Be advised that even if you have seen the movie multiple times it is well worth it to experience the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre stage version of “The Wizard of Oz” before it closes on Sunday, Jan. 3. Luckily, zoomdune.com saw a performance of the stage musical based on the 1939 Metro Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” on Saturday.
Everything about the professional caliber production, consummately directed by Robert Sobera—from the casting, to its production elements, to its fine orchestra conducted by Trevor Fanning—was first rate.
Though the actors in all the leading roles performed fine impressions of the film’s stars, they nevertheless managed to make the characters uniquely their own at the same time. Starring as Dorothy was Emma Alyce Weber. Performing a role that it is safe to say he was born to play was Tom Beeler as Professor Marvel/The Wizard. Damon Clevenger, one of Indy’s best character actors, played Hunk/The Scarecrow, Evan Wallace was Zeke/Cowardly Lion and Rick Shinkle was Hickory/Tin Man. Finally, Susan B. Smith was effectively villainous as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West.
Impressive indeed were the 40 plus children who played the Munchkins and Flying Monkeys as well as members of the large ensemble who played the Winkies (Witch’s Guards) and Ozians— all of them turning in solid vocal performances under the music direction of Brent Marty and well executed movement to Anne Nicole Beck’s choreography, much of it inspired by that of the film.
Though lighting glitches were clearly evident during the performance, they did not detract from the show’s overall technical excellence nor did they overshadow Ryan Kolharchik’s lighting design, Robert Kolharchik’s set design, Michael Lesley’s sound design and Adrienne L. Conces’ costumes—all of which was superlative.
Zach Rosing, whose photographic and video artistry has embellished many of the city’s most successful theatrical productions of late, created images projected on a large screen which referenced familiar ones from the movie, such as Aunt Em crying out for Dorothy in the witch’s crystal ball and the face of the Wizard surrounded by fire. Also providing visual enhancement for the show were animations by Ben Phillipe.
Aside from its excellent staging of a very ambitious property, the show also effectively captured the essence of Baum’s universal message. Following her Oz adventure, Dorothy sums it up when, after awakening to find her loved ones surrounding her, she says, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Whether you are young or young at heart, it’s a sentiment that is worth being repeated, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, and which is vividly portrayed in this sparkling interpretation of a seminal Hollywood classic.
For tickets and information about “Wizard of Oz” presented by Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre call (317) 843-3800 or visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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