography) The cast of Salt Lake Acting Company's "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs."

Two favorite kids’ books are getting stage twists for family audiences this holiday season.

‘The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs‘

(Courtesy dav.d photography) The cast of Salt Lake Acting Company's "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs."

Salt Lake Acting Company presents a fractured fairy tale as a musical courtroom drama, adapted from a popular genre-breaking 1989 book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.

The musical casts theatergoers as the jury in the Piggsylvania trial of Alexander T. Wolf. During the trial, the wolf explains how he earned his “big, bad” reputation, thanks to an ill-timed sneeze that accidentally blew two houses down, which led him to feast on pork.

It’s the ninth annual kids’ play produced by SLAC, aimed at encouraging subscribers to introduce the children in their lives to live theater. As part of the run, the company offers morning matinees for elementary students from 12 Utah Title 1 schools.

The musical encourages kids to see another point of view, says SLAC guest director Penny Caywood, artistic director of the University of Utah’s Youth Theatre program. That’s one of the themes in the lesson plan Caywood created for teachers to support the show.

It’s a relevant theme at a time when the term “fake news” is often thrown around on news broadcasts, Caywood says. The musical offers “a very kid-friendly way to start thinking about putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, and that can translate to other things,” she says.

The director praises the musical’s cast for their energy and experience. And she praises the stage play for its witty language and its bouncy, singable tunes.

Different verdicts could be handed down at every show, Caywood says.

The court reporter who serves as the story’s narrator is embedded with the audience, while the court bailiff directly addresses theatergoers. And the show’s thrust stage was designed to invite audience participation. “I wanted it to feel immersive, I wanted the action to be happening all around,” Caywood says. “I don’t want kids to sit quietly.”

When • Dec. 1-29; 7 p.m. Fridays, with noon and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees; check saltlakeactingcompany.org for additional vacation shows<br> Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City<br> Tickets • $15 kids ($25 adults) at 801-363-7522<br> Also • As part of the run, SLAC will partner with Intermountain Therapy Animals, Voices for Utah Children and the Visual Art Institute. They are also holding a donation drive for toys, art supplies, jewelry and gift cards for students at their neighboring school, Washington Elementary.

‘The Little Prince‘

(Courtesy photo) McKenzie Steele Foster as the Little Prince and Amy Ware as Rose in Sackerson's production of "The Little Prince."

Audiences will also be invited to help imagine the story in a minimalist stage production of “The Little Prince,” a regional premiere by Sackerson theater company.

The story, of course, is beloved, based on the 1943 novella-of-a-fable by French aristocrat and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the world’s most often translated and best-selling books.

The stage adaptation (Rick Cummins and John Scoullar) tells the familiar story of a pilot stranded in the desert. He meets a mysterious young prince who tells stories of living among the stars. “One sees clearly only with the heart” is part of the story’s wisdom. “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The production offers a minimalist, anti-spectacle vibe, says director Dave Mortensen, staged with set pieces such as a ladder and a bench that stand in for a planet and an airplane and scenic backdrops.

“The Little Prince” features music by cellist Brooke Bolick, while actor Shawn Francis Saunders will also step in with some ukulele accompaniment.

One of the company’s producers, Alex Ungerman, plays the Aviator. Choreographer Graham Brown (who created the company’s “Sonder” and is an assistant professor of dance at Brigham Young University) directed the show’s movement, based on the physical theater work of Frantic Assembly, a British company.

At its core, the stage show reminds viewers of the importance of what is seen by the heart. “This is a holiday show that I think Salt Lake City is going to love,” Mortensen says. Theatergoers are invited to see it with a kid — or without, he adds.

When • 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday through Dec. 23<br> Where • The Art Factory, 211 W. 2100 South, South Salt Lake<br> Tickets • $10-$17 at sackerson.org; $20 at the door