By: Sharon Sultan Cutler
We assume most everyone over four years old has seen the 1939 MGM movie classic, “The Wizard of Oz” at least once, or many times. So, I was curious as to how the play plays out on the stage of the Chicago Theatre. Would I compare and prefer the movie-turned-into-a-play concept, leaving the show enchanted with the production? Thumbs up on this show!
Both the original and iconic movie and this limited engagement run (through Sunday, May 20) play do well in the enjoyment factor. Yes, there were more songs than I remember, but seeing a live performance brings back memories galore. And seeing the show live certainly adds realism and energy to the show’s plot.
Judy Garland, the original Dorothy, is difficult to duplicate, but Kalie Kaimann, as Dorothy, earnestly acts and sings the role of that Kansas farm girl who ends up in the land of Oz after one of those terrible Midwest tornados. The tornado scenery was most interesting, with an IMAX screen in black and white showing the landscape mayhem of trees and buildings and people being swept away.
Judy is the show’s heroine. She lands in the gorgeous green land of Oz, only to meet the Munchkins (the supporting players who are not short in stature for this show) and her three new friends – the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. All four of them want their wishes met (including a brain, a heart, and courage) so they travel the Yellow Brick Road to get solutions from the Wizard, himself.
I was amazed with the gentleness and fortitude of Toto, Dorothy’s dog, who is seen in many scenes comfortably and quietly wrapped in many of the actors’ arms. I learned he was played by the dog actor, Murphy, a white Brussels Griffon/Cairn Terrier who actually was a rescue dog from the ASPCA in Chandler, Arizona. This is his second time playing Toto…and he even has his own hashtag, #montanamurphy.
The cast was well represented by Chris Duir (the Scarecrow with moveable parts), Christopher Russell (the sleek Tinman who rattled his tin everywhere he danced and sang), and Victor Legarreta (the Lion who learns to roar and be brave). It was obvious they were comfortable in their roles.
The classic songs we remember with love include ‘Over the Rainbow, Munchkinland, We’re Off the See the Wizard, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead, ’ and more are delightfully engaging sing-along musical numbers. Harold Arlen wrote the original songs, with lyrics by E.Y.Harburg.
This brand new national tour is directed by Dean Sobon, who is the experienced director of several national tours of other musicals. Amy McCleary, added enjoyable energy with her magical choreography.
I have taken a back stage tour of the magnificent Chicago Theatre, and was mesmerized by the architectural brilliance of the auditorium’s interior. The compact stage easily manages to feature many characters as well as solo performances.
The Limited Run includes this weekend, May 12 at 3 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 pm and 6:30 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday (through May 18) at 7 pm; Saturday May 20 at 11 am and 3 pm and 8 pm; and closing day, Sunday, May 20 at 2 pm and 9 pm.
Tickets are on sale ranging from $39 to 129. They are available online at comchicagotheatre website; at the box office at 175 North State Street; all Ticketmaster outlets and the Ticketmaster phone charge.
Photos: Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations