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THE WIZARD OF OZ
Book by L. Frank Baum
Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg

Casa Manana

Director?Joe Sturgeon
Stage Manager?Hans Meyer/Jordan Andrews
Scenic Designer?Mark Halpin
Lighting Designer?Sam Rushen
Costume Designer?Tammy Spencer
Background Music?Herbert Stothart
Dance and Vocal Arrangements?Peter Howard
Orchestration?Larry Wilcox
Choreographer?Nik?l Wolf


CAST

Dorothy?Mary McElree
Scarecrow?Christopher J. Deaton
Tin Man?Daniel Rowan Johnson
Cowardly Lion?Greg Dulcie
The Wizard?Doug Lopachin
Wicked Witch of the West?Aubrey Adams
Glinda?Morgan Richards/Sara Youngblood

Children's Chorus:
Bre Andrews, Morgan Maxey, Kaylee King, Anna Pe?a, Erin Patterson, Lauren E. McGee, Ellie Hertel, Tristin Thomas, Morgan Brignac, Addie Morales, Hayden Hart, Kendall Procaccino, Tiffany Stringer, Avery Presson, Addie Presson, Marisa Hampton, Hayley Lenamon, Whitney Pavell, Ashton Miramontes, Brooke Verbois, Riley Leanne Seymour, Lauren Weik






Reviewed Performance 4/29/2011

Reviewed by Kristopher A. Harrison, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The Wizard of Oz is a classic story, beloved by generations.

Certainly many of the folks in Casa Ma?ana's opening night audience were anticipating the story, as they showed up with their children dressed as Dorothy, Glinda, and even the Wicked Witch. And in case you didn't have your own Oz accessories, you could buy them in the lobby before the show. But the reality is that when you see "The Wizard of Oz" advertised at a children's theatre, you never really know what version you might be subjected to. For fans of the film, however, Casa Ma?ana's version did not disappoint.

The performance began with film credits projected on a screen at the back of the set. The all too familiar overture from the film played, and the actors were introduced in a credit roll that looked just like the beginning of the movie. This proved to be a telling feature, as designer Mark Halpin used the screen to project images throughout the performance?often images pulled straight from the film. The reality was that this performance was designed to make you think of the film often, and to think fondly of it.

There was no attempt made to break from the familiar and re-imagine the story or the characters. Even the actors adopted the vocal patterns and line delivery of their counterparts in the film. That can be a dangerous game for a theatre company; pitting their own performers against a legendary production. But for this show it worked, and it worked very well. The talent was strong enough that you were reminded of all the happy feelings you've ever had watching the classic film, but you never thought to yourself, "Gee, I wish I had stayed home and watched the movie."

The leading characters all did excellent work. Mary McElree, as Dorothy, impressed with a strong voice, although her opening number of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was just OK. I was really pleased by how well the voices blended between McElree and Christopher J. Deaton, Daniel Rowan Johnson, and Greg Dulcie (The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, respectively). That made the mic problems all the more disappointing, for example when Dorothy's mic all but dropped out (ah, the joys of opening night). Clearly all four were talented singers, actors, and dancers. They were at their best in the musical numbers, though at times they seemed disengaged from the dialogue in-between those numbers, as if they were still trying to figure out what to do next. As a result, some of the jokes fell flat, and much of the energy died in-between the numbers.

One surprising highlight of the show was the chorus of younger performers. They filled in as the munchkins, soldiers, Emerald City townspeople, and even the infamous flying monkeys. In each case, they worked well, with tight choreography and surprisingly strong voices, given their ages. By far the most impressive young surprise was Morgan Richards as Glinda. She looked to be in the 9-11 year old range, but she performed with all the confidence?and ability?of a seasoned performer. Her voice, her poise, even her comedic ability impressed consistently.

Some of the shows other stronger points were the choreography by Nik?l Wolf. It was lively and, like the rest of the production, paid faithful homage to the film. The set was serviceable, and the costumes and the special effects were well executed, and kept the audience engaged.

All in all, this was a perfectly enjoyable performance of a classic film. They didn't take any risks, which means they didn't risk disappointing anyone, young or old. The kids will love it, and you'll leave singing along with them.




THE WIZARD OF OZ
Children's Theatre at Casa Ma?ana
3101 West Lancaster Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76107-3092
Through May 22, 2011

Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 1pm and 5pm, Sundays at 2pm
Tickets $16-$18. For tickets & info to www.casamanana.org or
call (817) 332-2272.

Run time around 1 hour, 30 minutes, with one intermission.