The Wizard of Oz is full of magic
By L. Frank Baum. Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg. Adapted by John Kane. Directed by Carole Higgins. A Carousel Theatre presentation. At the Waterfront Theatre on December 3. Continues until December 31
Carousel Theatre goes over the rainbow and finds a pot of gold with this production of The Wizard of Oz. Comparisons to the classic 1939 movie are inevitable, so it’s no small feat that director Carole Higgins and a cast of 10 have managed to craft a kid-friendly (read: less-scary) version of the story without sacrificing any of its magic. You know the plot: Dorothy and her beloved pooch, Toto, get swept up by a tornado and dropped in the Land of Oz, inadvertently incurring the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. To return home, Dorothy must seek the help of the Wizard of Oz. Along the way she meets a brainless Scarecrow, a Tin Man without a heart, and a Cowardly Lion, who join her in the hopes that the Wizard can give them what they’re missing—only to discover that they’ve had it all along.
Higgins has a knack for spot-on casting, and this show is no exception. Robyn Wallis is a sweet, somewhat earnest Dorothy, but for much of the show she plays straight man to her three companions. Darren Burkett’s rubber-limbed Scarecrow is exuberant and crafty; Mike Stack nails both the Tin Man’s stiff physicality and his mushy emotional core; and Josue Laboucane’s Lion is a lovable blend of false, furry bravado and nervous tail-wringing.
Meghan Anderssen’s Wicked Witch of the West strikes a playful balance between scary (on opening night, she had the smallest audience members cowering in their parents’ laps) and ironic (“Stop upstaging me!” she barks at one of her henchmen). And Timothy E. Brummund’s virtuosic vocal send-up of the Oz Guard is a treat. Under Steven Greenfield’s musical direction, all the cast members handle the show’s familiar songs with enthusiastic precision.
Design is also a huge part the show’s success. Heidi Wilkinson’s set and Jeff Harrison’s lighting create their own theatrical magic; you won’t miss the movie’s special effects. Costume designer Barbara Clayden gets a major workout: her rainbow of inventive outfits—actors play trees, poppies, even the wind—reach their whimsical peak in Munchkinland, where the kneeling actors’ knee-shoes make them look convincingly like little people. Choreographer Melissa Young also has a field day in this scene, punctuating the Munchkins’ songs (and risking the performers’ groins) with cancan kicks.
It’s true there’s no place like home, but this show makes going out more than worth the effort.