The Wizard of Oz: Old Standards, New Favorites

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Footloose and fancy free, The Wizard of Oz at Seattle’s famed Paramount Theatre thrilled audiences from top to bottom on opening night, October 9. There were no empty seats – and for good reason. The Wizard of Oz was a show-stopping success.

With a familiar score (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,” “If I Only Had A Brain,”) and a handful of fresh tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, The Wizard of Oz was a delightful treat for the young and the young-at-heart.

The musical redux moved at a fast clip, most likely because the scenes were so enjoyable. The use of a full-sized screen allowed for transportation into a funneling twister, an invasion of winged monkeys that had theatergoers ducking in their seats, and so much more. We can’t give it all away…

One thing we can certainly reveal, though, is that the voice behind Dorothy Gale (Danielle Wade) is a bright one. Wade captured hearts on the CBC television show, Over the Rainbow, to lead the Canadian company in Oz’s North American premiere. Her infectious charm brightened up even the darkest witch’s den. “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night…” This is precisely how we felt about Wade.

The Tin Man (Mike Jackson), Lion (Lee MacDougall) and Scarecrow (Jamie McKnight) were the perfect compliments to Dorothy’s animated cast of favorites. All of the old standards were represented – Tin Man’s ease at rusting, the Lion’s dainty roar, and Scarecrow’s lack of intellect and clumsiness. Additional quirky qualities were thrown in for each character this time around, and they served to compliment, not distract.

One noticeable diversion from the 1939 Technicolor film was that Glinda the Good Witch (Robin Evan Willis) sparkled in blue – not pink. Robin’s voice – spectacular – and serene. The next biggest departure from the original version was the introduction of Munchkinland. The Munchkins were, well, not little. They were full-grown adults, and their colorful outfits were replaced with blue and white ensembles. Other than these two tidbits, the pace was smooth and uninterrupted.

Professor Marvel – later, The Wizard – was played by Cedric Smith. His motives were clear and concise. Cedric’s wit, charm and conception of The Wizard were on par with the storyline we all know and love. Even the big, bad, scary machine didn’t take away from his humor and loyalty to the part.

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan played the lead villainess, The Wicked Witch of the West. Her green-skinned granules gyrated to a brand-new tune, “Red Shoes Blues” at the top of the Second Act. She was a more modern version of her predecessor, wearing a skirt and blouse versus the long, black cape and pointy hat. With a dollop of humor under her tight belt, Jacquelyn commanded the stage with a passion irreverent of popularity.

28DC2E1E9-DA92-E37F-E4BC2705D88F5B9DUncle Henry (Larry Mannell) and Auntie Em (Charlotte Moore) rounded out the cast. While they had smaller parts, they were just as memorable. Auntie Em yelling, “Dorothy!” while running for cover from the tornado, and Uncle Henry caring for the livestock over his adoptee were reminders of the original classic. There were a few new additional moments in the musical that were more modern – Auntie Em and Uncle Henry appearing on a television screen of sorts while Dorothy was locked up was one of the most obvious.

Perhaps the biggest star of the show was the real-life pooch portraying the fetching Toto – a dog going by one name only: Nigel. Measuring less than knee-high, the dark fluffy fur ball was blessed with impeccable timing. Nigel was the last to present at curtain call and received a standing ovation. And boy did he deserve it!

The Wizard of Oz plays The Paramount Theatre October 9 – 13, 2013. Tickets are available online at STG Presents, Tickets.com, and select Ticketmaster locations. Tickets are also available by calling 877-STG-4TIX or in-person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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