Oh, sure, you say. We’ve been down that road before. (That would be the yellow brick one.) Been there. Done that. Really, haven’t we’ve been “Wiz”-ed, “Wicked”-ed and Surrender Dorothy-ed to death?
I bet you wouldn’t say that after you’ve laid eyes on the bright and bouncy Tim Rice-ed and Andrew Lloyd Webber-ed version of everyone’s favorite lost and found tale, The Wizard of Oz. Broadway in Tucson has had the good sense to lure it here to Centennial Hall, where it plays through the weekend.
Maybe you’re in a quandary. It’s perfect the way it is. Sure, you’re curious, because you’ve loved the story and Judy Garland and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the segue of black and white into color (and how special was that?!) But, what if they screw it up?
No worries, my pretties. This thing rocks. By some wonderful wizardry they have taken the things we love about this journey of finding home by leaving it, and have made it comfortably familiar, yet charmingly fresh.
How did they do that? I guess you’d have to ask the Wizard. But it’s not just with smoke and mirrors, that’s for sure.
They’ve honored the heart of L. Frank Baum’s archetypal story and the imaginative visual delights of the 1939 MGM production, as well as the Harold Arlen music, the EY Harburg lyrics and the Herbert Stothart score. They’ve cranked up some things and quieted others, and they’ve given us a spectacle worthy of theater in the 21st century. And they’ve discovered enough references from the life and times long after Dorothy first found those ruby slippers to slip quite organically into the tale, creating both some gentle joshing and surprising wit.
And mostly, they don’t try to duplicate performances. The characters are recognizable, but they are ultimately the
unique creations of a fine cast.
Danielle Wade as Dorothy perhaps has the most difficult task, because for most of us Judy Garland is Dorothy. But with a voice that soars, Wade gives us a totally embraceable new young lady, strong and courageous and vulnerable.
The trio of farm hands/companions —in—Oz are also familiar, but new and entirely lovable. Mike Jackson is Hickory and a tap dancing Tin Man, strong and striking. Jamie McKnight is Hunk in Kansas, but in Oz he is a floppy, sweet Scarecrow, mocked by a quartet of singing puppet crows. And Lee MacDougal is Zeke, who is transformed into Lion, who may be cowardly , but is absolutely charming, especially with his tail that has a mind of its own.
The witches are well-represented as well. Robin Evan Willis is Glinda, all good and glittery. And we really have a love/hate relationship with Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West, because Julia Juhas gives such a magnificently malignant performance that she is as attractive as she is evil.
This is an adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, who also directs.
Robert Jones’ set and costumes are impressive, especially the representation of the twister, which has to be the longest sustained weather event ever put on stage. And, yes, there is Toto, a very talented terrier named Nigel, who hardly ever upstages the fine actors.
This is really a fun, good-hearted production which honors the Oz we know by giving us an Oz we can discover.
The Wizard of Oz
Presented by Broadway in Tucson
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27; 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1; 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Sunday, March 2
Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona Campus
1020 E. University Blvd.
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission