REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz

Hollywood magic feels right at home on the Children’s Theatre stage

The magic begins as soon as the lights dim and the orchestra strikes up the overture. Scrawled across the invisible screen separating audience from stage floats the same text—in the same font—as the 1939 MGM blockbuster: For nearly forty years this story has given faithful service to the Young in Heart; and Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion. To those of you who have been faithful to it in return…and to the Young in Heart—we dedicate this picture.

And that’s just the start of the Hollywood pizzazz included in the Children’s Theatre Company’s The Wizard of Oz, a show in which limitations do not exist and boundaries are limitless.

Director Peter Rothstein carefully adheres to cues from the Technicolor movie masterpiece when piecing together this production. Instead of feeling like an imitation trying to live up to the original, however, Rothstein manages to find that coveted sweet-spot only live theater can offer: an invitation to the audience to have a genuine connection with the story on stage.

But this intimate experience can only happen when all the elements are in place and working in perfect accord—a rare feat even for the best of theater companies. And yet that is precisely what this show achieves. From the breathtaking, brightly colored scene design by Scott Bradley to the choreography by Michael Matthew Ferrell, the spot-on costumes by Helen Huang to the wonderful orchestra conducted by Victor Zupanc, everything sparkles in this performance—especially the acting.

Leading the cast with her energy and pure talent is Maeve Moynihan as Dorothy. Since wowing the theater world with the Guthrie Theater’s Little House on the Prairie in 2008, Moynihan has only gotten better. Her singing soars, her expressions convince, and her dancing excites—she is as much Dorothy as was Judy Garland. Joining her are veteran actors Reed Sigmund and Dean Holt, reprising their roles as the Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow (respectively). The Tin Man’s boots are filled by a very able, highly enjoyable Max Wojtanowicz, also a CTC veteran. Together, the three men make for a circus troupe of sorts, using their impressively flexible bodies and elastic facial expressions to not only embody their roles, but make them their own.

And then, of course, there’s Loki, a.k.a. Toto. Not once did Loki miss a cue or prove a distraction. Instead, he played his part as well as his fellow actors—even when he was stuffed (twice) into a picnic basket.

The other “small” roles were only short in stature, not talent. The children playing munchkins (and then Oz residents) are without a doubt the future of theater. These kids went beyond executing tricky dance moves and vocal harmonization—they owned their colorful characters with vivid expressions, both facial and physical.

To anyone who thinks magic can only happen in the movies, can only be accomplished through special effects and green screens, challenge that thought by attending The Wizard of Oz. People fly, monkeys have wings, fire leaps from broomsticks, poppies sing…if that’s not magic, what is?

The Wizard of Oz
Through January 8
Children’s Theatre, 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-874-0400