SPANISH FORK — Youth theater, or should I say – Spanish Fork Youtheatre’s Wizard of Oz, was surprisingly fantastic.  I have never been to a youth theater performance. Does watching it on Finding Neverland or Hook count?

The show was amazing. It closely followed (music and all) the beloved 1939 version with Judy Garland.

I invited my 9-year-old niece (Lydia Rose) to come with me tonight. Honestly, I thought she was better equipped to give a review on youth theater than I was. She was my backup plan. If all else failed, ask her opinion.

We arrived at Spanish Fork High School early.  I immediately felt the closeness of this community and those in the audience. It was clear that many knew each other and the row of Boy Scouts (in uniform) sitting in front of us simply added to that feeling.   At first, Lydia (my niece) asked if we could sit on the back row. I balked at this idea and insisted we sit closer.   She relented – temporarily. At intermission she won and we watched the rest of the show from the very back row. Even from the back row, the performance was brilliant.

Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow, and Tinman or The Fantastic Four  – as I refer to them in my head, were great.  Such a talented group of youth!  Marinda Jones (Dorothy) gave a wonderfully innocent performance.  I assume that it would be difficult to play such an iconic character.  However, she brought much of herself to the role and gave us just enough Judy Garland to be nostalgic.  Zach McEntire (Scarecrow) and Stephen Higley (Tinman) gave strong performances and were fun to follow.  Adam Keel (Lion) was the standout performance for me.  His New York accent and huge stage presence had me hooked from the second he appeared.

And the children, oh my gosh the children!  When the Munchkins came on stage, I nearly burst with pride and joy and I didn’t know any of them.  I found myself smiling and 100% engaged.   The Mayor (Taylor McEntire) certainly caught my attention and I could have watched the Lollipop kids for hours.

Really, throughout the show there were so many great performances, I can’t possibly list all the names here (although I would like to).  Every single person in this show brought something to it and I am so glad that my first youth theater experience was with Spanish Fork Youtheater!

The sound was my one issue and I do hope they can get it fixed before the next showing. The microphones cut in and out at all the wrong parts and I found myself missing key lines from these delightful performers.

The direction and choreography were great! Karma Christensen, Laura Brockbank and Kristal Thompson must be incredibly patient.  I get overwhelmed with my 11 nieces and nephews. I can’t imagine over 100 kids – Bravo!  The costumes were fun, bright and much like everything tonight – blew me away. The Tinman was exceptional.

The set and special effects were fantastic.  I attend a lot of theater and was simply amazed at this production.  They had a flying Glinda, monkey and hot air balloon.  The tornado scene with the house and lighting was so incredibly well done. Not to mention the Great Wizard of Oz and the special effects there. None of which I expected.

Even the fact that it was held at the local high school added to the ambiance.  The show alone is nostalgic and reminds one of childhood.   Add the youth, who brought so much joy and innocence to the stage.  Finally, place it a high school. You walk through the halls with lockers, sports banners and posters for students running for a student body office.  As an adult, your night is guaranteed to take a trip down memory lane.

As for bringing kids, please do!  The giggles of those in the audience and the energy they bring to the production – only makes it better for all of those watching.  With our youth, we are able to become part of the show.   My niece, of course, loved it!  Her favorite part was the poppies at the end of act one.  When I asked her why, she simply replied, “’Cause their outfits are really cute.”

So, what will this great night of theater, fun performances, amazing sets, and the opportunity to be around happy children cost you?  Only $3 per ticket.  I drove an hour from Salt Lake to see this show and would do it again!  Tonight opened my eyes to a whole new world of theater…youth theater.

The Spanish Fork Youtheatre will be presenting their spring production of the Wizard of Oz Friday, 26 at 7:00 pm and Saturday, March 27 at 2:00 pm. All performances will be in the Spanish Fork High School Auditorium. All tickets are $3.00 per seat.