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The lion Tin Man and Scarecrow sit with each other on the set of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

SCT’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is an entertaining classic

The Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow will make children laugh in this classic story

Rounding out their 2022-2023 season with a childhood staple, Seattle Children’s Theatre presents “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” based on the timeless novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum and adapted by Jacqueline E. Lawton.

A classic story that has been entertaining generation after generation of children and adults alike, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” puts its own spin on the source material, condensing the work without sacrificing its most important weapons: brain, heart, and courage. As far as an introduction for those unfamiliar with Baum’s tale about comradery, acceptance, and perseverance, this production entertains without overcomplicating in the best way.

Marena Kleinpeter in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Photo by Truman Buffett.

Dorothy and her new friends

Just as Judy Garland shot to cinematic hall of fame with her doe-eyed turn as gingham-wearing Dorothy from Kansas, Marena Kleinpeter puts her own special touch on the character, donning a tasteful blue jumpsuit, but keeping Garland’s tradition alive. Her Dorothy is wholesome and welcoming enough for young viewers, but still engaging enough for older ones. She never leaves the stage for more than a few minutes, and it is her performance that anchors the production. Kleinpeter has chemistry with every one of her fellow performers, and her stage presence is undeniable.

The friends she makes along her journey – Nicholas Japaul Bernard as Scarecrow, Chad Kelderman as Tin Woodman and Jerik Fernandez as Cowardly Lion – are tremendous fun as the production’s predominant comic relief. Kids will struggle not to giggle at the goofy Scarecrow or scaredy cat lion as they flip and flop across the stage.

Timeless story

Permanently set into our pop culture lexicon, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” tells the story of Dorothy, a young girl who, along with her house, gets swept up by a tornado and transported to a magical land of witches, wizards and munchkins. Her house has landed on one of the evil witches, leaving only a pair of magical silver slippers (they were changed to ruby for the film) and general instructions on how she can get home: follow the yellow brick road, find the great and powerful Wizard of Oz and ask for safe transport back to her family in Kansas. She makes friends and enchants everyone along her road to self-discovery with kindness and grace. The only thing fans of the film may miss is a musical number or two.

Fiona Hurley, Emberly Hoke, Jerik Fernandez, Marena Kleinpeter, Dedra D. Woods, Avery Clark, Chad Kelderman, Audrey Conner, Penelope Tobin, and Tabitha Murphy Madden in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Photo by Truman Buffett.

Monkeys and wizards and witches, oh my!

Roz Cornejo, who plays both the Wicked Witch of the West and the Wizard of Oz, is magnetic, frightening and totally hilarious in her turn as the evil witch looming over Munchkinland. Unlike the film, she does not don green make-up and a cliché black pointed hat, but her powerful voice thunders through the theater with exceptional bravado. She is captivating, not necessarily terrifying, though her commanding stage presence alongside the flying monkeys are apt to instill some possible, though temporary, fear in novice theater-goers.

Avery Clark, Chad Kelderman, Marena Kleinpeter, Roz Cornejo, and Jerik Fernandez in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Photo by Truman Buffett.

Doing a lot with a Little

For those concerned that a tornado on stage will scare little ones, fear not. The stage direction and art design handily transform a few pieces into a whole new world. The house set spins, but the lights don’t flash garishly and the sound effects subside into a hushed whir.

Munchinland and the land of Oz are set on the same set piece but are cleverly discernible thanks to the simple props and explanatory scene setting and writing. The Wizard of Oz is partially created with the use of shadow puppets which is sure to bring a few comments of wonderment about the funny shapes made by the trick of light.

Recommended age

Due to its inherent premise – a young girl, swept away from her home, traversing a foreign land filled with hostile inhabitants – kids over the age of 5 are more likely to understand and enjoy the journey that Dorothy takes without becoming scared in too many places. At a lean runtime of just 60 minutes without an intermission, “The Wizard of Oz” is long enough to tell the story through to the end without cutting into short attention spans.

Know before you go

• The show runs through May 21, with a variety of showtimes spanning the morning and evening.
• The ASL interpreted performance is Saturday, May 6 at 1:00 p.m.
• The audio described performance is Saturday, March 11 at 1:00 p.m.
• The sensory friendly/relaxed performance is on Sunday, May 7 at 11:00 a.m.
• Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at 201 Thomas Street, Seattle 98109
• Garage and street parking are available with payment. Give yourself ample time if there is an event at Climate Pledge Arena.
• Masks are strongly encouraged, but optional.
• Seattle Children’s Theatre is running at full capacity.

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About the Author

Candice McMillan

Candice McMillan has been writing about film for more than 10 years. Since becoming a mom to her two daughters, she’s had to hang up her affinity for horror films, catering to the two smallest critics who prefer shows about rescue dogs and a family of pigs. Candice has degrees in journalism and film critical studies from USC, and her favorite children’s film is a toss-up between “Anastasia” and “A Goofy Movie.”