The Wizard of Oz is a small slice of pure joy!
As Dorothy (Campbell Krausen) and the munchkins (Matthew Bettencort, Mandy Modic, and Laura Savage) danced around the yellow brick road while a beautiful and benevolent but slightly sassy Glinda (Harriet Nzinga Plumpp) looked on, I got this feeling one has when one eats just the right amount of dessert. You know the feeling I’m talking about…that perfect place between just enough and full of regret. I think it is safe to say everyone knows the Wizard of Oz since the movie premiered in 1939, and the Marriott Theatre’s hour-long production is just the right taste to quickly, lightly, and magically whisk us all back to childhood for a blissful hour before rushing back to our busy lives.
The Marriott’s production of the Wizard of Oz runs at 10 AM and, at an hour long, one would think it is geared for children. However, this show, advertised as “a musical adventure for all ages,” will keep everyone entertained. As my light heart rejoiced gleefully at all of the familiar songs, I looked around the theater (easy to do at the Marriott’s theater in the round) and noticed the rapture on everyone else’s faces, young and old alike. I marveled at director Johanna McKenzie Miller’s ability to recreate all of the beloved characters, tell the full story, and have all of the best songs sung in only an hour.
McKenzie Miller’s cast is spot on in their character development. Krausen is the ideal, strong, brave, and loving Dorothy. Her travel companions and friends, the Scarecrow (Allison Sill), Tin Man (Michael Turrentine), and Lion (Lorenzo Rush Jr.) find just the right combination of their own interpretation of the characters mixed with some of the beloved qualities from the original movie. Jacquelyne Jones’ Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch is just scary enough to make us all nervous but not enough that the smallest in the crowd will have nightmares. Kevin McKillip as Uncle Henry/Oz and Plumpp as Aunt Em/Glinda just about round out the fantastic cast. Of course, though, the actor that steals the show is Sir Reginald “Reggie” as Toto. A director once said to me, “avoid live animals and babies…they are unpredictable!” And while Reggie was great, I did spend a great deal of the time he was onstage watching him and wondering what might go wrong. For most of the show, Dorothy did carry around a basket with Toto “in it” which completely fooled my youngest son who was sure Reggie was on stage the whole time!
As always, I marveled at the director’s and actors’ ability to keep the audience engaged despite the round stage. There were some times when we couldn’t completely see the action from where we were, but these points were never long enough for the children around us to get antsy. The minimal set was effective, lighting helped with the different key emotional elements of the plot and the costumes were perfect.
I would recommend this small slice of deliciousness for theater-goers of all ages. Bring a child to introduce them to the amazing experience of live theater, or start your day off with a theater moment of zen to put you on the right path. The Wizard of Oz plays at the Marriott Theatre now through August 7 and again from November 15-December 31