MAGICAL CITY OF OZBook and Lyrics by Steven D. Morris
Music by Don Powers
Director –Steven D. Morris
Music Director—Don Powers
Scenic Designer—Bryan Stevenson
Lighting Designer—Bryan Stevenson
Costume Designer—Janice Pennington
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Dorothy—Donovan Marie Lawson
Aunt Em—Christine Chambers
Wicked Witch—Kristal Seid
Scarecrow—Austin Ray Beck
Tin Man—Tevin Cates
Cowardly Lion—Daniel Hernandez
Winged Monkey/Tornado—Ujjaval Sandana
Winged Monkey/Tornado—Larry Macklin
Winged Monkey/Tornado—Callie Cunningham
Winged Monkey/Tornado—Jillian Bradford
Reviewed Performance: 11/11/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Magical City of Oz is no exception. Taken from the original L. Frank Baum novel, the Magical City of Oz tells the story of young Dorothy, growing up in the midst of the great Kansas prairie, longing to see what is beyond the border of her small homestead with Aunt Em. Along comes a cyclone, and she is magically transported to Oz, where she meets an eclectic group of friends all searching for something. Dorothy decides she is searching for a way back to Kansas, and leads the group (from the suggestion of Glinda-the Good Witch of the North) to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to grant their wishes. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The Wicked Witch of the West is on the hunt to stop Dorothy, the one responsible for killing her sister- the Wicked Witch of the East (when her house was dropped on her) killing her in the cyclone. The Wicked Witch of the West is also on the hunt for the magical ruby slippers-a gift from Glinda to Dorothy, that guide her on the way through Oz.
Director Steven D. Morris brought together a small ensemble cast of actors who worked well together, and was able to bring the famous story back to the stage. It is difficult to adapt such a beloved and famous work. Mr. Morris not only served as the Director, but, he also composed the book and the lyrics to the production. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to take on such a large task.
Overall, the staging was done very well. Mr. Morris used simplicity, creative staging techniques, and very vivid movements. I especially enjoyed seeing the tornado come to life on stage. Mr. Morris used large movements (similar to interpretive dance) to tell the story of the tornado, and to provide a nice transition between Kansas and the land of Oz. I enjoyed seeing the use of levels, and effective use of the entire stage, and the theater. There was quite a bit of audience participation, and Mr. Morris did a fantastic job of transforming the entire space into the land of Oz.
Scene Designer Bryan Stevenson successfully transformed the intimate proscenium stage of Theatre Arlington into the necessary multiple locations in the story. It is always an enjoyable experience for me to see scenic designs created and executed for the stage with simplicity. Many times, our theatrical society buys into seeing things that are very detailed, and intricate in design. While I do appreciate this, sometimes it is nice to return to the “less is more” mentality. Mr. Stevenson designed simple backgrounds that served as more than one location, and transitioned nicely and seamlessly from one scene to the next. From Aunt Em’s house (presented in a very monochromatic way) to the bright colors of Emerald City and Oz, Mr. Stevenson followed the creed of “less is more,” and brought simplicity and beauty to the stage.
Costumes were designed by Janice Pennington. In the same style as the scenic designs, Ms. Pennington brought color, texture, and detail to the production with her wardrobe choices. The costumes matched the entire concept of the production. From Dorothy’s blue gingham dress to the fantasy-like costumes of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. It was exactly what I was expecting. It paid the appropriate homage to the film costumes, with its own uniqueness.
Donovan Marie Lawson was marvelous in the role of Dorothy. Ms. Lawson delivered a spot on, and enthusiastic performance full of energy and charisma. Not only did Ms. Lawson deliver with a beautiful and natural vocal performance, but, she also delivered with chemistry and the appropriate dose of humor with her fellow cast members. It is difficult to achieve success with a role as memorable-especially when portrayed by the phenomenal Judy Garland, but Ms. Lawson brought her optimism, happiness, and zeal to the role.
Perhaps one of my favorite characters in the L. Frank Baum original novel (and 1939 film adaptation) is the Scarecrow. Austin Ray Beck did great justice to the role originated by Ray Bolger in the film. Mr. Beck had fantastically animated facial expressions, and wonderful exaggerated movements that helped to define his character. There were humorous reactions with the audience, and the “munchkins” (young members selected at random) to assist on stage. Mr. Beck was enthusiastic and exuberant on stage. He was truly enjoyable to watch.
Rounding out the group of Dorothy’s Oz friends were Tevin Cates in the role of the Tin Man, and Daniel Hernandez in the role of the Cowardly Lion. Mr. Cates brought the Tin Man to life with intensity, spirit and a sensitive side, while Mr. Hernandez provided a large dose of comedy as the Cowardly Lion. Both were enjoyable and very pleasant to watch on stage.
Kristal Seid was incredible in the role of the evil Wicked Witch of the West. Ms. Seid paid the appropriate homage to the role Margaret Hamilton played in the film. I thought that her performance was a nice foil to the innocent young Dorothy, and to the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, played wonderfully Emily-Kate Ivey. Both of these character were similar to what I would expect to see in an old-fashioned children’s book-very over-exaggerated, and dynamic. They both seem like very fun roles to play. The children of the audience were very entertained throughout.
Overall, the production was enjoyable. If you are expecting the classic stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, you might be disappointed. The Magical City of Oz is certainly geared more to more of a children’s audience. There are excellent opportunities to be a part of the show, and to learn about the timeless story-but do not go expecting the traditional telling.
If you have read my reviews before, you might know two things about me. First, as often as I can bring my 8 year-old son Paul with me. Second, I have made my career as a Theatre Educator, and have passionately done so for the last eleven years. This production made my heart well with joy for two reasons. My son enjoyed the performance (I am trying my best to raise a “Theatre Kid” who will appreciate performing arts), and it brings me pleasure to see other children exposed to theatre, and having a good time while doing so. It gives me hope that the theatre and the performing arts has a bright future with our youngsters. This production does exactly what the theatre is intended to do-it takes audiences on a journey, creates magic, fantasy and spectacle.
This production is appropriate for ages 3 and up. The approximate performance time is around 1 hour and 10 minutes.
305 W. Main
Arlington, Texas 76010
Plays through Nov. 18.
Thursday, 11/15 at 7:30 pm
Friday, 11/16 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, 11/17 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sunday, 11/18 at 2:00 pm
General Adult Tickets are $15.00
General Youth Tickets (ages 3-17) are $10.00
For information and to purchase tickets, call: 817-275-7661 or visit www.theatrearlington.org