Madison Square Garden’s Wizard of Oz
The Chicago Theatre lobbies are something out of a fairy tale. The lush red carpets, gold accents, stairs leading with gold railings leading other levels, and even the blue and gold Chase ATMs work to create a majestic atmosphere. The crowd is filled with children wearing witches hats and/or in their favorite princess dress because this event calls for the finest clothes worn by the finest young ladies. As we all pile into our seats and look up at the giant green screen, one can’t help feel a sense of wonderment, and rightfully so, as we’re off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!
She’ll Get You and Your Little Dog Too!
Toto (played by a dog named Murphy) stole the show from the beginning. The second he ran onto to stage and into the arms of Dorothy (Kalie Kaimann) the crowd erupted in awws and oohs. When he wasn’t on stage people could be heard whispering about Toto’s whereabouts. His absence for most the Second Act was deeply felt as the adorable, scruffy, and seemingly sleepy pup won us over in the first scene. However, Emily Perzan’s Wicked Witch of the West was a definite point for the humans in the cast. From the second she burst onto the scene as Miss Gulch to take Toto away, it was clear Perzan would be a fine choice for the broomstick that would accompany her for the remainder of the show. As the Wicked Witch of West the actress seemed to take delight in each cackle on her pursuit of the Ruby Red Slippers and seemed more at home in the Witch’s costume than Miss Gulch’s outfit.
A Bit of Song and Dance
Amy Marie McCleary’s choreography was another bright spot in this show. The small group of dancers, and dances themselves, were captivating enough to almost deserve their own show (even if these numbers might be part of the reason Toto didn’t get enough stage time) and were impressive in their own right. Whether they were making subtle movements while investigating who dropped a house on The Wicked Witch of the East, or in a full on dance number in the Haunted Forest, they stole quite a bit of scenes.
This musical not only has the songs from the film but also features quite a bit of music written afterwards. The band, led by Music Director Lizzie Webb, also caused a bit of toe tapping and left some audience members wishing they’d been given programs to see the names of the unfamiliar songs. Whether they were sending Dorothy and friends on their journey with the familiar “We’re Off to see the Wizard” or playing an unfamiliar standout called “Jitterbug” the band was consistently solid.
Should You Follow the Yellow Brick Road?
While this touring production--from the viewpoint of this writer-- never truly captures the wonder and excitement of the film (or the popular musical Wicked) it is a decent family outing. The projections are a bit dated and reminiscent of the graphics from the Ninetendo 64 era, and most of the additional songs don’t really add anything to the story or the experience, but overlooking those minor details this could definitely be a nice way to kick off the family summer outings. If for no other reason, this production is a nice way to get kids excited about live theatre via a memory of seeing The Wizard of Oz live. It’s also a nice excuse to see the inside of the gorgeous Chicago Theatre. Bring your camera phone!
Through May 20th
Denise S. Trupe
About the Author
Sharai Bohannon is a playwright, and an avid theatre practitioner, who is very excited to write about most things but especially Chicago Theatre. She has a background in journalism and technical theatre and is excited that those degrees will be put to use in a way that gives her an excuse to leave her couch and brave this “outside” that people keep telling her about. When not on her couch watching TV, she can be found working one of her multiple jobs and/or hunting down a happy hour near you. Read some of Sharai Bohannon’s New Works on New Play Exchange.