It’s been more than 20 years since I played the wicked witch in an East Knox High School production of the “Wizard of Oz,” but taking in Bruce Jacklin & Company’s production of Dorothy Gale’s journey opened the flood gates for my own memories on stage, not to mention the play’s lines and those fabulous song lyrics.
The “Wizard of Oz” is a timeless and classic story which can never be fully appreciated until experienced live in the theater. It is this intimate setting that allows audience members to feel an even stronger connection with the characters and all of their individual “flaws.”
With child-like animation and innocence, Danville’s Shelby Gonzalez plays the part of Dorothy as if the role was created just for her. Her wide-eyed enthusiasm and curiosity throughout her every step along the yellow brick road continually draws your attention to her facial expressions as she pulls you onto the roller coaster of emotion within the story line.
Mike Andrews is a sensational Tin Man whose stiff character softens throughout the production as he learns the power true friendship can have on one’s heart.
A cast staple to many of Jacklin’s productions, Matt Starr serves up a lively performance as the Cowardly Lion with his cantankerous portrayal of the “king” of the jungle.
However, it is Aaron Moreland as the Scarecrow that truly is a scene stealer. From his flawless rolls and tumbles throughout the evening and his continuous knee-knocking, he could tell the tale of the Scarecrow, and his search for a brain, with simply his body movements and facial expressions.
“The Wizard of Oz” is more than a musical with valuable life lessons. It is a comedy filled with leading actors who know just how to hit comic timing that brings you from feelings of sadness and fear to rolling-in-the-aisles laughter. This is just one more reason why the storyline continues to be popular among audiences of all ages and why this production will be the talk of the town.
One of the great things about seeing the Wizard of Oz on stage is that it is so familiar and yet so exciting and new all at once. The lines are the same. The songs are the same. The story is still the same, but the energy is right there in your face the entire show, and leaves you on the edge of your seat even though you know exactly what is going to happen next.
If you think for a second that you know the story, let me tell you, “not no body, not no how,” knows the Wizard of Oz until you’ve experienced it through the eyes of director Bruce Jacklin. Taking the audience on a journey they are familiar with is never easy for a director, but Jacklin uses that energy and electricity, along with incredible sets and lighting, to keep the story fresh and entertaining. He also throws in an added feature by using a scene with the jitterbugs — including more singing and dancing — that was cut from the original movie.
The cast list for this production seems nearly endless, from tiny dancers to a few “old” crows and everyone in between. The talent in this production is tremendous and certainly worthy of individual mention for all those involved. From one wicked witch to another — boy am I jealous of the way Marty Bell flies across the stage on her broomstick.
The Wizard of Oz puts another feather in the cap of Bruce Jackin & Company, and MTV Arts, and completes a trifecta of magnificent productions at the Knox County Memorial Theater, which also includes Beauty and the Beast as well as Peter Pan.
“The Wizard of Oz” opens tonight.