The Wizard of Oz at Syracuse Stage

The Wizard of Oz at Syracuse Stage

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The Wizard of Oz film is almost 80 years old and it is still a favorite among movie lovers old and young.  It has held up well and the stage show which replicates the plot almost exactly, except for a few added songs here and there, is a timeless story of family, home, identity, and self-empowerment, just like the film. There is no need to summarize or reiterate the plot, but rather let’s focus on director Donna Drake’s imaginative, innovative and infectious production.

Ms. Drake is a well-known choreographer and understands movement and space brilliantly.  Here she works with 2 Ring Circus, a theatrical company whose work mixes dance with circus acts (I have simplified their mission) to add aeronautics and acrobatics to help interpret the story both linearly and thematically.  These brilliant elements are used organically and cleverly, and combine with the work of the others in the very talented design team: Lighting Designer, Herrick Goldman; Scenic Designer, Linda Buchanan; Costume Designer, Jessica Ford; Sound Designer, Jonathan Herter; and Projection Designer Katherine Freer.  Freer’s work here is fantastic.  Iconic scenes from the movie: the poppy field, the twister, the emerald city are creatively and beautifully rendered and realized.

The cast is top notch, with the show stopping “Somewhere over the Rainbow” delivered perfectly by a vulnerable, plucky and earnest Kate Jarecki as Dorothy Gale. She receives excellent support from Tucker Breder as the Tinman, a loose and lanky Crawford Horton as the Scarecrow and the hysterical Brian Michael Hoffman as the Cowardly Lion. Hoffman’s performance has a special panache. David Lowenstien's dual role as professor Marvel and the Wizard is a delight; moving from baffled, warm, bombastic, pompous to ashamed and meek. Amy Jo Jackson as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch is charismatic and spot on. Dusty, a cairn terrier that has an uncanny resemblance to the dog actor (Terry) that played Toto in the original manages to keep a cool canine head with all the noise going on around him.

Everything works in this production from the brilliant sets, scene transitions, gorgeous costumes, heartfelt performances to great production numbers.  This production has its own look, its own vision and it is so good you forget the movie as you are watching it.  This isn’t an easy feat, considering the vividness and reputation of the original.  The brilliant Technicolor MGM 1939 film may be emblazoned in the culture lexicon forever, but this production is a living, breathing, beguiling spectacle that has pizzazz and heart.

Now playing through January 7, for show times and tickets CLICK HERE

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