THE WIZARD OF OZ Lands in Austin


A staged production of L. Frank Baum classic The Wizard of Oz is playing Bass Concert Hall this weekend.  A near exact recreation of the film we all know and love - laced with bits and pieces of the book with some modern aspects tossed in - the show is a fun time for children, and a nice way to introduce them to live theater.  All the well-known songs are present, with some additional tracks that were cut from the movie.

To be quite honest, I went in expecting the warm fuzzes that come with the 1939 Judy Garland film, but was left feeling empty and bothered, as though my intelligence had been insulted with the obvious nature of the foreshadowing.  I also balked at what seemed to be staging aspects lifted straight out of Broadway smash Wicked, such as the design of Glinda the Good Witch's bubble and her modern flair and use of wit and the costuming of the Emerald City's residents.  I do not know if this production of The Wizard of Oz was staged before or after Wicked's opening in 2003, so perhaps it could be the other way around  It could also be argued that certain elements are from the original L. Frank Baum books that were sampled by both shows.  But, as a fan of Wicked, it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Perhaps the show was written purely with children in mind, in which case, these issues can be overlooked [mostly].

While I do not recommend the show for frequent theatergoers, it's a cute production much more appropriate for elementary school-aged children.  Kids will definitely love it.  Its highlights include Toto, played by an adorable lil pup named Dusty and Jesse Coleman's portrayal of the Cowardly Lion.  The inclusion of local Austin children in a few scenes as Munchkins and Winkie Guards was a fun addition, and they seem to bring in local kids in each city of the tour.  The show also utilized very nice special effects on a video screen to provide more dimension to the set, especially during key scenes that would be too difficult to execute during live theatre.  The costuming and coloring that was used to give the show the feeling of being in a black and white movie was also a nice touch.

The Wizard of Oz stars Cassie Okenka (Dorothy), Adam Jepsen (Scarecrow), Peter Gosik (Tinman), Jesse Coleman (Lion), Pat Sibley (Wicked Witch), Robert John Biedermann (The Wizard of Oz), Kristin Stewart (Aunt Em/Glinda the Good Witch), and Ryan Wagner (Uncle Henry).  It's running at Bass Concert Hall through June 13, with 2 performances Saturday AND Sunday.  Tickets are available through Texas Performing Arts' website.  Make sure you rent a booster seat at the venue for your little ones, or bring your own so they can see, because kids will love it.

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