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Review of The Wizard of Oz from Rochester Children's Theatre
By Glenn McCarty
The Rochester Children’s Theatre scores another crowd-pleasing winner with its current production of The Wizard of Oz, now running at the Nazareth College Arts Center. Based on the beloved 1939 movie, the show has always had broad appeal, with its timeless themes of longing, wonder, and … oh, alright, it also has ruby slippers and flying monkeys. Whatever the reason, RCT's The Wizard of Oz is a whiz of a Wiz! It’s such a perfect fit for the Arts Center’s lineup that it’s hard to believe that the suggestion to add the show came only as a result of the patron survey last year.
The cast is a mix of adults and children, with the three “If I only…” characters, as well as Oz, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch all played capably by adults. The Wicked Witch receives an unexpected jolt from the vivacious performance of RCT Set Designer Mark Scott Almekinder, who was very large, very green, and very evil. But the stage really comes alive whenever the children come on. The Munchkins in particular are downright adorable, but also expertly choreographed and rehearsed for their big singing number, when they deliver some important pre-GPS turn-by-turn directions to Dorothy regarding the yellow brick road. The Winkies, poppies, flying monkeys, jitterbugs, and Osians were also handled by kids and teenagers, showcasing some of Rochester’s finest young talent.
In addition to eye-popping color and subtle humor, the MGM classic has always succeeded on the strength of its songs, which the performers deliver. Angela Syrett, who shares the role of Dorothy with Julia Rossi, captures the wistful simplicity of “Over the Rainbow” and the playfulness of “If I Only Had a Brain” with equal talent. Elliot Fox’s gruff and lovable performance of the burly Lion in “If I Were King of the Forest,” and the aforementioned Munchkins, are also terrific.
Artistic Director Danny Hoskins has said he and the creative team at RCT felt compelled not to change up the iconic elements of the movie, such as Dorothy’s blue gingham dress or the Witch’s signature look. Even so, several creative choices, perhaps necessitated by bringing the movie to the stage, enhanced the experience. Most notable was the choice to costume all the characters in grays and blacks for the Kansas scenes, which meant Dorothy’s dress became a gray version of her Oz garb. A neat trick with the poppy’s costumes led to a nifty evocation of the snow which allows Dorothy & Co. to escape.
Overall, RCT’s latest production is a runaway success. And judging by the mob scene around Dorothy in the lobby after the performance (and the numbers of little brown-haired girls in ruby slippers), kids will remember the time they spent in Oz for years to come.
The Wizard of Oz continues at Nazareth College Arts Center for the following performances:
- Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7pm
- Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 2pm
- Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2pm
Click here for tickets. Tickets are $20.
© 2013, Glenn McCarty
Glenn McCarty is a writer and father of two in Rochester, NY.