Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg
With additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
and additional lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Jeremy Sams
Choreographed by Arlene Philips
Produced by Broadway In Chicago
At the Palace Theatre, Chicago
Strong technical elements enhances The Wizard of Oz deftly
The Canadian Equity tour of The Wizard of Oz delivers, despite some needless added music and lyrics by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, a theatrical spectacle of the iconic 1939 classic film. Those who are strict traditionalist will loathe this adaptation due to its campy element and unnecessary singing dialogue at the beginning and the campy villain witch of the West. Why Webber wanted to “modernize” this classic is a mystery yet despite all that, The Wizard of Oz still delivers a fine theatrical treat. The material is stronger than anyone’s attempts to adapt it.
Several things make this stage version work: Danielle Wade, as Dorothy looks the part as she channels Judy Garland and sings a fine “Over the Rainbow” as she has enough sweetness to get us to like and care about her as she wonders through OZ with three likable companions: Scarecrow (Jamie McKnight), Tin Man (Mike Jackson) and the Lion (Lee MacDougall). These four with a well-trained dog, Toto, again despite the contemporary jokes, have enough vulnerability and sweetness for us to care about them.
But what really makes this stage version of the film work are the technical elements: the colorful sets and vivid costumes and the fantastic video special effects that propel Dorothy and us from Kansas to Oz and back were the finest use of video to combine with lighting and sound to enhance a story that I’ve seen on stage! Add the outstanding choreography by Arlene Philips, especially in the creative : ‘Hail, Hail! The Witch Is Dead” show stopper, the ensemble dancers performed their moves divinely. The dancing was the strongest part of the production.
With all the fine technical features together with a excellent orchestra and a game cast doing an iconic well-know piece, there is no need to add bland new music or lyrics – just trust the material and do it with verve and class. This production, when it does the ‘old material,’ mostly does a fine job making the production worth seeing. The youngsters will not know the difference and they’ll not be contaminated by the intrusions. Only us old-timers may be offended with the revisions and needless additions. I tolerated those additions because the whole production was so expertly presented that it still captured the magic of those wonderful Arlen & Harburg tunes. Yes, “there is no place like home.” You only have until May 11,2014 to see this show.
At the Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $18 – $105, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through may 11, 2014