Northwest Children’s Theater is renowned for quality entertainment that raises young viewers’ awareness of the wide world we live in and the myriad cultures all around the globe. This time, with Tenali: The Royal Trickster, NWCT takes audiences to a kingdom in India where a royal trickster has a mystery to solve amid comedic situations and vibrant dances.

From the creative team that brought Chitra: The Girl Prince and The Jungle Book to the NWCT stage, Tenali is colorful and engaging right from the start. The entire cast enters the theater in an elaborate procession, accompanied by Indian music performed by a talented ensemble, more than half of whom are in middle school or high school. Also impressive is the dance troupe; six of the eight dancers are also middle-school or high-school students, but they all exhibit the poise, grace, and abilities of professionals. It’s especially heartwarming to see the next generation embrace the arts of their cultural heritage.

This original story by a writer based in Mumbai, India, features a multicultural cast, dancers, and musicians and celebrates Portland’s diversity, especially that of its theater community. The festive atmosphere comes to life with each dance number, made even more jubilant by the bells on the dancers’ ankles, and the live musical accompaniment is a real treat. Even the audience gets in on the joy when the three comedic ministers call for participation in the hand-clapping, foot-tapping, body-moving curtain call.

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Tenali is recommended for ages 5 and up. At 1 hour and 5 minutes (and no intermission), the show is short and sweet and packed with humor and energy that will keep viewers engaged from start to finish. The dialogue and banter might move too fast for those younger than 5. My 8-year-old enjoyed the story and the dances, and my 11-year-old laughed quite a bit at the jokes and antics.

Tenali: The Royal Trickster runs through May 12 at Northwest Children’s Theater. Showtimes are Saturdays and Sundays, noon and 4 pm. If you’re going by car, there’s a small parking lot and on-street parking, with metered spots west of NW 17th Ave. and non-metered time-limit spots between the freeway and NW 17th.

As with all NWCT shows, the cast gathers in the lobby after the final curtain for autographs and photos. It’s also a great opportunity to get a closer look at the beautiful and elegant costumes.

Sign interpreted: Saturday, May 4 at 12 pm
Audio description: Saturday, May 4 at 4 pm
Sensory show: Sunday, April 28 at 4 pm
Tickets start at $16

Jade Chan is a native Portlander who returned to her roots after short stints on the East Coast. She remembers a time when Lloyd Center was an open mall, the Pearl consisted of warehouses, OMSI was where the Children’s Museum is now, and traffic jams were rare. A freelance editor and a mom of two, she enjoys sharing her love for the arts and her (ever-changing) hometown with her family.

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Jade Chan

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