Review | The Wizard of Oz
An unusual thing happened during Saturday's opening night of The Wizard of Oz at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, something I've never before witnessed myself.
The first act ended with enthusiastic, sustained applause, followed by an intermission. Twenty minutes later, when the house lights went down signaling the second act was going to start soon, wild applause broke out again — and the curtain hadn't even gone up yet or a musical note played.
Apparently, people enjoyed the first act so much, they were clapping for joy at the prospect the show would soon be back in full swing. It was like a rock concert; I half expected people to break out their lighters (nowadays, their cell phones) and start waving them in the air.
Rightly so; it was that good. And then some.
The Show Palace is doing the Broadway version based on the 1939 movie about a young Kansas girl sent into the fantasy Land of Oz during a tornado, and it has more spectacle, pizzazz, music, action, color and pure ol' excitement than even a 3-D version of the original movie could ever engender. There's more movement, more dancing (one big number has the dancers in neon-like colors with lighted fingertips), more of everything — all done by a brilliant cast that never missed a note or step and a crew that didn't discernibly miss a cue.
Set and lighting designer Tom Hansen outdid himself with multiple intricate, color-drenched backdrops and moving set pieces; costume coordinator Pat Werner came up with scores of opulent outfits that made the 27-member cast seem like a hundred; musical director Bill Cusick provided sounds that put the audience smack into the action; choreographer Megan Morgan created whirlwind dances; and director Jill Godfrey pulled a huge crew together to present what is, arguably, the most adorable, enjoyable, enchanting show of the year.
There's even a darling live doggie playing Toto (Mocha, a Yorkie trained and owned by Bev Miller), who barks on cue and shows no fear, not even of flying monkeys, giant crows or a booming parade of lock-stepping, cadence-counting Winkies.
The cast is stellar, including the 10 captivating kids who play multiple roles as Munchkins, residents of Oz, ballerinas, dancing flowers, public officials and snowflakes like old pros. The nine adult ensemble dancer/singers dazzle with gymnastics, leaps, kicks and twirls.
But it's the sweet-voiced Dorothy (Molly Anne Ross) and her pals Scarecrow (Nicholas Landmesser), TinMan (Logan O'Neill) and Lion (Jason Sofge, who has sung with the Metropolitan Opera), along with The Professor/Wizard (Tom Bengston), the Wicked Witch (Jill Godfrey), the Good Witch Glinda (Andi Sperduiti-Garner) and Uncle Henry (Rick Kistner) who make this show soar. All have special talents and make a wonderful team.
Opening night was packed, with at least a quarter of the audience age 12 or younger, but the show was so intriguing that they were as still as mice, their eyes glued to the action on the stage.