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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This new musical take on the classic fable provides a lot of visual delights for children and adults alike.

By New York City
Anne Allgood and Connor Toms
in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
(© Chris Bennion)
Anne Allgood and Connor Toms
in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
(© Chris Bennion)
Judging by the amount of children's laughter at Seattle Children's Theatre, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a brand-new musical based on the old Greek fable about a young apprentice magician who is over-eager to try out magic too strong for him to handle and brings down a world of trouble on his own head, is a definite crowd-pleaser.

Playwright OyamO has placed the tale in a New Orleans-style swamp, composer Carman Moore effectively uses swing and jazz music -- although her score resembles operetta -- and designers Cary Wong (sets), Cathy Hunt (costumes), and Steffan Soule (magic) have created a lavish, colorful and exciting atmosphere. The cottage of the forest's resident sorceress, Miss Marguerite, is particularly magical, with items flying through the air and water appearing where water should never be. Moreover, many magic tricks are performed by actors, while other magic tricks appear as part of the scenery, itself.

As a result, the show's visual elements, plus the singing and dancing, all combine to enthrall and delight the young ones and the adults. The older folk, however, may be less satisfied with the rather preachy script, which has the unfortunate propensity to "tell" children (over and over and over again) that they must be patient, listen and learn to do the "right thing," rather than showing them this important lesson.

The show's hero, Charles (Connor Toms) is a chump -- or at least that's what the birds, trees, and bushes think when they meet him stumbling into their enchanted forest. They're not sure they can trust him -- and neither is Miss Marguerite (Anne Allgood, who uses a very strange accent). However, Charles convinces her to give him a chance and let him prove himself.

Along the way, Charles meets Mr. Who (Peter A. Jacobs), Miss Orange Tree (Leslie Law), Mr. Juniper Bush (Mo Brady), Jeremy Groundhog (Lisa Estridge) and Miss Grapevine (Khanh Doan), who explain how their forest works to Charles. Meanwhile, the villains, Big John King (David Silverman) and his demons, describe what they're going to do to destroy Miss Marguerite's power. The demon Gordagu has a particularly funny song about how he likes to chop, chop, chop all the time as he swings a big ax in a menacing manner.

There's also a strange character named Baron (Terence Kelley) who seems to represent some weird manifestation of God. He appears every once in a while to help Charles feel better, and later, seems to be the one in charge of throwing Big John King into some sort of Hell. While he sings a terrific song toward the end, his entire appearance could be cut without missing a beat.

One of the biggest problems with the show is that Charles introduces himself with a song that's not very musically engaging, so it's initially difficult to care much about his plight. Further, Charles has three chances to be made an apprentice and ends up blowing them all; but two of those chances fall apart because he's tricked and attacked, not because he did something wrong. These blown chances don't show us examples of how Charles didn't listen, so the script doesn't give a strong demonstration of its own moral.

Children who come to this show may not learn how to listen, but they'll probably know exactly what not to do when visiting a sorcerer's cottage. It may not be as important a lesson, but it's an entertaining one.


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