BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Growing Stage
Before most people even become parents there are elements of pop culture that they have deemed essential to expose their future children to. I would venture to say that The Wizard of Oz is somewhere on most people's list. I don't remember the first time I saw the movie because the one thousand viewings have become basically indistinguishable but suffice it to say it was a big part of my childhood. What's so wonderful about the material is that it works for boys and girls, adults and children alike. The themes are universal and the songs are iconic; they plant inside your heart and stay there forever. As soon as anyone hears that first octave in the beginning of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" they are transported back to their childhood living room maybe still in their pajamas on a rainy Sunday afternoon ready to hunker down for the next two plus hours and allow themselves to be transported to the Land of Oz.
This Saturday my son, Alexander, and I headed west and enjoyed a live production of The Wizard of Oz at The Growing Stage in Netcong, New Jersey. It was our first outing with just the two of us since little sister joined our crew. It was special. It was really, really special. We chatted on the way there about the "spooky halloween witch" he might see, I sang some of the songs, we talked about his friends (shout out to Patrick!) and how friends are there when we need help. I also spent a sizable chunk of the drive talking about theater etiquette because there was no way a child of mine was going to break the unspoken contract an audience enters when the lights are dimmed the show begins.
We entered the theater and were given a program and an activity booklet with crayons. It was general seating so we found a spot by the beautifully painted mural on the wall right next to the drawing of Dorothy and Toto and settled in for the show. Alexander enjoyed flipping through the booklet's pages and completed some of the activities while I dove into the program. It really was a magical production; chalk full of wonderful and strong performances of these beloved characters. Jeorgi Smith who played Dorothy had a beautiful voice and a gentle energy that really punctuated the show with grace. Our leading men, the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion (Davis Cameron Lemley, Brandon Wiener and Joey Sanzaro respectively) were hilarious and commanded the stage. Although, I'm sorry to say, Mr. Sanzaro couldn't fool my two year old who confidently whispered "That's not a lion, that's a guy, mama" right after the Cowardly Lion made his charming grande entrance. A familiar face on the New Jersey stage, Tait Ruppert, gave depth and self-awareness to The Wizard of Oz. The production is filled with creative moments that give even the youngest viewers something to munch on; the colors were vibrant and the ensemble oh-so-funny and choreographed to perfection.
How lucky we are to have a theater so close that gives our little ones the experience of professional theater while also giving them the a relaxed and understanding environment to take it all in! If you haven't been, you're missing out. There are a ton of wonderful productions this season, all family centered. Visit http://www.growingstage.com/ for tickets and production information.