The Wizard of Oz
When you step off the escalator at Madison Square Garden, you immediately find yourself immersed in an Oz-ian playground; there’s a yellow brick road painted on the floor, and a talking apple tree, plus a dozen or so assorted munchkins selling popcorns, candy and souvenir programs. Not so crass or commercial as a theme park this was just the right level of merriment to get me in the mood for this new production of the classic “The Wizard of Oz”. It’s a swell show. It’s not the movie – what could be – but taken on it’s own terms, as a fun and happy entertainment for the kids, it succeeds beautifully.
Sure, director Robert Johanson and his team have omitted some things and scaled down some of the effects, but they have done so much that is absolutely right! The ensemble is warm and playful, the score is well played and sung, the sets and costumes are bright and simple in a cartoony way. Best of all, the yellow brick road is right on the stage’s apron, at most a foot away from the first row of the orchestra. Every time Dorothy and Company launched into another chorus of “We’re Off to See the Wizard” they bounded onto the apron and the kids in front went nuts, reaching out to grab onto the Scarecrow or the Cowardly Lion. All the kids in the theatre were delighted when Ken Page (as the Lion) got his tail wrapped around the conductor’s head. And just about everybody seemed thrilled to see TV icon Roseanne live on stage. Is she good as the Wicked Witch of the West? Not particularly; but she’s the genuine article, a bona fide star; I couldn’t take my eyes off her. When she gets melted in the end, Roseanne drops all pretense of acting and stares out at the audience to deliver, deadpan, her classic exit line (What a world!) and gets the enormous laugh that she deserves.
So go to “The Wizard of Oz” expecting not to hear Judy Garland sing not to see the spectacular tornado; take the kids, watch them become enchanted by this lovely telling of a timeless tale, enjoy Roseanne, and maybe even feel some of that enchantment yourself.
main Wizard of Oz 1997 page