AISLE SAY: WIZARD OF OZ Takes the Stage at New Candlelight

by Greer Firestone

When Dorothy Gale entered Oz, Judy Garland entered immortality. The movie has been seen by almost every child who has seen a movie. Judy will live forever in our hearts. ‘Rainbow’ is the most popular song ever; a mystical, lyrical and melodic story of a child’s spiritual passage from adolescence to adulthood.

THE WIZARD OF OZ speaks to our feelings, not our intellect. It comforts and inspires. Children identify with Dorothy with their fears; adults identify with their dreams. She teaches all of us that we can confront our threats – real or imagined – and determine our own future.

And there were several moments during New Candlelight’s staging of WIZARD that rouse the very emotions that spring forth when we watch the iconic movie.

The first came with Dorothy’s (Erica Scanlon Harr) “Rainbow”. She wisely did not attempt to mimic “Judy” (who can?) but sang with the sweet and delicate innocence of her character.

The second moment came with the entrance of the Munchkins. There was a collective and involuntary “Ahhhhh” pulsing through the audience owing not only to their overwhelming cuteness but also to the masterful costume design of Timothy Lamont Cannon. Some of the Munchkins were adult (petite ones at that) and some were kids. The wigs on the latter were hysterical.

A third moment was the appearance of Toto. Sadly, this very small actor was not credited in the program (How could they do that in his first stage show?) Aisle Say believes him to be a real dog and a Yorkie at that.

The server at the table I shared with my dear sister Liz and new found friends from Elkton was dance Captain Alexis DeDonato; an extremely versatile actor who has appeared in the last several shows. Another facet of her talent was revealed as The Mayor of Munchkinland. She obviously worked hard on the characterization and her voice sounded as if it was generated through a synthesizer.

One of the challenges that director Sonny Leo and Three Bakers music director veteran Jim Weber faced was the strong association we all have with the Lion, Woodsman and Scarecrow. They are tough acts to follow down the Yellow Brick Road. Was there a more limber dancer than Ray Bolger? We laughed till we cried at his pratfalls. Well, Sonny may have found him in Scarecrow (David McConney). The actor has a very strong voice and was ever consistent in that gangly manner of walking and dancing.

The spinster we love to hate Miss Gulch/WW of West (Marie Howey) spate out her diatribes to the foursome along their golden path as if she were burning at the stake (which is kind of how she ended up). Her body movements accentuated the crankiness of her personality. Being mean is a blast. I can imagine five year old Munchkin Thomas Stinson steers a wide path around her backstage.

A fourth moment was the image of the wizard himself. I credit the leadership of NCT with the tough financial decision to commission Hob Hollow Studios to create this fanciful and wondrous puppet head with a mouth that moved. Huzzahs!

Sonny also choreographed. The main number was the “Jitterbug”. While the costumes were bee-utiful, Aisle Say has also questioned the relevance of the number to the progress of the plot.

Great theatrical value – dinner and theatre for $55.00 per person! Running till August 29. Groups welcomed. 302.475.2313. The company also offers periodic Comedy Nights. See the web site.

Directed by Sonny Leo
Musical Direction by Jim Weber
July 10 – August 29, 2010
The New Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Rd.
Ardentown, DE 19810

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