Favorite

'Wizard of Oz' 

Robinson Center Music Hall, June 21

'WIZARD OF OZ': Cassie Okenka and Noah Aberlin star.
  • 'WIZARD OF OZ': Cassie Okenka and Noah Aberlin star.
"People come and go so quickly here!" exclaims Kansas expat Dorothy Gale after her first whirlwind minutes in a strange new land spent talking to munchkins and witches good and bad. This line also speaks to one of the reasons for the endurance of L. Frank Baum's American fable — it is a tale filled with incident. And to add to the proof that "The Wizard of Oz" never quite grows old, a touring stage adaptation has settled down for a short run at the Robinson Center Music Hall.

Celebrity Attractions, with this booking of the "Wizard of Oz," is no doubt reminding theatergoers that it's bringing "Wicked" — the wildly popular modern take on "Wizard" — to Little Rock in the fall. This "Wizard," directed by Nigel West, is the 1980 Royal Shakespeare adaptation of the classic film musical. This version stays true to the movie but adds the infamous number "The Jitterbug" that was cut from the film. This version also comes to town touting its dazzling special effects.

On stage the net result is a tight, fast moving and more-or-less faithful recreation of the beloved film by a very capable and professional young cast. You could practically keep a scorecard on which actors were staying close to the interpretations found in the 1939 movie. Jesse Coleman, as the Cowardly Lion, channels Bert Lahr but gets plenty of laughs anyway. But Cassie Okenka's Dorothy seems very much to have taken out all the diva and camp built around Judy Garland and the role. Instead her Dorothy is direct, innocent and sings as sweet as a bell, especially "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." All the actors were upstaged by Toto (a terrier named Dusty) who trotted on to "awws" from the crowd practically to the end. (And many in the audience were likely there to cheer on members of local Shuffles and Ballet II studios who are part of the large dance ensemble.)

Those special effects were as plentiful — though maybe not as dazzling — as promised. There's all manner of flying and explosions (parents are hereby warned that this family tale was clearly vivid or maybe just loud enough to scare lots of little ones into crying on opening night) and static sets were supported by video projections on big scenes. The last projection, when Dorothy returns to Kansas, went on way too long and was punctuated by animated red slippers clicking over and over again.

Yet, this "The Wizard of Oz" stays true to the strengths of the story, which are bolstered by the now classic songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg. It will appeal to those who know the movie backward and forwards and those who have never taken the trip down the yellow brick road.

Werner Trieschmann

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Werner Trieschmann

  • 'Disfarmer': behind the camera

    The strange case of Arkansas photographer Disfarmer, subject of a new play opening this weekend.
    • Sep 25, 2014
  • Live Review: Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam at Verizon

    Apparently Dwight Yoakam’s acting career is sufficiently slack enough that Friday night saw him opening for bro-country kingpin Eric Church at Verizon Arena. Hollywood is taking Yoakam in small enough doses (he has a recurring part on CBS’s “Under the Dome”) that he can lend his considerable talents to country music, which currently can use any kind of flavor it can get.
    • Sep 15, 2014
  • Musical 'Shrek' succeeds, mostly

    If light family entertainment is your speed.
    • Nov 2, 2011
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • An uneven 'Macbeth'

    Michael Stewart Allen as Macbeth carries the play.
    • Sep 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Forget identity politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Latest in Theater Reviews

  • Standout acting

    In romantic 'Bridges.'
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Life during wartime

    The Rep updates Homer with 'An Iliad.'
    • Mar 3, 2016
  • A modern Pan

    "Peter and the Starcatcher" adds a modern flair to the Peter Pan story.
    • Jan 28, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Woeful

    • If the UA could get the SEC to stop all games if at any time…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Woeful

    • The Mizz loss was worse than getting beat by Louisiana-Moron

    • on December 2, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation