Follow Yellow Brick Road To Oz As It Takes Best From Film, Adds Webber’s Ingredients

Pay no attetion to the man behind the curtain in the Andrew Lloyd Webber edition of The Wizard of Oz / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain in the Andrew Lloyd Webber edition of The Wizard of Oz / Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

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By Michelle F. Solomon

There’s not much new in Andrew  Lloyd Webber and director Jeremy Sams’ musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz —a couple of new songs by Webber and his constant co-partner Tim Rice are outshined by the old familiars which are absolutely golden by Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg from the original 1939 film classic.

Then there is L. Frank Baum’s treasured 1900 book that works as the foundation just like the musical film that tells the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas who doesn’t appreciate what she has until she gets tossed around in a crazy dream or was it?  (Whoa there, don’t accuse me of a spoiler. If you don’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz, you’ve been under a rock.)

This Wizard of Oz was mounted in 2011 as a London production, but the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ show is the touring version of the Toronto stage musical, with most of that original cast intact. Why that’s pertinent here is because Danielle Wade, who plays Dorothy, originated the role in the Canadian production. Wade is a bit of a Susan Boyle-type hero in Canada after she won the part on a Canadian Broadcasting reality talent competition in 2012, where performers competed for the role of Dorothy. Webber was one of the judges. The 20-year old from Ontario won the competition, performed in the Toronto run and then began the national tour in September 2013 in Las Vegas.

The judges certainly knew their Dorothy should be Wade. At times, she’s part Judy Garland, but also has the moves and fearlessness of Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. It’s probably this mix that won her the coveted role. Although there’s audience expectation for this Dorothy to be like the film persona that Garland presented, Wade doesn’t copy this or oversells it, but adds just enough flavor to make sure there’s appropriate appeasement.

She also brings a signature style to the Oscar-winning song Over the Rainbow, mixing that same familiarity with her own vocal strength. Her approach makes this Rainbow not seem like a retread.

Robin Evan Willis brings a similar freshness to Glinda, not copying Billie Burke’s film portrayal or imbuing the role with Kristen Chenoweth’s giddy Glinda from Wicked. Speaking of Wicked, however, there are more than a few times that some of the production feels eerily close to that hit musical, but doesn’t have the same spunk. Try as they might, this Oz isn’t able to pull off the originality of Wicked: Wicked’s Emerald City welcome is much more splashy than the Wizard’s Merry Old Land of Oz. Perhaps a real tip to Wicked would be if this show actually came out and recognized that it existed.

There are mixed feelings over the way the iconic Wicked Witch of the West is crafted in this stage production. More Witchipoo than wicked, this Wizard turns the former Miss Gulch into an almost cartoon-ish like character, but there are times this works. And Jacquelyn Piro Donovan follows that direction down to the letter, plus she’s got a voice that can raise rafters.

Jamie McKnight is goofy in all the right places as The Scarecrow, Mike Jackson is a sturdy Tin Man, and Lee MacDougall explores the sissy side of The Lion. The script helps in furthering the question of the Lion’s sexuality when he admits as he meets the Great and Powerful Oz that he is, in fact, a “friend of Dorothy” (a phrase in the gay community conjured from the stereotype that all gay men love Judy Garland.) This choice works well as MacDougall really creates a bit of a back story, which Oz has always represented: acceptance, choice and courage.
Toto (Nigel, a rescue dog) steals focus away from any other actors when he’s on stage. He’s doled out so many treats throughout the show, by the end of the tour, he’ll have to be put on a doggie diet.

But even Nigel can’t upstage veteran actor Jay Brazeau who is absolutely spectacular as The Wizard. His is the one song written for the show that actually feels as if it has the same pedigree as the Arlen-Harburg songs, but perhaps it’s the originality he brings to the exciting Wonders of the World as he tells Dorothy about all the places he’d like to see.

The visual effects, using a scrim with 3-D video projections, are a smart solution to how to have houses, cows, and cars fly through the air for the tornado scene and it helps to create the feeling of a multitude of monkeys as the film visuals are added to stage monkeys who take off on the stage on aerial flys.

One can say there may be a lack of originality in this stage musical of The Wizard of Oz, but how can one top perfection? This is more of a wink to the marvelous magic of the original with some of its own ingredients tossed in. All in all, there’s plenty of reason to be off to see the Wizard.

The Wizard of Oz runs through Jan. 19 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Broadway Across America-Fort Lauderdale series, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes vary. Tickets are $34.50 – $89.50 with club level seating $119.50  Show runs 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission. For more information, call 954-462-0222 or visit BrowardCenter.org.

Follow The Yellow Brick Road To Wizard of Oz at Broward Center As It Takes Best From Classic Film, Adds Original Ingredients

By Michelle F. Solomon

There’s not much new in Andrew  Lloyd Webber and director Jeremy Sams’ musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz —a couple of new songs by Webber and his constant co-partner Tim Rice are outshined by the old familiars which are absolutely golden by Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg from the original 1939 film classic.

Then there is L. Frank Baum’s treasured 1900 book that works as the foundation just like the musical film that tells the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas who doesn’t appreciate what she has until she gets tossed around in a crazy dream or was it?  (Whoa there, don’t accuse me of a spoiler. If you don’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz, you’ve been under a rock.)

This Wizard of Oz was mounted in 2011 as a London production, but the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ show is the touring version of the Toronto stage musical, with most of that original cast intact. Why that’s pertinent here is because Danielle Wade, who plays Dorothy, originated the role in the Canadian production. Wade is a bit of a Susan Boyle-type hero in Canada after she won the part on a Canadian Broadcasting reality talent competition in 2012, where performers competed for the role of Dorothy. Webber was one of the judges. The 20-year old from Ontario won the competition, performed in the Toronto run and then began the national tour in September 2013 in Las Vegas.

The judges certainly knew their Dorothy should be Wade. At times, she’s part Judy Garland, but also has the moves and fearlessness of Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. It’s probably this mix that won her the coveted role. Although there’s audience expectation for this Dorothy to be like the film persona that Garland presented, Wade doesn’t copy this or oversells it, but adds just enough flavor to make sure there’s appropriate appeasement.

She also brings a signature style to the Oscar-winning song Over the Rainbow, mixing that same familiarity with her own vocal strength. Her approach makes this Rainbow not seem like a retread.

Robin Evan Willis brings a similar freshness to Glinda, not copying Billie Burke’s film portrayal or imbuing the role with Kristen Chenoweth’s giddy Glinda from Wicked. Speaking of Wicked, however, there are more than a few times that some of the production feels eerily close to that hit musical, but doesn’t have the same spunk. Try as they might, this Oz isn’t able to pull off the originality of Wicked: Wicked’s Emerald City welcome is much more splashy than the Wizard’s Merry Old Land of Oz. Perhaps a real tip to Wicked would be if this show actually came out and recognized that it existed.

There are mixed feelings over the way the iconic Wicked Witch of the West is crafted in this stage production. More Witchipoo than wicked, this Wizard turns the former Miss Gulch into an almost cartoon-ish like character, but there are times this works. And Jacquelyn Piro Donovan follows that direction down to the letter, plus she’s got a voice that can raise rafters.

Jamie McKnight is goofy in all the right places as The Scarecrow, Mike Jackson is a sturdy Tin Man, and Lee MacDougall explores the sissy side of The Lion. The script helps in furthering the question of the Lion’s sexuality when he admits as he meets the Great and Powerful Oz that he is, in fact, a “friend of Dorothy” (a phrase in the gay community conjured from the stereotype that all gay men love Judy Garland.) This choice works well as MacDougall really creates a bit of a back story, which Oz has always represented: acceptance, choice and courage.
Toto (Nigel, a rescue dog) steals focus away from any other actors when he’s on stage. He’s doled out so many treats throughout the show, by the end of the tour, he’ll have to be put on a doggie diet.

But even Nigel can’t upstage veteran actor Jay Brazeau who is absolutely spectacular as The Wizard. His is the one song written for the show that actually feels as if it has the same pedigree as the Arlen-Harburg songs, but perhaps it’s the originality he brings to the exciting Wonders of the World as he tells Dorothy about all the places he’d like to see.

The visual effects, using a scrim with 3-D video projections, are a smart solution to how to have houses, cows, and cars fly through the air for the tornado scene and it helps to create the feeling of a multitude of monkeys as the film visuals are added to stage monkeys who take off on the stage on aerial flys.

One can say there may be a lack of originality in this stage musical of The Wizard of Oz, but how can one top perfection? This is more of a wink to the marvelous magic of the original with some of its own ingredients tossed in. All in all, there’s plenty of reason to be off to see the Wizard.

The Wizard of Oz runs through Jan. 19 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Broadway Across America-Fort Lauderdale series, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes vary. Tickets are $34.50 – $89.50 with club level seating $119.50  Show runs 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission. For more information, call 954-462-0222 or visit BrowardCenter.org.

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