THEATER REVIEW: Over the Rainbow 'Wizard of Oz'
A family show all the way through, Lyric Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” will seem familiar and fresh at the same time. This production follows the script of the film, as adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company by John Kane, rather than being based directly on the original novel by L. Frank Baum.
There are many and massive sets, impressive costumes and quick changes, luminous lighting and flaming pyrotechnical effects, and oh, yes, great singing and dancing and acting, too.
The cast is uniformly excellent, and if special mention is to be made, it would be the delightful accuracy and precision of the Munchkins—both singing and dancing—and the spot-on Billie Burke homage from Melissa Griffith as Glinda, the witch of the North. Griffith also produced a delightfully crochety (but with a heart of gold) Aunt Em.
Chad Anderson as Uncle Henry is warm and sly at once; Amani Pope as the scarecrow is floppy and fun; Jordan Beall as the Tin Man is both stiff and emotional; and Jerry Jay Cranford is boldly craven as the Cowardly Lion. This trio works very well together as Dorothy’s sidekicks and support staff.
Renee Anderson as both the crabby Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West is her usual solid self. Few people can emote effectively with a mask, green makeup, and a hat that effectively hides her face; Miss Anderson is one such.
Arden Walker as Dorothy has a beautiful voice and for the most part performs Dorothy very well. It’s a great stretch to ask a young woman who has only recently outgrown them to deliver the mannerisms of a 12- to 14-year-old girl, and there are moments where Dorothy seemed a little bit doll-like.
David Coffee as Professor Marvel, the Wizard, and (uncredited) the Gatekeeper was very funny and again, delivered a lovely homage to Frank Morgan, the wizard of the film.
The ensemble was uniformly solid—uniform where they needed to be, and individual where it was appropriate—and the structure of the play in space, including choreography, were exactly what was needed. Ashley Wells, director, and Matthew Sipress, choreographer, have put this show on its feet perfectly. Wells also gave us the space in time — comic timing is no joke — to appreciate the wit of the original script as adapted by Kane. Many of the jokes fly right by on screen; Wells and her cast have opened up the air around them, just enough so that we can enjoy their punch as they run past.
When performing iconic music, one must be perfect. The quality of the performances was very high indeed, with the baritones in the Munchkin chorus showing to great effect. Music director and orchestra conductor David Andrews Rogers has done a magnificent job making it all work. Kudos also to Brian Hamilton and Mariann Searle for their work as associate music directors. With children’s choruses and a cast of dozens, it definitely needed all three experienced hands, and their leadership really shone in this piece.
The over-the-top technical demands of the show were generally very well handled; on opening night there were a couple of moments where a set piece or effect was a few seconds off, and knowing Lyric’s very fine staff, it’s a safe prediction that none of that will happen in future performances.
“The Wizard of Oz” plays at the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre in the Civic Center Musical Hall and runs through Saturday, July16, with shows at 7:30 Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. If they are not sold out already, they should be — help that happen. Call (405) 524-9312 for tickets or go to the website at lyrictheatreokc.com.
The text of this review was previously published on okartsceneandhurd.com. Used by permission.