The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz
By Frank L. Baum
Adapted by Frank Gabrielson
Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Directed by Robb Winn Anderson
Starring Chloe Robin, Erik Nelson, Daniel Longacre, and C. K. Anderson
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

I normally try to avoid kiddie matinees, but I broke that rule today and I’m glad I did. The Garden was packed and chaotic; it looks like every little snowflake in West Orange Country came out for this extravaganza. Surly you’ve heard of young Dorothy Gale (Robin) and her little dog Toto, they got blown all the way from dreary Kansas to Technicolor Oz. Off in this fantasy world Dorothy works out all her inner angst, she kills off nasty Miss Gulch (Beryl Rochatka), addresses her missing father issues thought the Great Oz (Terry Olson) and explores dating and dealing with love and sex via her friendship with Scarecrow (Nelson) Tin Man (Longacre) and Lion (Anderson). The little tykes loved it!

There’s a ton of powerfully good stuff going on on this stage. The dancing, especially Nelson, Longacre and Anderson was superb and moving. Robin’s voice was delicate, even when Toto upstaged her during “Rainbow” she kept us engaged and in love. Both the Wicked Witch of the West (Rochatka) and the Glinda the Good Witch (Meaghan Fenner) were over the top, but in this case their exuberance fit well into the tenor of the story. Backing everyone up were nost of the ballet studens in Winter garden, there might have been 50 people bouncing around on stage. The Twister was danced by a half dozen young women in green and black body suits, if you can’t call in a real windstorm, a modern dance is just as good and easier to clean up after. Finally, there were more sets and props and glitter covers stuff on stage than I’ve ever seen, the sheer amount of plywood was amazing. My favorite set piece was the Mighty Oz; it was a combination of an Aztec god and a mall clock, operated by Terry Olson and a reverb. Amazing.

Normally children get fussy after an hour of adult’s emoting, but this crowd stayed entranced. There was a hushed “OOOOH!” when the Oz set appeared, and the little girl next to me was dancing in her booster seat. Who knew they had booster seats at The Garden? During the intermission I got an impromptu ballet recital while waiting in the rest room line, this little 8 year old might be a bit rough but she has some promise. This is the sort of massive theatre that is so rarely done anymore, even Shakes hasn’t put this much stuff on stage in living memory. Even the script adaptation was outstanding, it never fell into the trap of slavishly cloning the original material but moved everything into stageable and riveting action. The show is HIGHLY recommended.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org

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