When your bedtime is 8 p.m. or earlier, going to a dinner theater doesn't quite fit your schedule.
Fortunately for the 12-and-under set, a few area theaters offer lunch and a show.
With menu choices such as cheese pizza, a hot dog or peanut butter and jelly sandwich and shows including Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and Charlotte's Web, kids have a chance to get caught up in the excitement of a live performance.
Luckily for parents, the experience is also affordable family entertainment. Tickets at Lorenzo's Timonium Dinner Theatre, Chesapeake Music Hall - the Dinner Theatre of Annapolis and Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre & Children's Theatre in Frederick range from $10.50 to $13 per person.
At all three theaters, the performance routine is basically the same. Patrons arrive an hour before the show for lunch - usually served by the actors and actresses, many of whom are already in full costume. After the meal, the lights are dimmed, and the 50- to 60-minute show begins.
Mitchell Nathan, theater manager at Lorenzo's, says shows must be "bright, fast-paced and entertaining" to capture kids' attention. Often, children's performances are musicals with songs that draw the audience in. The characters interact with the audience by addressing them directly or taking the action out between the tables - much to children's delight.
Justin Kiska, theater managing director at Way Off Broadway, says even when a story is adapted from classic children's literature, "We'll have little jokes and references to whatever the latest fad is. We try to make it as up-to-date as possible while still obviously sticking to the story."
After the performance, the actors and actresses come stage front for autographs. Lorenzo's also offers a brief explanation of the workings behind the scenes including special effects and lighting.
Both Nathan and Kiska say there is an educational aspect to children's performances that the kids themselves don't usually realize. Today's young patrons are the theatergoers of tomorrow, they explain.
For more family events, see Page 37.
Lorenzo's Timonium Dinner Theatre: 9603 Deereco Road, Timonium, 410-560-1113 or 877-560-1113, www.timonium dinnertheatre.com. Sleeping Beauty runs through Sept. 30.
The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre & Children's Theatre: 5 Willowdale Drive, Frederick, 301-662-6600, www.wayoffbroad way.com. Sleeping Beauty starts Aug. 21.
Chesapeake Music Hall - Dinner Theatre of Annapolis: 339 Busch's Frontage Road, Annapolis, www.chesapeake musichall.com, 410-626-7515 or 800-406-0306. Pinocchio runs Aug. 13 and 21.