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There's no place like 'Oz'

I always worry when artists or arts organizations take on an icon. So much can go awry in the shape shifting from emblem to freshness.

So, I approached Seattle Children’s Theatre’s new production of The Wizard of Oz with some trepidation. Talk about your cultural icon.

Not to worry: in the capable—and, possibly, genius—hands of director Linda Hartzell and a stellar cast of thousands (as the saying goes), this “Oz” is a smart, lavish and tightly made theater piece. The SCT ensemble is so sure of itself and its own unique vision that they do, occasionally, nod in the direction of the famous movie—and all the onstage celluloid references are made with affection.

Dorothy, played by Kasey Nusbickel, nails the role—and it was clear, especially from her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” that she shares none of my worry about remaking iconic art—and the rest of the cast is equally stellar and unworried.

SCT pulled out all the stops for this show: there are elaborate—and gorgeous—costumes, a band, and the cast is huge. Someone had a great deal of fun with computer graphics and effects, some of which elicited applause from the audience during the effective tornado sequence. The choreography, the staging and the visuals were all pitch perfect.

In the show program, Hartzell writes that The Wizard of Oz offers the optimistic message that “…the world is a vibrant place of promise and hope. And if we work together…we can help each other fulfill our potential, as individuals and as a society.” And, says Hartzell, that’s a message that kids deserve to hear.

 If you think you know The Wizard of Oz, see this production anyway. It will transport you to a place you’ve never been before.

Some books SCT recommends:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz – Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley
Scarecrow and His Servant – Phillip Pullman
American Fairy Tales: From Rip van Winkle to the Rootabaga Stories – Compiled by Neil Philip


 The Wizard of Oz plays at Seattle Children’s Theatre through Jan. 17. It’s recommended for ages 6 and up. Tickets are $22-$40 and can be purchased by calling 206-441-3322 or visiting www.sct.org.



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