BWW Review: Valley Youth Theatre Presents THE WIZARD OF OZ
I can't be sure when Valley Youth Theatre's THE WIZARD OF OZ had me securely in its grips. It was either the uplifting choral rendition (voices of teen angels!) of Somewhere Over the Rainbow when I felt transported into the church of BoBB Cooper, the company's visionary artistic director. Or, it was when twenty-four adorable and energized 8-12 year old Munchkins commanded the stage. (Oh, for an encore by such darling acts as the Lollipop Guild (Quinn Heim, Cody Rooney, and Elliot Thompson) and the Lullaby League (Bali Bare, Vivian Nichols, and Molly Prefling)!
In any case, for the duration of the play, the audience and I reveled as Dorothy (Kendra Richards of full and lustrous voice) and her steadfast companions, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion (played with grand éclat by Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez) skipped along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City.
VYT rightly boasts of 58 talented young actors in the current production of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Each one deserves a shoutout. For the moment, let me sing the praises for the following singular performances: Tiana Marks (Glinda), Alexis Harris (the Wicked Witch), Sam Brown (the Emerald City's gatekeeper), and Ethan Maxwell (the Wizard). Glory, what personality, definition of character, and stage presence they bring to their roles!
What makes the appearance of these young talents so distinctive and worthy of commendation is that, when they're on stage, finally alone in the limelight, they're performing like pros ~ a testament to Cooper's watchful guidance and instruction. There is no doubt in this reviewer's mind that among these thespians are some future stars who will join the ranks of VYT's distinguished alumni. (Take note, Emma Stone!)
There is glamor as well in this marvelous production. All the characters are bedecked in Karol Cooper's beautifully detailed and colorful costumes. The sets (provided by The Music and Theatre Company) are enchanting and ooh-inspiring, especially the evil witch's chamber and the vivid and very green entrance to the Emerald City. The orchestra, under the direction of Mark Fearey provides full, rich and balanced accompaniment to the on-stage action.
And this review would not be complete without acknowledging the performance of cute-as-a-button Rickie Marie Cooper as Toto. What staying power and discipline this 10-year old Yorkshire Terrier demonstrated!
VYT's production of THE WIZARD OF OZ opened on June 9th and runs through June 25th at the Herberger Theater Center's Center Stage. Here's a show perfectly suited for the entire family and guaranteed to fix a permanent smile on their faces.
Photo credit to Cliff Cesar