BWW Reviews: WIZARD OF OZ Takes Music Circus Down Yellow Brick Road

As much as the Judy Garland film version of "The Wizard of Oz" upholds its status as a classic, there's something about seeing the joyous musical live that makes it immensely more enjoyable. As performed in the round at Music Circus, glorious orchestrations (led by conductor and music director Jeff Rizzo) and ethereal, surround-sound vocals from ensemble members enhance the magic, taking audiences somewhere over the rainbow as Dorothy awakes in a new land with Munchkins, Ruby Slippers, witches and more.

The colors of Oz come alive with beautiful hanging flowers, a yellow "lit" road and a spectacular Emerald City. Scott Kiler and Jamie Kumpf's sets, Richard Bay's puppet designs, and Leon Wieber's costumes create a fun and energetic environment, although not always accompanied by the best special effects - Audiences have to wait until the second act for flying action, and it doesn't come from the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, either. A few lights shine and the enchanting music plays, but Glinda merely walks in and walks out without much ado. But spectators get their chance to oooh and awww during a much better second act featuring a flying wicked witch and monkey. And a fantastic second-act opening number takes advantage of Music Circus' rotating stage, sadly left unused during the first act tornado scene (a scene cleverly staged with wonderful dancing, but slowly timed to monotonous effect).

In look, this "Oz" takes much of its inspiration both from the film version and from the successful Oz prequel "Wicked." The Wicked Witch has long, black hair and a green face, and she wears a Victorian-looking black costume, but there's nothing too intimidating or scary about her. But Jacquelyn Piro Donovan has the perfect Wicked Witch laugh. Emerald City residents have their quirky, "Wicked" looks, and Heather Lee looks and acts like the Glinda of the Judy Garland film, although Lee's acting doesn't translate too well when she takes on the role of Aunt Em'. For the most part, the Kansas farmland scenes mirror their dull black and brown tones with less natural acting. Still, things pick up quickly once Dorothy lands in Oz.

Dorothy's lively trio of friends and a very obedient dog, Toto, are the soul of the production. In addition to Bill Nolte's amusing Wizard, Jim Walton (Scarecrow), Shannon Stoeke (Tin Man), and Jamie Torcellini (Lion) add tidings of originality to their parts with Disney-like character voices and jittery personalities. Of course, the real star of the show is the young Dorothy Gale, played with vulnerability, hope and joy by the lovely Emily Walton. Walton brings down the house in her powerful version of "Over the Rainbow," and her charm never stops.

Neither does the charm of the musical stop. Audiences leave with sure smiles on their faces. It's just that kind of show.


Through June 30 at Music Circus
California Musical Theatre

Photo Credit: Charr Crail

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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