Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 19, 2011

The Wizard of OZ

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through January 21, 2010
by The Smith Family

A faithful and loving recreation of the classic 1939 movie, this "Oz" is a pleasant family experience. Unlike modern "family" entertainment, with snide remarks and ironic references, all can enjoy the simple and sincere story of the young girl who finds that she's "not in Kansas anymore."

The story and score are based directly on the famous film, with a few embellishments to music and dialogue. Here, a trio of singing and dancing crows joins the Scarecrow for his big number, "If I Only Had a Brain." They serve to help the solo number fill the stage and their costumes and jokes were a big hit. Similarly, a threesome of curvy lady apple trees aids the Tinman with "If I Only Had a Heart."

Creative staging is also evidenced in the "poppy field" scene. Dancers, representing poppies, swirl about in an elegant number, with inventive costume changes, that impressed children and adults alike. The show includes the song "Jitterbug," legendary for having been written for, but never included in the final film.

The fresh-faced cast is well assisted by veteran performers like Pat Sibley and her Wicked Witch. Her delivery takes a bit of an edge off the character so as not to be overwhelmingly frightening. However, that didn't stop the audience from being startled every time she exploded on stage in a flash of light and puff of smoke.

But as far as the kids are concerned, the best special effect in the show was Dusty, a real dog, as Toto. Scampering faithfully across the stage after Dorothy, his absence from a scene always prompted a "where's Toto?" from the younger members of the audience. That's the sign of a real star!

Unlike some newer Broadway productions that can overwhelm younger audiences with light and sound, "The Wizard of OZ" takes a simpler, straightforward approach to staging a timeless story. Children will delight at seeing classic characters like the Cowardly Lion come to life and parents will enjoy the chance to escape back to the "Merry Old land of OZ."