Follow the yellow brick road to San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts to catch The Wizard of Oz until February 4, 2016. Based on the classic movie from 1939 starring Judy Garland, it includes most of the original elements with a few script changes and new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In the play Dorothy (Sarah Lasko) is battling with a neighbor who’s trying to get a court order to get Toto put to sleep. She gets mad at her Aunt, Em and Uncle, Henry and accuses them of not caring about her or Toto’s fate. She runs away and meets Professor Marvel right before the storm hits. He packs up his stuff and tells her to go home. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry go on a search for her but the storm is too strong for them to continue. The audience is then taken to Oz where Dorothy goes on a journey to meet the powerful Wizard who is believed to be the only one who can help her get back home. She meets witches, munchkins, flying monkeys and finds three friends in a talking Scarecrow, Tin-Man and Lion. Each searches for something that teaches us a valuable lesson in love, friendship, self-esteem, and appreciating what you have and the true meaning of home.
The set design and lighting is really ambitious for a traveling tour. The set-up and testing would have many biting their nails down to tiny little nubs by the end. The show utilizes video, projections, strobe lights, and a multi-dimensional set. There was a moment when the video froze during the tornado scene and towards the end of Act 1 the Wizard was addressing the Lion but looking at the opposite side. Besides these minor technical issues there were multiple moments that caused the audience to oooh and ahhhh. The introduction of Glinda played by Rachel Womble was one of those moments. She floated down to reveal a beautiful sparkling dress. You’ll want to keep an eye on her when the munchkins come out to sing and dance to thank Dorothy for “killing” the Wicked Witch of the East. Her dancing and expressions will make you smile but can go unnoticed if you only pay attention to the center stage.
Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (Morgan Reynolds), Tin Man (Jay McGill) and Lion (Aaron Fried) on the way to Oz. Reynolds as the Scarecrow was a favorite measured by audience laughter. The jokes and his comedic physical timing is definitely a highlight of the show. The characters varied slightly from the movie but not by much. However, this should only affect you if you’re hung up on the live performance being exactly like the movie. These are different actors in a different environment and are as enjoyable as long as you can separate the two. Although, Lasko will ignite a bit of nostalgia when she hits all the right notes during, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
The powerhouse of the show was undeniably Loki, the 9-year-old Cairn terrier who plays Toto. Loki was rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri by Broadway’s Tony Award-winning animal trainer, William Berloni. He started out as an understudy to Nigel in 2009 and took over the role a year later. He came out on cue and stole the show whenever he was on stage.
THE WIZARD OF OZ will be playing: Saturday, January 30 at 2 & 8 p.m.; Sunday, January 31 at 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, February 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.ticketmaster.com, in-person at the City National Civic Theatre Box Office (150 West San Carlos Street), or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787). Ticket prices are subject to change without notice.
U.S. tour schedule: http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/ustour/