Lately, it’s all about Oz in our household, as my older girls finally had their first screening of the classic The Wizard of Oz. They were mesmerized, to say the least, by everything about the film, including the black and white to color transformation, the Munchkins, Dorothy, and, most of all, the singing.
So, it was perfect timing to head to St. Timothy’s School to see Pumpkin Theatre’s production of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.
The biggest concern about setting off to see the wizard (whether on film or stage) is the story’s notoriously creepy factor. Lions, tigers and bears have nothing on the house-spinning storm, flying monkeys, and wicked witches little ones encounter in the film. And though the girls know the story well, I quickly learned that I hadn’t properly set expectations for the afternoon’s show. On the walk from the car to the theater, six-year-old Olive wondered out loud if the Wicked Witch would be green. Millie, who is nearly four, said to me in horror, “You didn’t tell me SHE was going to be here! You said it was just Dorothy and the Tin Can.” She clamped her hands over her ears and stayed like that for the next 20 minutes until the show began, when she gradually peeled each hand away as she realized this version would be no fright fest.
Pumpkin Theatre keeps its littlest audience members in mind with a gentler version of the tale. We were greeted at the door by Glinda the good witch who welcomed us warmly. And though the wicked witch plays her part in the show, she’s more comical than terrifying and her appearances on stage are tempered with some audience interaction to downplay her scary side. The show picks up after the storm when Dorothy has arrived in Oz, and the focus Dorothy’s journey home and the friends she meets along the way. Dorothy is completely charming, as are her friends. The cowardly lion got the most laughs in our group, but all of the actors were perfect. And the show’s twist on the wizard had the adults laughing and held the kids’ rapt attention, especially when he conjured up the rainbow at the show’s end.
The real beauty of Pumpkin Theatre is that it makes theater entirely accessible to little ones. The show was short, about an hour with no intermission. The characters interact with the audience, even inviting little ones up on stage to help water the Tin Man and keep the Scarecrow perfectly stuffed with straw. But you don’t have to get on stage to be part of the show—the audience was invited to play the role of the munchkins and had the important job of helping Dorothy find her way to Oz and avoid danger on the way there. My kids took this role seriously and emphatically yelled out to the stage and the actors as they weaved through the audience. The audience interaction kept the kids engaged and allowed little ones to get any wiggles out to jump up from their seats.
A few tips:
- Arrive early. Seating is general admission and much of the middle section is saved for season pass holders. We stayed in the back in case we needed to bolt if things got scary, but that wasn’t an issue. If you’re hoping to give your littlest guests the chance to get on stage, you’ll want to get in the front row.
- Dress up. We didn’t come in costume, but there were a handful of small Dorothys and even a mini Wicked Witch in the audience.
- Dress in layers. We found the theater to be warm (not surprising with the intimate setting and bright lights).
- Bring a camera. We weren’t able to stick around for the post-show meet-and-greet with the cast, but the girls would have enjoyed some post-show photos with the Oz gang.
Finally, the storyline is so sweet and simple that even kids who are unfamiliar with Dorothy’s tale can still thoroughly enjoy the theater experience. But one note—the only thing missing is the show’s signature music. Those who are familiar with the movie might be surprised that there’s no singing as my oldest daughter was.
You can catch the final four performances of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz this weekend on March 23 and 24. Performances are Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., and advance tickets are recommended (and less expensive).
Can’t make this show? Check out Pumpkin Theatre’s final show of the 2012-2013 season in May when they bring an adaptation of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse to life. We’re looking forward to seeing the creative spin they put on this classic Kevin Henkes book.
St. Timothy’s School Hannah More Theatre
8400 Greenspring Avenue