REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz (Emerald City Theatre)

     
     

Learning to love the things you’ve had all along

     
     

Wizard of Oz - Emerald City Theatre

   
Emerald City Theatre presents
   
The Wizard of Oz
   
Written by L. Frank Baum, Adapted by John Kane
Music/Lyrics by
Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg
Directed by
Ernie Nolan
at
Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
Through Jan 2  |  tickets: $13-$16  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

I love children’s theater because the audience’s limited attention span forces wild, fearless performances from the actors as they try to hold the concentration of both children and parents. Emerald City Theatre is one of the city’s premier children’s theater companies, and their holiday production of The Wizard of Oz incorporates audience interaction and puppetry to create a visually exciting production that understands the actor/child dynamic. The actors give unbridled performances that keep the momentum moving briskly, and while they might not be the strongest in term of technique, they make up for it by having so much fun in their characters.

Molly Tower as Glinda the Good Witch - Emerald City TheatreEmerald City’s production High School Musical­-izes Arlen and Harburg’s score with a rhythm section and guitars, but the songs never lose their classic appeal. Karle’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a rousing number that captures Dorothy’s desire to find a world outside the dreariness of the Kansas countryside, and the actress’s effortless belt gets the show off to a great start. In Oz, Dorothy is greeted by Glinda’s (a hilariously irreverent Molly Tower) angelic soprano, accompanied by the denizens of Munchkinland.

As she makes her way to the Emerald City, Dorothy encounters new faces, including Scarecrow (Bret Beaudry), who serves as a major source of physical comedy throughout the show. Tinman (James Nedrud) is cleverly portrayed as an Elvis-like crooner and carries a guitar for an axe, appropriate for the Million Dollar Quartet housing Apollo Theater, and Nedrud has a smooth vocal quality that is perfect for the character. The only one of Dorothy’s new friends that struggles is Lion (Shea Coffman), and the difficulty of the character’s music isn’t helped by the ornaments Coffman adds to almost every sustained note.

Using puppets for the munchkins is hilarious and efficient, and the low-budget shortcuts that Emerald City takes contribute to much of the show’s charm. Kevin Beltz’s economical set unfolds Dorothy’s house to reveal walls with turning panels to signify location, all located in the walls of Dorothy’s home that unfolds during the storm. It’s a great effect that also saves a lot of money on scenery. Despite not being the most technically astounding or polished production, the show’s simplicity and dedicated ensemble make Dorothy’s journey through Oz easy for kids to enjoy while still entertaining for adults.

If I only had a heart by Emerald City Theatre Company Find Her! - The Wicked Witch by Emerald City Theatre Company
If I only had a brain! by Emerald City Theatre Company The Wicked Witch of the West by Emerald City Theatre Company When I am king of the forest by Emerald City Theatre Company

It is surprising how well Baum’s classic story works in a holiday setting, as the storm that whisks Dorothy away, in this production, occurs just before Christmas. Maybe it’s the combination of red and green that comes from ruby slippers – adorably reimagined as glistening ankle-boots – and the Emerald City. More likely, the connection comes from how well Baum taps into the holiday spirit of giving thanks, and taking pleasure in the company of people that will always be there for you. The important part of the holidays isn’t the presents you get, but learning to love the things you’ve had all along.

   
  
Rating: ★★★
   
  

Off to see the Wizard

        
        

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University Watch – upcoming shows at DePaul and Northwestern

by Rachel Bykowski

  

De Paul University – with Chicago PlayWorks 

Alice in Wonderland

  By: Lewis Carroll
Adapted By: Sharon Holland
Music By: Mark Elliott
Directed By: Sean Graney
Dates: January 13 – March 3, Tuesday/Thursday 10am, Saturday 2pm
Venue: Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo Drive
Tickets: Only $8 (box office: 312-922-1999)

MerleReskin2  MerleReskin3

 

Northwestern University – Dolphin Show

 The Wizard of Oz

  By: L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow
Directed By: Katie Spelman
Starring: Danielle Gaines (Dorothy), Claire Neumann (Aunt Em/Glinda), Andi Alhadeff (Miss Gultch/Wicked Witch), Darren Barrare (Wizard), Mark Underhill (Scarecrow), Reed Wilson (Tin Man), R.B. Embleton (Lion), Andrew Howard (Uncle Henry/Guard)
Dates: January 23 – January 31, Fridays/Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 2pm
Venue: Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University (Evanston)
Tickets: Students/Kids: $10, Faculty/Staff: $20, General Public: $25
  For Wizard of Oz tickets, call 847-467-4000.  Ticket info here.

 The Dolphin Show is America’s largest student-produced musical.  Started at Northwestern University in 1939, The Dolphin Show is now celebrating its 67th year.  More about the show’s history here.

NU ArchNU - Cahn Auditorium