The timelessly wonderful Wizard of Oz still shimmers brightly. The familiar story that’s over a century old delights with each well-remembered sight, sound and scene at Creative Cauldron, rendered with care, creativity and love.
Directed by Matt Conner, the designers use the simple intimate space so inventively that it often feels double in size, especially when filled with youngsters having the time of their lives with the precious material filled with invaluable lessons about friendship, family and life.
The advantage of using a nearly original version is showcasing the familiar songs and text, but Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my notwithstanding, the hellavah fun time is also a long show with patches that get bogged down in too familiar terrain.
The superb casting makes all the difference in following this yellow brick road. All of the actors were terrific in expressing the essence of their characters with passion and zeal. I can’t say enough about Tiara Whaley an adorable Dorothy with an endearing manner and strong vocals. Her “Over the Rainbow” hits high marks in delivering precious messages of hope and yearning. From the very beginning Dorothy shows her deep commitment to her precious Toto, apparently a remnant from her lost parentage, and we finally understand her unshakeable devotion. Whaley’s expressions speak volumes as she relates to her family, farm hands, and new friends along her journey home and beyond.
Alan Naylor is an absolute thrill to watch as the Scarecrow, bumbling, limber limbed, arms flailing every which way. He also is gifted with a strong, gorgeous voice. Willie Garner is the tender caring Tin Man, while Harv Lester’s Cowardly Lion has some of the best perfectly timed and passionate deliveries for roaring fun. Iyona Blake is a nurturing, though no nonsense, Aunt Em, and Glinda the Good Witch. CC founder and Producing Director Laura Connors Hull makes a terrific Wicked Witch of the West, complete with the cackling laugh and sinister expressions undercut with a gleeful menacing smile. Jim Lynch rounds out the ensemble while E. Augustus Knapp plays a laudable Wizard.
Stealing the show are all the scene stealing youngsters in the ensemble performing as Munchkins, Lollypop Guild, Poppykins, Ozians, Winkies, Flying Monkeys and even Jitterbugs, a new one for me. How Conner got the Munchkin voices to sound like they were on helium is beyond me, but everything worked. The supporting cast bounced around in nicely choreographed sequences and tackled their characters’ intentions with the earnestness of stars in the making.
The Wizard of Oz
closes June 25, 2017
Details and tickets
Margie Jervis works wonders as scenic designer of a steadfast basic set that fronts as a farmhouse as easily as the Oz castle in Emerald City– thanks to magical lighting by Lynn Joslin and projections by Riki Kim. Same thing with the barnlike façade on stage left which functions as a shed shielding the family from a cyclone and that later hides the imperial Oz from curious view.
This Royal Shakespeare version of the musical includes all the details of the well known movie classics, down to the familiar musical interludes and entrances. At the same time, some of the text could be pulled out of today’s headlines, such as when Scarecrow says lots of people who don’t have a brain say all kinds of things! Yeah, like wow, right? We’re all Dorothy, swirling in a psychic cyclone in a strange land that looks familiar like home, but is it?
The Wizard of Oz is as timely now as all those many years ago. It’s a reminder that even when you think you’re far away and will never get back, home is there deep inside. This treasured classic continues to ring true on so many levels and in the hands of the talented Conner and Creative Cauldron designers and cast, it’s a treat for all.
The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum . Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg . Background Music by Herbert Stothart . Directed by Matt Conner . Cast: Iyona Blake, Willie Garner, Laura Connors Hull, E. Augustus Knaap, Harv Lester, Jim Lynch, Alan Naylor, Tiara Whaley . Music Director— Iyona Blake; Scenic, Costume and Puppet designer—Margie Jervis; Lighting—Lynn Joslin; Projection Designer—Riki Kim; Stage Manager—Regina Vitale . Produced by Creative Cauldron . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.