There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, the wonderful WIZARD OF OZ, twists its way into Oklahoma City. The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto and their friends the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography and classic songs.
When L. Frank Baum first penned his whimsical story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in 1900, he used a lot of imagination. But even Baum's vivid imagination surely could not have conjured the journey his story would take, from its first performance as a stage play in 1902,to its reincarnation as a 1939 movie, to its continued hold on audiences over 100 years after its initial creation.
To those of us who love the story and film, it holds an iconic place in our hearts. From a Kansas prairie cyclone to Munchkinland and on to the Emerald City, it is a delightful treat for the ears and eyes. As Dorothy explains after returning from Oz, “This was a real truly and live place!” And for one week, February 16 through the 21, at the Civic Center Music Hall, it IS just that!
This Technicolor explosion of charm renders the film to the stage with all of the familiar characters, songs, scenes and a few extras for good measure. The costumes are wonderful and the sets are colorfully detailed. The more challenging effects, such as Dorothy’s house flying through a tornado, are vividly realized with convincing projections on screens and there is even some pyrotechnics used for the more combustible moments.
The stage version coming to the Civic Center was first developed by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It closely follows the treasured 1939 Judy Garland-led film rendition, utilizing the wonderful Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg musical score that includes such gems as “If I Only Had a Brain,” We’re Off to See the Wizard” and, of course, “Over the Rainbow.” It also adds some new touches and restores a “Jitterbug” number that was cut from the film. The Jitterbug is a terrific song and dance that gives this production an extra special bonus of delight.
But none of the visuals make a difference if the characters don’t steal our hearts and this cast delivers the goods with talent and enthusiasm. Cassie Okenka is a beautiful and sweet Dorothy Gale, and her interpretation of “Over the Rainbow” is lovely. Sit back and enjoy Okenka’s poignant, crystal-clear singing of the lyrically gorgeous song and her winning performance throughout the show.
The villainous Miss Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West are sharply played with delightfully naughty glee — and terrific cackling — by Pat Sibley. She’s scary, but not so scary that small children shouldn’t be able to handle her performance.
The three farmhands who transform into the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tinman are wonderfully brought to life by Noah Aberlin, Jason Simon and Chris Kind. Simon’s hilarious rendition of “If I Were King of the Forest” is one of the show’s highlights.
Snickers, the dog playing Toto, steals the show. There is something irresistibly magical about a real dog on stage and Snickers is as adorable as he is right on cue with every scene.
Musical director/conductor Nate Patten and his live musicians dynamically render the vibrant score. Leigh Constantine’s choreography, particularly during the “Poppies” scene, is rich with expressive and story-propelling movement. And director Nigel West deserves kudos for bringing all these talented collaborators’ work together with firm but flexible pacing.
Of course, nothing can compare to the original filmed production. Since the 1939 film, this show has achieved near cult status, so this production doesn’t venture far from the original. Maybe it's the desire to return to a simpler time when dreams are just “over the rainbow,” or perhaps the lessons of caring and personal responsibility resonate a little more in uncertain times. Whatever the reason, an evening spent in Oz is a genuine treat.
The Wizard of Oz comes to Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall February 16th - 21st, for only eight performances. Tickets may be purchased via phone, (800) 869-1451 or (405) 297-2264, in person at the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office, or online at www.CelebrityAttractions.com.
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