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Review: Over Due Theater Company Presents THE WIZARD OF OZ


The musical version of L. Frank Baum's timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz comes to life on stage at the Olivette Community Center as part of their Summer Theatre Camp 2009. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's tuneful score is given a nice workout by the Over Due Theatre Company, augmented by a vast ensemble of kids who portray the various munchkins, poppies, Winkies, monkeys and citizens of the Emerald City.

By now almost everyone is familiar with the plot that follows Dorothy and her 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 West, 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 and travails.

Katie Lynn McGowan is a nice fit as Dorothy, and she handles the signature tune, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with aplomb. She's aided in her quest by: Devon Norris, neatly limber-legged as the Scarecrow; Thom Bell, channeling the spirit of the late Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion; and Mark Saunders as the Tin Man. Canine actress Gigi steals every scene she's in as the irrepressibly cute Toto. Tom Kopp delivers a nice turn as Professor Marvel and the Wizard, and Anne Marie McGowan shimmers as Glinda, the good witch. Lori Gibson is properly villainous as the Wicked Witch/Almyra Gultch.

Director Wayne Mackenberg has a lot of adults and children to corral on the small stage at the Olivette Community Center, and it's to his credit that the action is clear and easy to follow. Mackenberg is also presenting a complete version of the show, with songs, characters, and lines of dialog that have been missing from most revivals. It's certainly an ambitious undertaking, and he's aided in his efforts by Catherine Edwards Kopf's music direction. Anne McGowan and Devon Norris do a good job of choreographing these numbers despite the cramped confines. Augusta McGowan, Debbie Bixler, Wayne Mackenberg and Lori Gibson also contribute to the vivid, and plentiful, costumes.

Over Due Theatre Company's presentation of The Wizard of Oz continues through August 16, 2009 at the Olivette Community Center.

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