It’s a tricky proposition to bring a beloved film to the stage, especially one like the Wizard of Oz. The original is so iconic that many in the audience arrive with their favorite characters in tow — the scarecrow, the cowardly lion — humming songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as they anxiously wait for Dorothy and Toto to take the stage.
So how do you create a production that will pass muster — especially one with new songs?
No worries. This latest Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz takes the audience on a glorious, technicolor romp over the rainbow. It plays at the Orpheum Tuesday, June 14-Sunday, June 19. Go here for tickets or call 525-3000.
The show doesn’t stray far from the original film, in fact, it seems much of the cast studied the characters closely. Sara Lasko as Dorothy has a beautiful voice and her acting is spot-on, right down to that anxious, cloying way she repeatedly tells everyone, “there’s no place like home.”
Toto, her precious little rescue dog, was on-point throughout the show (making us wish our pooch was as obedient).
Both Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Shani Hadjian, are riveting. Hadjian’s solos in particular, reveal a wonderfully rich, dynamic voice, one that doesn’t get nearly enough of a workout here. This production even has a touch of camp, winking at the audience at times as they make little jokes and dress the residents of Oz like dandies.
But that is what makes this production top notch, it's attention to detail. I wanted to peer into Professor Marvel’s Wonders of the World caravan, when he throws open compartment doors to reveal a tiny display in each square. The show also transcends the original with creative use of scrims, sound effects, and lighting.
Perhaps mindful of their youthful audience, the company does a great job of creating drama by using those elements without making the overall effect too scary for kids. The tornado, a whirlwind of sound and light, is gripping without being over the top. Ironically, the monkey scene is one that lacks the intensity of the screen version but the wizard is aptly mysterious and projected as a giant green face to the audience.
My only criticism was having the spell broken at intermission. It made the climax of the second act seem perfunctory. Nonetheless, the families I spoke with were delightfully entertained.
Catch this show before it blows out of town.