The Cross-Generational Magic of The Rock and Roll Playhouse
Remember a time when there were so many child-oriented activities and experiences that they almost outdid adult-geared ones? Until about 10 years ago, live events targeted toward kids were a booming industry, from circuses to The Wiggles to anything staged on ice. Then, as quick as a TikTok transition, it all went digital. Streamers and the Internet exploded with online content kids could access anytime, anywhere, to the point where now the ability for a 1-year-old to hold and operate an iPad is a prerequisite.
Enter: The Rock and Roll Playhouse, a traveling live concert series aimed at not only entertaining young viewers ages 1 through 7, but educating and exposing them to music of past generations they otherwise might never experience. Shows cover the iconic songbooks of music legends such as The Beatles, Queen, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, and many more, presented through an engaging live set encompassing storytelling, games, and movement. Best of all, the content can be enjoyed by parents as well as their kids.
This month, The Rock and Roll Playhouse will establish its residency at Rockefeller Center (rock meets Rock!), welcoming families to once again enjoy live programming and an inspirational canon of music in an equally legendary venue. To learn what audiences of all ages can expect, we spoke with Bree Bowles, the executive director of The Rock and Roll Playhouse, to discuss the positive impact rock music can have on kids, how the series got started, and how they’re preparing to make a rocking impression Rockefeller Center.
How do you start something like The Rock and Roll Playhouse?
Bree Bowles: It was founded in 2014 by [tour promoter and owner of Brooklyn Bowl] Peter Shapiro and Amy Striem, who has a background as a teacher. They realized there was a market gap of events that bring families even closer together in a really meaningful way. At The Rock and Roll Playhouse, kids get to dance, sing, and play along to the iconic classic songs from the rock canon. Particularly after the last two years with people stuck indoors, The Rock and Roll Playhouse offers that really great opportunity for kids to get back together, keep children active and engaged with a little physical activity while enjoying music that parents love and kids end up loving, as well.
Why do you feel it’s so important to introduce kids to this music?
BB: We believe that music is an essential asset to emotional growth. It helps kids to engage, understand words, learn, and move. There’s so much great music out there from artists like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift; they’re all incredible in their own right… but parents’ favorites are The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, so we wanted to take what parents loved and really have that moment to share what they love with their kids and deliver it in a kid-friendly way. Our playlists are very carefully curated so they’re children-friendly and fun, but still very rock and roll. We have vocal rock and roll bands that come to perform, along with show managers and teaching artists who get in there to play using parachutes, limbo sticks, bubble machines, and more. It’s just fun for the whole family to enjoy.
I think that the world is so disconnected at the moment. There’s so much digital noise out there; kids are addicted to their iPads and technology. This gives them a moment to stop, take a breath, and have some fun together — and I think that’s really meaningful and helps with kids’ growth. I think the pandemic has had a massive impact on children’s growth… there’s a lot of data that shows they’re behind at the moment.
So the idea is [this]: What can we do as a company to help get kids back together in a safe way?
What can audiences expect from the residency at Rockefeller Center?
BB: They can expect lots of the same fun as our other shows, set against the iconic Rockefeller Center. We’re so excited to establish this relationship — we’ve made sure shows take place outside of nap time and… there’s plenty for the kids to do and plenty of music for parents to enjoy. The great thing is that kids don’t care about dancing silly, so it’s a wonderful thing to experience. We can’t wait to bring it to Rockefeller Center.
Rockefeller Center's new monthly live music series with The Rock and Roll Playhouse will be held at various Rockefeller Center locations, with the first show on Saturday, January 29 at Radio Park. Sign up for The Center newsletter to be in the know about upcoming performances with The Rock and Roll Playhouse.