Most of us adults instantly recognize lines from the Wizard of Oz after seeing endless television broadcasts, Todd Jefferson Moore has found some Seattle kids may be experiencing this story for the first time -- and that keeps him on his furry toes.
Currently playing the Cowardly Lion at Seattle Children’s Theatre, this is Moore’s second outing as the man in the mane at SCT.
He recalled an earlier performance where a young Chinese-American child yelled the witch was a “demon” and had to be reassured by her teacher that everything would turn out fine for Dorothy and her friends.
After the show, the same child ran up to him and hugged him in his costume, telling him that he was wonderful to be so brave.
“Dorothy’s adventures are all about getting through all these difficult things that children encounter growing up,” Moore said. “I loved coming back to this story. All the moments, all the friendships, my eyes would be full of tears in certain scenes, and it would pull me right back into that world.”
As an instructor of playwriting, he finds the script still wears well after nearly seventy-five years. "It's very well written," said Moore. "There's all these little details in the first farm scene that play out" throughout the evening.
Moore first encountered the Cowardly Lion watching Bert Lahr play the part in the 1939 movie musical. “I don’t really remember the first time I saw it on TV, but we watched it all the time,” said Moore.
As an actor, he finds the role is impossible to play without channeling a bit of the Bronx vaudevillian comic. “You have to keep to the style, the 1930s comedic feel, that comes from the tail end of vaudeville,” he said. “But I also try to honest as I can be to the emotion.”
Physically quite different from Lahr, the skinnier Moore puts his own spin on the lion without courage issues.
Like any actor, he adores the big “King of Forest” scene. “It’s such a joy to do with all the other actors,” he said.
Another big plus of the SCT production, he added, are all the very young actors being residents of Oz.
“The kids bring a freshness and exuberance,” he said. “It’s not so iconic to them. They keep us jaded old geezers fresh and fun.”
Wizard of Oz closes this weekend, but there’s many more iconic and fresh stories to come at SCT’s stage in 2013. Check out their website for details.