Courtesy of Croswell Opera House/Lad Strayer photography
The colorful characters that you know and love are embracing The Croswell stage once again in “The Wizard of Oz.” With a cast and crew of thousands, director Julianne Dolan has embraced the trip down the yellow brick road, introducing the next generation of young tykes to the gleeful enchantment that is the Emerald City.
From the terrific ensemble, comprised of children, high-schoolers, and one dog, to the whole crew's impressive commitment to create one magical sequence after another (the creative solution to the twister is indeed a highlight), all the way down to Pam Krage’s delightful combination of old and new costuming, Steve Sauers tip-top scenic design, Wynn Marsh’s polished music direction and a plethora of slick projections make “The Wizard of Oz” a must see this holiday season.
For those who grew up sitting in front of their television sets waiting to see Dorothy and her friends travel to the merry old land of Oz, a rush of nostalgia is certainly in store. Dolan and crew have recreated those feelings here, and she’s got a winning cast. Olivia Goosman puts together an energetic performance playing Dorothy, who, as you may remember, gets whisked away via twister from her home in Kansas and ends up in Munchkinland.
With her ruby slippers on both feet, and her pup Toto (Ginger Hodgemen who scores big laughs) she sets off on an iconic journey to find her way back home. The routine is fairly intact (no surprises here) with Dorothy coming into contact with the brainless Scarecrow (Joe Dennehy), the heartless, and a bit rusty, Tinman (Tommy Hodgemen), and the Cowardly Lion (Christopher Stack). Each character has their own motives for tracking down the Wizard and decide to join Dorothy on the long haul to the big city.
Of course, the cackling, nightmare inducing, Wicked Witch of The West is hot on their trails and Mary Rumman gives an earned and menacing performance - easily the scariest thing about this production - but the adorable ensemble of kiddos will make you smile at every inch of the stage (Anthony Isom, while not a kiddo, steals key scenes as Uncle Henry and the Guard of Oz respectively). And lest not forget the indispensable Kyrie Bristle playing Glinda (“Are you a good witch? Or a bad witch?”) who continues to charm and allure her way into all of our hearts.
Equally important is the dynamic which exists between Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion, and Tinman, because this show couldn’t exist if we didn’t believe their friendships. This punctuated by each actor bringing a sense of legitimacy to each role. Stack is one of the best onstage Lions I’ve seen, and lands perfectly next to Hodgemen’s engaging portrayal of the clanky Tinman. Add in Goosman’s vulnerable, but strong Dorothy tied with Dennehy’s genuine portrayal of the Scarecrow and a charming quartet awaits you for your trip to Oz. Also fun to watch is Pete Stewart’s Professor Marvel who commands the stage with his usual strong vocal performance.
To be sure, “The Wizard of Oz” is not artistic gold nor the high standard for musical theatre - but it’s a show the spans generations and is crucial for young ones to see at an influential time in their lives. I was sitting next to a little girl around the age of eight who couldn’t keep her eyes off the stage, glued by the wonderment of live theatre - and several times let out an audible “Wow!” as the show progressed- proving that The Croswell has done an exceptional job at teaching audiences new and old alike there’s truly no place like home.
IF YOU GO:
The Wizard of Oz continues through December 9th! To purchase tickets or find out showtimes please visit croswell.org or call 517-264-SHOW