BWW Review: WIZARD OF OZ at The Playhouse
The yellow brick road landed at The Playhouse last evening and its fellow travelers, Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman (plus an indubitably compliant Toto) will be here through November 19.
It was endearing to see little girls costumed in Dorothy's gingham throughout the audience. Program notes suggest that L. Frank Baum's tale commencing in Kansas, then to Munchkin Land, to Oz and then back to Kansas has entertained audiences totaling over 1 billion. I believe it. "Over The Rainbow" was adjudged the greatest song in film history by the American Film Institute.
Even in a live performance, this production lacks some of the magic of the iconic movie. The sets are relatively spare and the swirling farmhouse in the tornado scene is replaced by CGI, more and more becoming a staple of touring shows.
Dorothy (Kaile Kaimann) acquits herself well with that precious song, but the plaintive, yearning, soul-drenching/wondering lyrics of the song were left wanting.
One of the technical aspects of the 1939 movie was the use of Technicolor as Dorothy entered Munchkin Land. The producers wisely followed a similar course. In the opening scene in Kansas, everyone is dressed in drab browns. When Dorothy alighted post tornado, Costume Designer Tim McQuillen-Wright had all the inhabitants in glorious pastels and vibrant wigs. Glinda (Ashleigh Thompson) was flown in and was garbed in a sumptuous white gown.
This is the first national tour for the majority of the actors. Dialogue and interaction amongst the leads sometimes was static and appeared forced. Of Dorothy's three compadres: Scarecrow (Chris Duir), Tinman (Christopher Russell) and Lion (Victor Legarreta) the latter stole the show and was the audience favorite. Legaretta evoked immediate loving memories of Bert Lahr and his fixation on cowardice. His "If I Were King of The Forest" was a show stopper and one wonders how he managed the vocal flexibility of singing and roaring simultaneously, quite courageous! He obviously has an operatic background.
The enlivening production numbers provided energy. "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" was a gleeful and joyous. (Why not? The Munchkins rid themselves of a mean old "b" which rhymes with witch).
The Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Perzan) then appeared in her legendary green face and was quite miffed upon seeing her sister's feet lying prostrate from under the porch. .
"Merry Old Land of Oz" was celebratory, with all the denizens dressed in emerald. "Jitterbug", a rousing number deleted from the movie, is revived here. (Visit Judy and her friends singing this on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scvyDTEJlGY)
Why does WOZ still resonate? It's not only Judy and the song she single-handedly made legendary. It's the life lessons we learn: 1) Never Give Up 2) Good Friends Come In The Most Unlikeliest Of Places 3) Never Stop Dreaming 4) You Can Accomplish Anything 5) Real Courage Involves Facing Your Fears 6) There's No Place Like Home. So, aside from the entertainment provided in this production, there are some meaningful takeaways.
Through December 19 TheGrandWilmington.org 302.888.0200
Next Up: Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Nov 26
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to construction, the entrance to The Playhouse in on 10th Street