Even with my complaints I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and now have a reason to watch the movie again.
I know that I’m not alone in saying that, ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ is my favorite and is a true American classic. So in viewing this latest production of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ at the Schuster Center through October 25, my standard of expectations was higher than normal. As someone with a vast collection of ‘Wizard of Oz’ trinkets collected through the years, this show is more personal to me than any other. So the prongs on my fine-toothed comb were sharpened to pick - out any wrongs. For the most part, it was a perfect performance, and a show all ages could thoroughly enjoy, but a few things struck my ire too.
We will start by focusing on the positive, which includes an extremely talented leading cast. With a voice as bright as a rainbow, Kalie Kaimann shines as Dorothy. Her rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ is likely more valuable than a pot of gold. Whether skipping to Oz, or doing the Jitterbug, Kaimann is a perfect fit for the ruby slippers.
Other stand-out performances were given by Jack Saleeby who made some very smart choices as Hunk/Scarecrow. Plus, Nick Gurinsky is as smooth as a well-oiled machine as Hickory/Tinman. Far from just a bunch of scrap, Gurinsky proves the Tinman is more reminiscent of a high dollar set of metal, especially when dancing. Last, but certainly not least is Nicholas J. Pearson who is Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat as Zeke/Lion. From the rolling of his r’s to frightful demeanor and everything in between Pearson proves worthy of not only being King of the Forrest, but King of the Stage as well. Furthermore, Pearson’s rendition of ‘If I Were King of the Forest,’ is only comparable to the Prince Harry/Meghan Markle wedding in terms of royal greatness.
Beyond the story, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is also made great by its music, both full songs and background noises, such as when Miss Gulch rides her bike. They are greatly captured in the show, and all three of the, ‘If I Only Had A…’ songs are perfect and impossible to sing along with. The ensemble shows off their dance skill in the high-energy ‘Merry Old Land of Oz,’ in a fun scene with lots of movement and vibrant colors. I often fail to make any mention of the orchestra, but in this case, they deserve some extra credit.
A giant projection screen is used well, to set the background scene in Kansas, but especially during the tornado. The graphics put us right in the middle of the funnel cloud. The scenery is also exceptional for in Emerald City and the Wizard’s Chamber.
Also, Murphy or better known as Toto was great and got some extra ‘Awwww’s’ from the audience.
As for what my fine tooth comb picked up on, I was disappointed in the Munchkinland. I understand the logistics of not hiring little people or children for one scene, but with full-sized adults it just wasn’t the same. Part of what makes that scene so great and unique (think of another one like it in cinematic history…) are the distinct voices like the Mayor, Coroner, and Lollipop Guild was not matched.
The company of Coke learned a valuable lesson a number of years ago with the launch of New Coke. It bombed and it’s been Classic Coke ever since. There’s no need to change Classics. This version of ‘The Wizard of Oz contained a number of new lines, mostly added for comedy, that weren’t in the original. Much of the audience laughed at them but I found them unnecessary. For example, the Wicked Witch questioning a Winkie about the meaning of their marching mantra. The Wicked Witch is naturally a great villain, but she seemed to be made a comedic character. Emily Perzan delivered the standard lines like, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too,” with perfection and nailed the cackle, but should leave the jokes to the others.
Again, I understand the logistics with staging and all, but I missed there being a yellow brick road. Oz without a yellow brick road is like Titanic without a boat.
My bitterness may also be I’ve been suffering from a medical issue and haven’t been myself. Still, even with my complaints I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and now have a reason to watch the movie again.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.