Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Director – Jeremy Sams
Music Supervision, Vocal/Dance Arrangements—Graham Hurman
Choreography – Arlene Phillips
Scenic Designer—Robert Jones
Lighting Designer—Hugh Vanstone
Sound Designer – Mick Potter
Costume Designer – Robert Jones
Video/Projection Design—Jon Driscoll
Video/Projection Recreated by—Daniel Brodie
Dorothy– Sarah Lasko
Professor Marvel/The Wizard—Mark A.Harmon
Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West—Shani Hadjian
Hickory/Tin Man—Jay McGill
Uncle Henry—Randy Charlevile
Auntie Em—Emmanuelle Zeesman
Ensemble: Danielle Behrens, Amy Button, Randy Charleville, Diego Diaz, Will Geoghegan, Lindsey Hailes, Beau Hutchings, Nick Morgan, Justin G. Nelson, Nick Picknally, Dominick Sannelli, Jenna Brooke
PHOTOGRAPHY: © DANIEL A. SWALEC
Reviewed Performance 6/7/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Wizard of Oz is a story that has touched the young and the young-at-heart for over 100 years. Most audiences are probably familiar with the 1939 MGM film classic starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr- shown on television year after year. However, The Wizard of Oz has a long and fascinating history. Originally starting out as an idea that storyteller L. Frank Baum would tell his children and their friends, The Wizard of Oz has entertained audiences since its inception. It has been presented in many different versions (are you familiar with a little Broadway musical called Wicked?), and continues to captivate audiences of all ages. The Wizard of Oz continues to appear in all facets of popular culture (including being parodied in the irreverent animated television comedy Family Guy), and also capturing the interest of Pink Floyd fans who sync the popular 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon to the 1939 film to see the “coincidences” and similarities that the album and the film have in common-better known as “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” (yes- I am indeed guilty of buying into that rock and roll myth and lore too). No matter what the medium, The Wizard of Oz is guaranteed to entertain audiences for many years to come. I doubt L. Frank Baum would have ever guessed the magnitude and importance of a little story he told to neighborhood children all those years ago.
Director Jeremy Sams brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these iconic film characters. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The production was presented in such a professional manner-it really had that “Broadway” feel. The actors and the musicians were so fully charged with energy-it really was an electrifying experience at the theater. From the moment the show began, members of the audience were drawn in the story, and taken on a fantastic journey- which is exactly what the theatre is intended to do. If The Wizard of Oz was one of your favorite films growing up, or if this is your first Oz experience, you are guaranteed to be invited to be a part of the magical fantasy as it unfolds live on stage. Sams certainly delivers a stunning, and dazzling spectacle, to the backdrop of beautiful, tight harmonies and impressive choreography.
Scenic Designer Robert Jones successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage of the Bass Performance Hall into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed executed in a quick, yet, detailed manner. I was impressed with Jones’ attention to detail in each location and especially the usage of single set pieces to create the full location where the action was happening. Not only did these single set pieces serve purpose for one scene, but, it would be rotated to create something totally new in the next location and scene of the production. It’s the little details like that really pull me into the world of the story. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail were incorporated from both, the scenic and lighting designers.
There were quite a bit of scenic changes to accommodate the multiple locations required within the story. I thought that these transitions were executed quite marvelously. The transitions were seamless. As one scene was ending, the next one was beginning-with no pause or break in the story. This really kept the momentum of the story moving. Seeing large scene transitions glide on and off stage with ease was almost as intense as the dramatic events within the story. One “gem” that I especially enjoyed was seeing the complete transformation on stage from the drab Kansas prairie to the very colorful and vibrant world of Oz, as Dorothy drops in for the first time. The bright floral landscape of Munchkin Land truly popped out (as it was painted and illuminated with glowing black-light style paint) under a larger than life rainbow that stretched from one side of the stage to the other. It was a nice juxtaposition between the plainness of the dusty Kansas plains, and the vibrant, unique world of the “other side of the rainbow” in the Land of Oz. This was also a foreshadowing of some of the other amazing locations that the audience would be introduced to as the story progressed. Each stop on the yellow brick road from Munchkin Land to the Poppy fields, to the Emerald City were larger than life, and full or color and texture.
The video and projections (originally designed by Jon Driscoll and recreated by Daniel Brodie) that were integrated as the backdrop of the story were excellently designed and executed. Not only did it allow for some very important elements to the story to happen, but it was the first time that I had actually seen something so third dimensional right before my eyes. It gave shape to the story, and allowed the audience to actually be a part of the tornado (being up inside the twister), and to see Dorothy lifted and captured by the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys right out of the Haunted Forest. I was curious to see how the video and projections designer would take on the task of bringing the anticipated image of the Wizard’s floating head (before he was revealed to be just a “bad wizard” by Toto in one of the most recognizable scenes in the story). This was executed with great detail, and allowed the Wizard to be slightly scary, and very powerful. The image was green, and almost holographic. One could certainly tell that this was one of those lovely modern elements that really gave a new twist on an old story. Each time the Wizard appeared, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. It was truly awe-inspiring. This attention to detail was one of those things that would not have been missed had it not been there but added an element of legitimacy to the set.
Another thrilling moment in this production was seeing Shani Hadjian (as the Wicked Witch of the West) appear in the audience (breaking the fourth wall), and directing some of her evil to Dorothy and her friends on stage. Usually, I can be rather turned off by actors who break the fourth wall and the illusion of the production by stepping out into the audience, but, not this time. Seeing Ms. Hadjian up close and personal with her fantastic facial expressions, and her incredible costume and make-up drew me into the story even more. Even though I have seen this story time and time again, seeing the Witch presented right there allowed even more of the departure from reality that I so desperately need when I attend the theatre.
Lighting was designed by Hugh Vanstone. Vanstone did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. The lighting really complimented the extraordinary use of projections and video that were presented in the performance, and also worked in a very collaborative way. It was a treat to see how (like the video and projections) can allow the audience to become a part of the story. It was a surprise to have a flash of LED light flood the audience whenever lightening would occur, or when Dorothy’s house crashed in Oz. It certainly told the audience that something dramatic and major had occurred in the story, while also being a visual cue to demonstrate a change on stage. I felt that it was a very powerful use of visual imagery. Through the performance, Vanstone’s cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the impression of the many different locations-such as the Wicked Witch’s castle (with a backsplash of the evil red), and of course, seeing the Emerald City bathed in glorious green light. Vanstone worked in cooperation with scenic designer, and was able to create a very unique and dynamic view of the multiple locations. From the gray and desolate look of Dorothy’s Kansas farm, to the vibrant and prismatic Land of Oz - Vanstone really devoted a lot of time, effort and talent in the lighting of this production.
Robert Jones also designed costumes that were not only very magical, but they also enhanced each character and their purpose in the story. It was a nice touch to see some sparkle and dazzle to some of the costumes (I want to know where I can get Glinda’s bling dress!). There was a huge cast of characters, played by a small ensemble of actors. For each character, everyone in the ensemble had extremely different costumes, and there was never a point in this production when I felt that costumes were similar to one another. Costume design was surely a huge undertaking in this production, with the massive number of characters in the story. Each ensemble player wore a unique costume (for each role) adding to their importance to the story. All this added authenticity to their roles. Costumes were visually appealing and of course would not be complete without those amazing ruby slippers!
Sarah Lasko was incredibly believable in the role of young Dorothy Gale. Through facial expression, body language, and an incredible singing voice, Lasko convincingly portrayed the character that Judy Garland made famous in the film. Lasko brought a unique element to her portrayal of Dorothy, as her presence on stage was nearly constant. Ms. Lasko’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was a very true depiction of Dorothy, the girl seeking to find happiness beyond the rainbow. Lasko never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Ms. Lasko was wonderful in the role of Dorothy, and I believe, could certainly be held in the same category as Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy. Lasko really brought down the house with her rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” a song that almost ended up on the cutting room floor. (Can you even imagine what a mistake that would have been?!)
Another standout was Morgan Reynolds in the dual role of Hunk, the farmhand, and the Scarecrow. Reynolds was very accomplished in portraying the naïve, yet good-hearted Scarecrow, searching for a brain. His physical delivery was almost Vaudevillian-he brought great physicality to the persona of the Scarecrow, and it was evident that Mr. Reynolds incorporated a lot of facial expression to get the audience to know exactly what he was “thinking.” His voice was very tender and most impressive. His presence on stage was always strong, and he never faltered in his comedic delivery. His character is one of my favorites in the story.
This production of The Wizard of Oz is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the overture begins, and the familiar songs to the soundtrack appear one after another, you will be fascinated and compelled to sing-along. There are even a few new songs written by musical theatre impresarios Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice-which, of course, add to the spectacle and magic of the production. Whether you are a fan of the L. Frank Baum novel, or love watching the 1939 MGM classic, The Wizard of Oz will leave you with a spectacular theatrical experience. I do caution you, however, The Wizard of Oz may have some scary moments for younger audience members. Time is limited to see The Wizard of Oz as Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the rainbow to see such an amazing production-just click your heels together three times, and say there’s no place like Bass Hall.
The Wizard of Oz
Broadway at the Bass
Bass Performance Hall
4th and Calhoun Streets
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
Plays through June 12.
Wednesday, June 8 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, June 9 at 7:30 pm
Friday, June 10 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 11 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 12 at 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $44.00-$115.50, based on day and seating.
For more information, or to purchase tickets visit http://www.basshall.com, or call the box office at 817-212-4280, or toll free at 1-877-212-4280.