THE WIZARD OF OZ opens The MUNY's 98th season this year, and it's a lively and colorful production that provides an enjoyable experience for kids of all ages. This is an excellent presentation of one of The MUNY's most beloved shows, filled with fine performances and enough action to keep even the tiniest of tykes fully engaged. Yes, I know the unseasonably hot weather we're currently experiencing is a consideration for a lot of patrons, but with the fans running at full blast, you'll find it's a lot more comfortable than you would expect. My son and I had a blast, and this is the fourth production of the musical he's seen, and as he said, easily the best. It's a perfect show to take the family to, and one I know that you'll have an absolutely wonderful time seeing. It's also a larger than life spectacle that fits the expansive MUNY stage like a glove.

By now almost everyone is familiar with the plot that follows Dorothy and little dog Toto as their house takes a treacherous trip in a twister, only to touch down in the magical land of Oz. Dorothy's crash landing accidentally squashes the Wicked Witch of the East, drawing the ire of the Wicked Witch of the West. But, when she dons the dead witch's ruby slippers, she finds herself in even more trouble, since these were coveted by the Wicked Witch of the East, and can only be removed upon the wearer's death. On the advice of the munchkins, Dorothy journeys down the yellow brick road, seeking out the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City to see if he can help her get back home, while managing to meet up with the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Together they defeat the Wicked Witch, and Dorothy returns to Kansas, a bit wiser for her travels.

The cast does terrific work, with Danielle Bowen leading the way as Dorothy, displaying a strong voice that suits the material, as well as nice sense of comic timing. Lynn Humphrey and Rich Pisarkiewicz are concerned guardians as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, respectively. Peggy Roeder is properly sinister as the Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch, and PJ Benjamin charms as Professor Marvel/The Wizard. Kevin Cahoon, in particular, does a splendid job as the Scarecrow with his limber legged antics. Nicholas Rodriguez impresses as the sturdy and stalwart Tin Man, and Stephen Wallem amuses as the incredibly Cowardly Lion. Leah Berry is also quite good as Glinda the Good Witch, leavening her character's deliberate sweetness with a liberal dose of good humor. The rest of the large supporting cast is also superb, and features the MUNY kids in a variety of guises.

John Tartaglia's direction is cleverly conceived, with some really nice touches, particularly the twister scene. He's aided by Ralph Perkins' sprightly performed choreography. Robert Mark Morgan's scenic design is exceptional, and so are the costumes by Leon Dobkowski. Nathan W. Sheuer's video projections add yet another dimension to the show, and John Lasiter's lighting scheme captures all the action. Valerie Gebert's music direction makes Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's score seem vibrant and fresh.

So, head down the yellow brick road to The MUNY and catch THE WIZARD OF OZ, which is playing through June 22, 2016. It's a phantasmagorical treat, and yet another example of MUNY magic that you must see!

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From This Author Chris Gibson

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