BWW Reviews: WIZARD OF OZ Is A Decidedly Mixed Bag at the Fox Theatre

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BWW Reviews: WIZARD OF OZ Is A Decidedly Mixed Bag at the Fox Theatre

I hesitated to review the current touring production of The Wizard of Oz (Fox Theatre, through May 18, 2014), which has been adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, because even though I thought it told essentially the same tale as the original, I didn't particularly care for it. There's certainly a lot more spectacle than you'd find in your typical production, but the script is so camped up, and the additional songs so mundane, that it comes off as trying that they may have been trying a little too hard when they updated the show. In any event, the flashy and colorful show seemed to appeal to the crowd, but I'm wondering if they're aware of how much it's been pared down technically so that it could tour and play different size venues.

By now almost everyone is familiar with the plot that follows Dorothy and little dog Toto as their house takes a treacherous trip in a twister, only to touch down in the magical land of Oz. Dorothy's crash landing accidentally squashes the Wicked Witch of the East, drawing the ire of the Wicked Witch of the West. But, when she dons the dead witch's ruby slippers, she finds herself in even more trouble, since these were coveted by the Wicked Witch of the East, and can only be removed upon the wearer's death. On the advice of the munchkins, Dorothy journeys down the yellow brick road, seeking out the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City to see if he can help her get back home, while managing to meet up with the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Together they defeat the Wicked Witch, and Dorothy returns to Kansas, a bit wiser for her travels.

The main cast does terrific work all around. Danielle Wade is very good as Dorothy and displays a strong voice that suits the material, as well as nice sense of comic timing. Jacqueline Piro Donovan is properly sinster as the Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch, and Jay Brazeau charms as Professor Marvel/The Wizard. Jaime McKnight, in particular, impresses as the Scarecrow with some wonderfully cute comic lines. Mike Jackson is the stalwart Tin Man, and Lee MacDougal is screamingly over the top as the flamboyant Lion, and he's saddled with some of the most misguided material. Robin Eval Willis amuses as Glinda, with a kind of sweetly smart-ass attitude.

The direction by Jeremy Sams missed the mark by creating a sometimes offensive tone that really doesn't mesh with L. Frank Baum, or even MGM's concepts for the story. However, the scenery and costumes (Robert Jones), the incredible video projections (Jon Driscoll and Daniel Brodie), and the amazing lighting and sound (Hugh Vanstone and Mick Potter, respectively) act to make this warhorse larger than life. There's a lot to like here, but too often it's buried in camp and dreary, and unmemorable music that never really works with the classic tunes they surround.

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Chris Gibson Chris has been active in the local theatre scene for over 30 years. In addition to his acting work, he's also contributed as a director, writer and composer. Though, initially a film buff, he grew tired of the sanitized, PG-13 rated blockbusters that were being continually shoved down his throat by the studios. An opportunity to review theatre in St. Louis has grown exponentially with the sudden explosion of venues and talent in the region. He now finds himself obsessed with witnessing those precious, electric moments that can only happen live, on stage.


 
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