BWW Review: The WIZARD OF OZ at Tennessee Performing Arts Center Dazzles Audiences with Singing! and Dancing! and FUN! OH MY!
If your family is in need of a visit 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', the Wizard of Oz at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, with its lively choreography and dazzling special effects, will take you down a yellow-brick journey you're not too soon to forget. The iconic story of Dorothy and her friends swept up audiences in its magic like the craziest of Kansas twisters when it opened this weekend.
Directed by Dean Sobon, The Wizard of Oz is a spectacular celebration of the classic 1939 MGM movie that placed munchkins, flying monkeys and a city of green firmly in the hearts of film-viewers. This nostalgic tribute to the story of a runaway Kansas girl, a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin-man and the oh so cowardly lion brings new vivacious fun to the land of Oz, making it the perfect family musical outing.
Despite Judy Garland leaving big Ruby Slippers to fill, Kalie Kaimann's portrayal of Dorothy exquisitely captures the idealism of the Kansas girl that wishes on rainbows. Kaimann's remarkable vocals on songs that we've heard time and time before maintain their magical quality. Her performance of the iconic "Over the Rainbow" that begins the show beautifully allows children and adults alike to identify and connect with the optimism of Kaimann's youthful Dorothy and to wish for her bravery in handling witches. (And, okay, her dog is really cute too.)
It doesn't take a brain to recognize the talent of Jack Saleeby whose enormous energy and playfulness command the stage. In "If I Only Had A Brain", Saleeby demonstrates his exceptional dance capabilities while still retaining the sprightly nature of his cartoonish Scarecrow. Nick Gurinsky, playing the Tin Man, is not rusty when it comes to dancing either and delivers, with skill, the fun-filled tap numbers that every musical needs.
Although he plays the Cowardly Lion, Nicholas J. Pearson dominates the stage due to his knack for making audience members roar in laughter. Due to his marvelous comedic timing and demonstrated vocal talent, "If I Were King of the Forest" elicited well-deserved cheers from the audience. Pearson's Lion was a regal stand-out, showing his prowess as a performer.
There's an undeniable energetic cheer in Munchkinland in celebration during "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!" that introduces the eccentric ensemble. Colorfully costumed and wonderfully choreographed, ensemble numbers bring sheer fun. "Jitterbug", the number in which the cast of characters is put under a dance spell, is a show-stopping highlight of the show due to choreographer Amy Marie McCleary's talent.
Another spell-binding aspect of the show was the special effects and colorful scenery that transformed the stage from the dusty plains of Kansas to the vibrant Emerald city. When we encounter the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, an extravagant combination of lighting and projection design accentuates the mystery and awe in Oz's most praised figure. The tornado that Dorothy gets caught in is done with the magic of a projector screen, but left one child leaving the show saying, "I felt like it was all real."
This national tour of Wizard of Oz has the power to captivate and dazzle the entire family. Whether it is your first or your hundredth time taking the stroll down the yellow brick road, you will be enthralled by the magic of this grand and lavish rendition. Although this imaginative production takes us through a fantastical dream world of talking trees, lollipop guilds, and witches from all sides of a compass, it is rooted in its celebrated message that there is no place like home. You'll undoubtedly find home at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this weekend.