THE WIZARD OF OZBy: L. Frank Baum
Music and Lyrics by: Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg
Background Music by: Herbert Stothart
Granbury Theatre Company
Director –Matt Beutner
Music Director—Ashley Green
Scenic Designer—Kerri Pavelick
Lighting Designer—David Broberg
Sound Designer – Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer—Drenda Lewis
Make-Up Designer—Colton Lively
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Tin Man/Hickory—Bryson Petersen
Glinda/Aunt Em—Michele Mastick
Wicked Witch/Elmira Gulch—Cayley Nicole Davis
The Wizard/Professor Marvel—Miles Emerson
Emerald City Guard/Uncle Henry—Chance Harmon
Dance Corps—Hannah Beth Baker, Heleena Mason, Rachel Mastick, Stephanie Shaw
Ensemble—Madison Acuna-Taylor, Andy Alamo, Michaiah Armstrong, Cameron Bishop, Ginny Knight-Blevins, Gracey Brooks, Grace Burdick, Kadence Dye, Chelsea Harp, Suellyn Hunter, Tyler Krumm, Hayley Vantine, Chase Williams
MUNCHKINLAND CAST (at reviewed performance)
Lollipop Guild—Logan Morrow, Tanner Stanfield, Dylan Wood
Lullaby Guild—Ava Mallory, Kinley Morrow, Blaire Stanfield
City Fathers—Victoria Martos, Baylor Sellers
Munchkins—William Bartula, Austyn Light, Madison Light, Christian Lilley, Elijiah MacWithey, Lauren Murray, Meghan Murray
Reviewed Performance: 7/28/2019
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 incarnations (Wicked and The Wiz) 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 being one of those susceptible individuals that buy into that rock and roll myth too). No matter what the medium, the story of 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 those many years ago.
Making his directorial debut, Matt Beutner brought together an ensemble cast that worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and wove together the elements of scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these iconic film characters. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The actors and the musicians were so fully charged with energy-it really was an exciting experience at the theater. From the moment the show began, members of the audience was pulled in the world of the story, and transported 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 a part of the magical fantasy as it unfolds live on stage. Beutner certainly delivers an imaginative world of fantasy and spectacle, to the backdrop of wonderful vocal performances and some of the most beloved characters of all time. I guarantee you that this production presented by the Granbury Theatre Company is as close to experiencing the cinematic classic live on stage, as audiences will ever be able to see. From the moment the “title card dedication” is heard as an omnipresent voice, you will smile and reminisce as you take a nostalgic journey to simple and heart-warming storytelling.
Scenic Designer Kerri Pavelick successfully transformed the proscenium stage of the Granbury Opera House into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and executed in a quick, yet, detailed manner. I was impressed with Pavelick’s attention to detail in each location and the use of color and sepia tones that paid the appropriate homage to the film. It’s the details like that really pull me into the world of the story. The scenic design created a lot of magic and spectacle for me, and carefully provided varying locations in the story. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail was incorporated from the scenic design.
There were quite a bit of scenic changes to accommodate the multiple locations required 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 in color and was a nice contrast to the sepia colors of the Kansas prairie. 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 scenic designs truly helped to draw me into the world of the Oz, and to be transported to the fantasyland created L. Frank Baum more than one hundred years ago. You will be stunned and “in-awe” of the magical effects that unfold on stage right before your eyes.
Drenda Lewis 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. 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!
Cheyenne Throckmorton was incredibly believable in the role of young Dorothy Gale. Through facial expression, body language, and a lovely singing voice, Throckmorton convincingly portrayed the character that Judy Garland made famous in the film. Throckmorton brought a unique element to her portrayal of Dorothy, as her presence on stage was nearly constant. Ms. Throckmorton’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was a very true depiction of Dorothy, the girl seeking to find happiness beyond the rainbow. She never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Ms. Throckmorton 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. Her best moment was her rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” a song that almost ended up on the film cutting room floor. (Can you even imagine what a mistake that would have been?!)
Another standout was Austin Bender in the dual role of Hunk, the farmhand, and the Scarecrow. Bender 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. Bender 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.
Bryson Petersen was phenomenal in the role of farmhand Hickory, and the Tin Man-another personal favorite of mine. I was impressed with Mr. Petersen’s dance and movement talents-especially in a costume that could prove to be most constricting. There were some very touching and honest moments that Mr. Petersen eloquently portrayed with his fellow on-stage colleagues. There was also wonderful moments of chemistry between the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.
I would also like to make note the performance of Tyler Ivie (in the roles of Zeke and the Cowardly Lion). It is apparent that Mr. Ivie has studied the performances of Bert Lahr. With exaggerated facial expressions and a spot-on vocal delivery, Mr. Ivie completed a phenomenal comedic trio between the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man. The strongest amount of chemistry on stage came from these three men, and was the most enjoyable and pleasant aspect of the production. Bravo, gentlemen on a performance well-done. They paid the appropriate tribute to Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr- some of the greatest comedic performers of the 1930’s.
If I am pressed to find aspects of the production that might need some fine-tuning, my response would be minimal. However, some apparent audio and mic issues plagued the younger members of the cast. However, they were easily adjusted as the production gained momentum. Pacing was also a little slow, but, I would expect transitions to be longer than usual with a musical-especially one with large sets and various locations. I am certain that as the production run continues, these will certainly work themselves out, and be non-existent by the following weekend.
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 and enjoyable experience. From the moment the music begins, and the familiar songs to the soundtrack appear one after another, you will be fascinated and compelled to sing-along. 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, and while I recommend this production for audiences of all ages, be advised the run time of the production is a lengthy three hours.
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 Granbury....
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House
133 E. Pearl Street
Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through August 25.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $25-$35 depending on seating (Prime: Rows A, B, C, D, Standard or Balcony: Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J, Balcony)
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.