Chicago Theatre Review
Following the Yellow Brick Road
The Wizard of Oz – Marriott Theatre
Since this classic movie first delighted children and grownups on the silver screen back in 1939, L. Frank Baum’s glorious fantasy has been a continual favorite. Whether on film, in print or live on stage, as it is at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, this story, with its fanciful and inspiring lesson about friendship, is one of the most beloved in children’s literature. Featured here are all the wonderful, lovable characters setting off on adventures that have become familiar the world over. This road story, directed and choreographed by the gifted Rachel Rockwell, is about how friends help, comfort and support each other, as well as the way the thrill of discovering new places ultimately remind the adventurer that, in the end, there’s really no place like home.
Dara Cameron once again steps into the ruby slippers as Dorothy, the young farm girl from Kansas who, with her sweet little dog, Toto, is swept away to Oz by a cyclone. As lovely and charming as she is earnest, Ms. Cameron treats audiences to her own special rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” as melodic as Ms. Garland’s iconic version. On her way, Dorothy meets Johanna McKenzie Miller as a lovely, glittering pink Glinda, the Good Witch, along with Debbie Laumand-Blanc, Amanda Tanguay and J Tyler Whitmer as three hilarious, gravity-defying acrobatic, parasol-wielding Munchkins. They all advise her to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
Continuing on her journey Dorothy meets George Keating’s warmly sincere, rubber-jointed Scarecrow, Alex Goodrich’s silver-clad and silver-throated Tin Man and Jeff Max’s warm, fuzzy and very funny Cowardly Lion. The trio enchants the audience with their musical yearnings for a brain, a heart and some nerve, before joining Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road heading “Off to See the Wizard.” Did Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen have any idea of the enduring magic they’d created when composing all those wonderful, infectious songs?
Before long, cackling, green-skinned Susan Moniz, as the Wicked Witch of the West, flies in on her broomstick to wreak havoc and challenge Dorothy for possession of those magical ruby slippers. Although she may momentarily frighten some of the younger kiddies in the audience, there’s more humor than horror in Ms. Moniz’s accomplished characterization. At last the quartet meets the Wonderful Wizard himself, played with devilish glee by character actor Rob Rahn. Also doubling as Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, Ms. Miller and Mr. Rahn are challenged, like most of the actors, by some super quick costume changes.
Those magnificent, magical costumes, by the way, are the handiwork of theatre artist Nancy Missimi and her talented staff. Brian Hoehne’s lighting design helps take everyone on a journey from Kansas to Oz and back home again. He’s particularly effective in creating the poppy field, the witch’s meltdown and a realistic-looking cyclone. Patti Garwood skillfully supervises all of the live the music, including conducting a petite pit orchestra secreted away within the inner sanctum of the theatre. And, as with all of the Marriott’s TYA productions, an informative talkback session follows each performance, inspiring young audience members to ask questions and offer comments, led here by the eternally entertaining George Keating.
A happy alternative to the many holiday-themed productions filling area stages is this joyous, cinematically faithful, miraculous musical production for children of all ages. Everyone knows this famous story but seeing such talented professional actors bring to these lovable characters to life is what theatre is all about. Encouraged to clap and sing along, interact with the characters and being able to personally meet and ask them probing questions makes this outing to Oz a journey young (and adult) audiences will never forget.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented November 7-January 3 by the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire, IL.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 847- 634-0200 or by going to their website at www.MarriottTheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.