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18/19 Family Guide

Berkeley Playhouse Professional Season

Parenting is different for everyone, and we want to keep that ball in your court. In order to help with your decisions, we have created a handy guide for each show so that you know what to expect in order to make a decision you're comfortable with for your family. We always welcome parents to do their own research into the content of each of our shows.

Below you will find a listing for each show in our 2018-2019 Professional Season, with notes on what might be a potential flag in each show, as well as reasons why we think you should bring your family to each show. Education is central to our mission at Berkeley Playhouse, and we hope this guide will enrich the learning experience of all of our patrons both young and seasoned.

The descriptions are broken up into three levels of engagement, often starting with a broad, easily accessible life lesson, and then progressing into more nuanced and advanced lessons from the show.

Scroll down or click on a title below to find notices and discussion topics:


September - October

At a Glance:

An inspirational journey through 20th-century American popular music, Dreamgirls chronicles one Motown group’s rise from obscurity to superstardom. Through gospel, R&B, smooth pop, disco and more, Dreamgirls tackles some serious issues from the competitive entertainment industry, such as ambition, jealousy, and adultery. The show features some strong language (for example, “full of sh**t” or “bullsh**t”), as well as sexual innuendo (for example, “caress me… undress me”).

Discussion Topics:

Level 1: Shoot for the stars
  • Effie, Lorrell and Deena are young, determined and talented. When the Dreamettes first arrive in New York to compete in a talent competition, they aspire to be the next big girl group on the radio, no matter the challenges they face.
Level 2: The cost of success
  • The Dreamettes are quickly discovered and rise to the top of the charts, but their success comes at a cost. Their ruthless manager, Curtis, has his own agenda for fame, which eventually tears the group apart. The Dreamettes soon learn the costs of valuing success over family, and that fame can tear apart even the strongest of relationships.
Level 3: Integrity
  • Much of the drama of this show is the product of lies and manipulation, and the characters fighting to find their inner truth in the face of lies and deceit. One of the turning points in the group’s music career is when white artists steal and benefit from the Dreamettes’ song. It is only after re-aligning with their values that each character is able to make the difficult choices to find their way in the world.

The Wizard of Oz

November - December

At a Glance:

This beloved tale, in which a Kansas farm girl travels over the rainbow to discover the magical power of home, is a wonderful story for children. It contains a few scenes that may be frightening to very young children, including a tornado sequence and the introduction of the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys.

Discussion Topics:

Level 1: Friendship is powerful
  • While Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion journey towards Oz, they encounter a number of troubling challenges, and must face their biggest fears. The group learns that by working together, they can triumph over any obstacle and take down the evil Witch of the West.
Level 2: Finding yourself
  • With the help of Dorothy, each character realizes that the characteristics they were seeking were already within them the whole time. Scarecrow thought he needed a brain, but he used his intelligence to help navigate the team on their journey. Lion thought he lacked courage, but was willing to risk his life for his friends. And the Tin Man, though he lacked a heart, was full of empathy and love for his friends.
Level 3:There’s no place like home
  • Although her journey to Oz brought about some valuable friendships, Dorothy realizes that even a wonderful, fantastical land cannot compete with the comfort of home. After she taps her heels and wakes up at home in Kansas, her family dismisses her adventure as nothing more than a dream. But in her heart, Dorothy knows that her adventure was real -- and that there truly is no place but home.

West Side Story

February - March

At a Glance:

The tale of two young lovers struggling to survive in a world of hate, this story tackles serious topics like prejudice, street violence, and the need for compassion between communities. This show contains some strong language fitting its socio-political context, including a derogatory slur for a person of a Hispanic background. Additionally, it features a knife fight ending in two deaths, the eventual shooting death of a main character, and physical aggression towards a female character.

Discussion Topics:

Level 1: Love conquers all
  • Maria and Tony share a deep, passionate love that defies all odds. While they begin on opposite sides of a gang war, their relationship grows nonetheless, and they attempt to show their friends and families that fighting is not the answer. As with the protagonists from its inspiration, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s lovers meet a tragic demise. However, at the end of the play we see the true power of love in unifying both sides of the turf war, if only momentarily.
Level 2: Loyalty
  • Both street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, are bound by strict loyalty systems. Throughout the play, characters often find their loyalty tested. When Maria and Tony fall in love, their loyalty to their friends and families are put to the test, leading to much conflict, demonstrating both the power and problems that stem from blind loyalty.
Level 3: Class struggles
  • Although they come from different perspectives, the Sharks and Jets have both grown out of groups in society that are poor, underprivileged, and underrepresented. Both groups face persecution from the authorities, with the Sharks in particular having to face racist attacks from the police. While this is a period piece, these experiences are unfortunately still relevant for many marginalized groups in the U.S. today.


April - May

At a Glance:

This is a charming and fantastical musical parable about the cyclical paths one can take to find what is right in front of them. Our protagonist, Prince Pippin, is the son of King Charlemagne the Great, an oppressive ruler engaged in warfare. As a result, we see touches of theatrical violence, and at one point a disembodied head breaks into song. As Pippin searches for meaning, he explores romance and sensuality depicted through dance. Additionally, the show features a non-graphic stabbing, as well as minimal profane language such as the phrase “dumb ass”.

Discussion Topics:

Level 1: What is the meaning of life?
  • Pippin is on a quest for the secret to true happiness and fulfillment. Unable to gain insight from his father, Pippin decides that experience and adventure is the path to enlightenment. He heads into war as a soldier, explores relationships without love, tries his hand at artistry—he even becomes the king of the land! And yet happiness eludes Pippin. He wonders, what is the meaning of life -- and what will make him happy?

Level 2: Enjoy life before it’s too late
  • Throughout the play, Pippin is a serious young man who is seeking meaning in his life. He visits his grandmother, Berthe, who urges him to relax and try to enjoy life more. It’s “time to take a little from what we’re given,” she says, “‘cause spring will turn to fall.”
Level 3: Power to the people
  • Pippin is shocked to hear that his father has slaughtered peasants for simply speaking out against their working conditions. He begins to campaign for freedom of speech and the rights of peasant workers to free will and land ownership. However, once he finds himself in a position of power, Pippin realizes that it’s not as easy as he once imagined to create real and lasting change.

Big, The Musical

June - July

At a Glance:

This heartfelt musical fantasy is a great show for the whole family. When 12-year-old Josh Baskin’s wish to become “big” unexpectedly comes true, he must quickly navigate the unknown world of adults—jobs, grown-up girlfriends, and fancy foods—as he and his best friend seek out a way to undo the spell that caused him to grow.

Discussion Topics:

Level 1: Friendship comes first
  • When Josh is thrust into the overwhelming world of adults, he relies on his best friend Billy, the only one who understands and believes what he is going through. Though they briefly struggle to understand each other in this new situation, Billy’s support is essential to Josh finally finding a way to undo the spell and return to his former life.
Level 2: You can’t rush growing up
  • After an understandably awkward beginning, Josh is forced to do "adult" things, like getting a job and a girlfriend. In the end, he discovers that there's much more to being an adult than he bargained for, and learns that we must all grow up at our own pace, in our own time.
Level 3: We’re all children at heart
  • This story reminds us that there’s always room to be a child at heart. Although he lacks real life experience, it is Josh’s youthful exuberance that makes him stand out in the workplace, and understand things in a way that his coworkers are not able to.

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