They’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz! And so was I, for the first time, in many many years. Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, there were two movies that were shown on TV every single Christmas Day without fail: “The Wizard of Oz” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. I grew up hating both movies because as a kid on Christmas Day, besides opening your presents, you couldn’t wait to find out what new movies would be shown on TV that day and of course, every parent in Ireland, in their infinite wisdom, thought it a great idea to force us to watch THEIR favorite two movies. So, in essence, I have a beef with both of them.
When I was asked by my editor if I’d like to cover “The Wizard of Oz” musical at Fair Park, I actually agreed without any hesitation whatsoever. Then I realized, my mother hadn’t been to a musical or stage play for almost twenty years so I asked her to come along with me and she giddily jumped at the opportunity. I hadn’t watched the movie version in a very long time and had never seen the stage adaptation so I was actually looking forward to it. And I wasn’t let down. The acting by all the players involved was top-notch but the real stars of the show were, undeniably, the costumes and set design.
Going in, the one question on my mind was, how will they achieve the effect of the twister that whisks our heroine away to the land of Oz? It was attained by using what’s known as vorticist projection, where a tornado is displayed on a screen in front of the stage thus, allowing for set changes behind it. We start off in Kansas where Dorothy (Danielle Wade) and her little dog Toto are caught up in a twister which sends them over the rainbow to the colorful land of Oz, where witches, good and bad, rule the land and a mysterious wizard named Oz, hides behind the walls of the kingdom, unseen to everyone but feared by all.
What I loved about this production was that there was a lot more supplemental humor. The Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion constantly bicker back and forth a lot more than they did in the movie version and although a couple of times, the cast comes close to iterating some expletives, they are deliberately cut off by other characters at the last moment using some very humorous repartee. I was very surprised to see that most of the audience were children and teenagers.
I honestly wouldn’t have expected the youth of today to be interested in a story that is over one hundred years old but they laughed and clapped and cheered throughout and because of them, it made my viewing experience even more enjoyable although I have to admit, the biggest kid in attendance, was the one sitting right next to me: my mother, at times laughing, clapping and cheering longer than anybody else, hence, me slowly sinking into my seat.
There were some additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that didn’t appear in the movie but they were light and whimsical and a good addition to an already song-filled story. As I stated earlier, over the years if the movie came on TV, I would turn it off but being brutally honest, after having watched the brilliant and vibrant stage production and having gotten so caught up in it, it actually made me want to buy the movie, you know, just in case I might actually enjoy it after all these years. But don’t tell anybody, I have a rep to protect!
“The Wizard of Oz” is part of the Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall at Fair Park, March 18th thru March 30th
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