Pictured: Brian McKinley (Tinman), Chelcie Abercrombie (Dorothy) and Jordan Fox (Scarecrow)
By Marissa Carter
Do you remember the first time you watched The Wizard of Oz? The sadness and anger you felt when Miss Gulch tried to take Toto away; the thrill of watching Glinda appear in a bubble; the excitement of flying monkeys and a surreal Emerald City? I don’t remember my first time watching either since I was so young when I first saw the movie, but I imagine it felt a lot like watching this production.
This was not the first time I’ve seen the musical production of THE WIZARD OF OZ, and so I know it is a pretty solid presentation to begin with. It contains most of the memorable lines and scenes from the movie with a few additional musical numbers and characters. This production, though, is the first ever to feature a giant video screen with images from the movie as the backdrop to the set, and it really enhances the experience to see the farmhouse, poppy fields, yellow brick road and Emerald City the way we all remember them looking.
Granted, there are a few scenes where the images on screen don’t quite match up to the set pieces onstage, but they are easy to forgive and only serve to make the scenes where everything lines up perfectly even more impressive. The poppy field is a grand thing to behold on that scale, especially when you have live dancing poppies (ensemble cast members) filling the stage in front of it.
Even though the combination of movie and live performance proves to be pure magic, the show could not be a success without a great cast — and this show has one. Not only does this cast offer a ton of diversity in age, race and ability, but everyone from Dorothy (Chelcie Abercrombie) to the Citizens of Munchkinland (an ensemble made up primarily of children) brings their A-game to the stage. The high energy and enthusiasm displayed makes it easy to believe this show is as fun to be a part of as it is to watch.
Between the stellar talent and fun choreography by Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst, all of the musical numbers are delightful, especially “Over the Rainbow,” which highlights Abercrombie’s lovely vocals while she lovingly croons to Toto (Prudence) who just melts in her arms, and “If I Were King of the Forest,” which brings cheers from the audience and leaves no doubt as to why Robert Hingula was cast as the Cowardly Lion.
Another point that must be mentioned is that this production can be appreciated by family members of all ages since potentially frightening scenes, such as those featuring the Wicked Witch of the West (Devon Barnes), are handled in a lighthearted way. There are also no scary explosions or effects. Instead, clever lighting and fog machines are used to create the cyclone and fire scenes.
THE WIZARD OF OZ is playing through the weekend at Providence Amphitheater and is a must see for Oz fans of all ages.