Yes, it’s too late for you to catch … (wait for it) … THE WIZARD OF OZ at the state-of-the-art Shannondell Performing Arts Theatre (King of Prussia Players) in Audubon, PA! Now you’ll have to settle for me raving about this adorable production I could easily call “The Land of the Cutie Patooties”.
Based on the 1900 children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, and on the 1939 film produced by MGM, this ageless story comes ‘round and ‘round just enough to keep every generation enthralled with its magical universal never-ending appeal. And who isn’t familiar with its classic songs like, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and many more? It actually had a brief run on Broadway from 1903-1904. Who knew? The film version wasn’t a huge box office success initially, and it lost the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939 to Gone with the Wind. Get this – Victor Fleming was the director (at least partially) of both films! If that isn’t a “Holy Toledo”, I don’t know what is!
Well, little dreamers, we all dream, sometimes even in brilliant Technicolor, wherein our fantasies almost seem so real, we swear they really did happen. Hence, the premise of THE WIZARD OF OZ as Dorothy, an endearing orphaned 12 year old, and her dog, Toto, wherein they are overcome by a tornado that hits their Kansas farmhouse, and faster than you can say, “The Wicked Witch of the … “, Dorothy, Toto, her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, the farmhands – Hunk, Hickory and Zeke – and, oh, yes, the miserable neighbor, Miss Gulch, are all transported to the Land of Oz by way of dreamland. BTW, with eyes closed (or not), I could have sworn it was Judy Garland up there. Alexis Amanda Milne, are you kidding me?? She was as comfortable on stage as any performer could ever be! Toto was expertly played by Linus, a cute unassuming 16 week old puppy who was so captivating and expressive that I could hardly ever take my eyes off him!
Need a quick review of this whimsical story? The farmhands in dreamland become the Scarecrow (Hunk … Tim April … excellent body movement … continual bent knees … very important to the character of a scarecrow … and always in character), the Tin Man (Hickory … Jon Ashley … I needed more knee and elbow action from you even though you’re a rusty ole thing, but I enjoyed you nonetheless.) and the Cowardly Lion (Zeke … Daniel Schmitt … cute, funny but I needed you to be way more hammy … you had it in you! Go for it more in your next performance … don’t hold back!) Dorothy just wants to go home, the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man wants a Heart and the Lion wants courage. You know, we all want something from the all-knowing great metaphorical Wizard of Oz. Just think about that for a few. Dreams often have something that we’re trying to escape from so enter The Wicked Witch of the East (or is it West?) who ain’t makin’ life easy for the bumbling characters (although Dorothy doesn’t bumble). Well, that’s what witches do (You knew that, right?). Terry D’Andrea as the evil witches was beyond excellent and she scared me! I mean it! Basically, she gives everyone a hard time. The Oz travelers have to get past all her challenges.
Oops! I almost forgot about Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Tricia Lawlor Beichner … I think you came right out of the 1939 film and onto this stage! Yikes! Glinda is our feel-good component of the production. Thank goodness for that because, as it is, I scare easily enough. It’s her role to get Dorothy and Toto back home safe and sound. But, of course, Dorothy and her buds have to jump through hoops that can only appear in our wildest dreams.
Enter the Munchkins and Poppies and Trees (oh, my) along the Yellow Brick Road on their way to the Emerald City, the magical road to the Wizard of Oz and the challenging road back home to Kansas. Munchkins (I couldn’t wait to get to this part!), I can’t express enough what a great job you all did! Sally Rothschild, choreographer, along with Allison Baron, lead costumer, outdid themselves in the Jitterbug number. It was beyond “Holy Toledo”! Munchkins, pay attention! You were ON non-stop! You were expressive, animated, bright, lively and colorful! I loved your squeaky voices and your squeaky clean costumes! Your mamas and papas must have been so proud! I certainly was!
Let’s cut to the chase … the Ruby slippers (remember them?) were in high demand! Their magical power was what Dorothy needed to get back home. But not until the Scarecrow got a diploma from the Wizard; the Tin Man got a heart; the Lion got a medal for bravery. All ends well “over the rainbow”. Whew!
Don’t for one minute think I missed the incredible special effects of this performance; and great use of the backdrop with fantastic lighting. And what a great sound system! Well, I did say “state-of the-art” theatre.
Besides the myriad of lessons that can be learned from THE WIZARD OF OZ, the one no one can miss is “There’s no place like home.” So … let’s start talkin’!
Until the next show…
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen & E.Y.Harburg
Directed by Deb Schrager
July 19 – 27, 2013
King of Prussia Players
at Shannondell Performing Arts Theatre
10000 Shannondell Blvd.