Adventure Theatre tackled L. Frank Baum’s epic story and brought it to life with a playful script by Jacqueline E. Lawton that highlights key messages of appreciating the wonderful world at one’s own fingertips.
Lawton relates the basic storylines with sincerity and attentiveness. At the same time, she finds a way to add a zinging contemporary appeal. The first hint for me came with Aunt Em’s admonition for Dorothy to come in from the impending storm since she just got her braids done. A tornado is nearly within sight and Auntie is concerned about her little girl’s hair? Oh yes, makes perfect sense to anyone who knows what it takes to keep one’s braids tight! It’s an adorable touch that curly headed girls will appreciate and understand as much as a torrential twister.
The long awaited casting has paid off in emerald spades as it doesn’t get more adorable than Paige Hernandez as Dorothy. She’s got the sweet manner and voice, sincere expressions, and committed belief in her character that keeps us all plugged and rooting for her. Hernandez’s Dorothy is plucky enough to step out on faith to get home no matter what, and meet the well-known assortment of characters along her way.
First up is Ryan Dalusung as the Scarecrow who, while ambling about with great flexibility and dexterity, unwittingly thinks his way through dilemmas and challenges, all while yearning for a brain.
Henian Boone as the Tin Woodman demonstrates some cool moves himself starting with terrific pop and lock hinges then smooth gliding once he’s oiled and lubricated. His empty barrel of a chest officially lacks a heart but the Tin Man proceeds to care for everyone, especially Dorothy, with tender affection.
Thony Mena is terrific as the admittedly Cowardly Lion who’s loud roar is all for show since he’s too scared to follow-up. At least that’s what he tells himself although his actions demonstrate otherwise. Everyone has a story and wants something, kind of a universal quest, thus the trip to see the all-powerful Oz.
Sarah Olmsted-Thomas is the hardest working witch in the business, cackling in her black attire as the Wicked Witch then swooping in as the beautiful, caring Glinda, Good Witch of the South. In her wicked personae, Olmsted-Thomas makes the most of her brief interludes with Dorothy and others, and even finds a way to add a layer of sensitivity in her scary role with a fleeting comment about being lonely, saying a lot with a few words and reflective expression for a nice touch. Her final entrance is aided by the talented costume designer Tyler Gunthe who has outfitted her as a Southern Belle with ruffles and bows galore, for a funny Gone with the Mighty Wind effect. Maggie Erwin and Alex Vernon complete the talented ensemble in roles that encompass Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, the Monkey King, and the powerful Wiz himself.
I can’t say enough about the magical mind of director Roberta Gasbarre who just as she did in Red Balloon, brings a heightened level of sophistication and imagination to depict the cyclone, a house hurling in the air, and the Wizard’s hot air balloon that left Oz without Dorothy and the always precious Toto.
The joint creative minds of all the designers, including the wonderful projections, come to a head, literally, with the various manifestations of the Wizard—that alone is worth the trip to catch the psychological twist to this age old tale that thrusts it to a new level. No spoiling here, just see for yourself. The sophisticated projections, designed by Sarah Tundermann, work with split second coordination with lighting and sound by Max M. Dolittle and Kenny Neal respectively, all part of the magical team that heightens the dramatic elements and adds a contextual richness to the scenes.
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
April 3 – May 25
Adventure Theatre MTC
7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo, MD
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
Same with Gunthe’s costumes where each character manifests a unique flair. All of the witches flaunt their own style; The Tin Man has a metallic sheen, and the lion sports a fur-trimmed overlay. The planked set by Lydia Francis is also a wonder, off-set by spiraling rectangular frames along the ceiling, bordered by lights that shimmer emerald green on cue.
The entire story in one hour? With a cyclone, all the witches, tangley tree limbs, the yellow brick road, sparkly slippers, a flying monkey, treasured friends, and– yes, could it be? Even Munchkins!? (They’re there and again, must be seen to be believed.) The universal truths of love, trust, and tenacity are the bedrock for the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Adventure Theatre MTC shares the story with magic and wonder. The timeless tale can be seen again and again as an adventure full of life lessons to appreciate and be aware of the magic in simple moments, and to expand the sensibility — of home.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz . Based on the Book by L. Frank Baum . Adapted by Jacqueline E. Lawton . Directed by Roberta Gasbarre . Featuring Paige Hernandez, Maggie Erwin, Alex Vernon, Sarah Olmsted-Thomas, Henian Boone, Thony Mena, Ryan Dalusung, Sophie Shulman, Emily Zickler, Kegin Collins and Pasquale Guiducci . Set design: Lydia Francis . Costume design: Tyler Gunthe . Lighting design: Max M. Dolittle . Sound design: Kenny Neal . Props design: Andrea :Dre” Moore . Projections design: Sarah Tundermann . Dramaturg: Otis Ramsey-Zoe . Stage Manager: Madeleine Evans, assisted by Brittany Turske . Produced by Adventure Theatre MTC . Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.