Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Wizard of Oz Theatre Review

Sarah Lasko stars in The Wizard of Oz (Photo: Daniel A. Swalec)

There's No Place Like Oz

Does it get any more American than The Wizard of Oz? Sure there's baseball, hot dogs and apple pie; but they pale in comparison to L. Frank Baum's century-old tale of Dorothy, Toto and the yellow brick road. The National Theatre wrapped up its 2015-16 season with a rousing, slightly modern adaptation of the family classic, proving once again... there's no place like Oz.

Musical numbers aside (and there's quite a few... 20 in fact) it's hard to find fault with a story centered around munchkins, natural disasters and wicked witches. The Wizard of Oz is colorful, fast-paced and uplifting: It's also familiar as all get-out. It opens with a storm, and a stirring rendition of "Over the Rainbow" featuring local star Sarah Lasko (Dorothy) and a remarkably well-behaved/trained Toto (Nigel.) The former is a dead ringer for Miley Cyrus (the Disney version) with the pipes to match. Her final 30 seconds of the aforementioned Over the Rainbow was worthy of a standing ovation. That's only Scene two, if you're keeping score at home.

The Company of The Wizard of Oz (Photo: Daniel A. Swalec)

It only gets better, especially in regards to the show's ├╝ber-impressive visuals. Dorothy & Toto depart sleepy Kansas (house in tow) before awakening inside a rainbow of color and sparkles. Robert Jones' costumes (and sets) are terrific, from Dorothy's shoes & Gilda's dress to Emerald City and LCD rainbows in between. Even the Wicked Witch of the West (Shani Hadjian) is a sight to see, although her outfit closer resembles the Jolly Green Giant (minus 50' or so.)

Speaking of Hadjian... she's devilishly delightful as Dorothy's foil, on and off stage (keep an eye on the balcony box, just before intermission.) With so many nice characters in the mix, she single-handedly keeps the show balanced. Lasko's a joy to behold throughout, while Jay McGill (Tin Man) Morgan Reynolds (Scarecrow) and Aaron Fried provide the lion's share (pun intended) of laughter. My favorite moment? When McGill and Lasko go back & forth with "Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!"

The story speaks for itself, of course (I'm assuming everyone's seen it... at least a dozen times.) David Andrews Rogers' orchestra is top notch; and there isn't a dull moment to be had (over two hours.) There's a few new twists as well. Some are good ("Nobody Understands Me.") Some not so good (Professor Marvel's "That's for my private collection" slideshow snafu is surprisingly inappropriate.) Best of the lot? Hadjian's Act Two opener ("Red Shoes Blues.")

Overall, there's lots to love. In my humble opinion, it's the perfect family show (catchy songs, fun-loving characters and loads of color.) The addition of video (The Twister, The Wizard's Chamber) provides a bit of razzle dazzle; and the performers/tried-and-true story take care of the rest. Sounds like a winner to me.

The Wizard of Oz runs 2 hours, 18 minutes with a 20-minute intermission, and continues at the National Theatre through Sunday, May 15th. Click here to purchase tickets.

Grade: B