LIONS, TIGERS AND BARRELS OF FUN!
The colorful, compact and highly entertaining revival of “The Wizard of Oz” landed like a cyclone at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, enchanting young and old at the Friday afternoon press performance. The big stage treatment, with ingenious twists on the familiar story by director Brian Hill and superbly inventive choreography by Kenny Ingram, brings the iconic L. Frank Baum characters to life in layers of creative interpretations to highlight a top-flight company bursting with heart and brimming with talent.
Leryn Turlington makes a moving and memorable Chicago Shakespeare debut as Dorothy, fitting right in with a Chicago-stamped cast of characters she meets with her little dog Toto (Derby) on the way to see the Wizard. Topping the list is the scintillating performance of Hollis Resnik, a bedazzling Wicked Witch decked out in one of the many stunning Theresa Ham costume designs. The delightful casting of the charming Marya Grandy as the befuddled Scarecrow is inspired, as is Joseph Anthony Byrd’s well-oiled Tin Man and Jose Antonio Garcia’s affable Cowardly Lion. Emily Rohm puts a cozy spin on the ever-optimistic Glinda and William Dick is perfect as the great and powerful one himself.
What really makes the Land of Oz shake, rattle and roll is the terrific ensemble. Small in number, these dynamos—Kayla Boye, Timothy P. Foszcz, Jared D.M. Grant, Haley Gustafson, Aalon Smith, Lauren Smith, Anthony Sullivan Jr. and Kaleb Van Rijswijck—are constantly in motion, elevating the memorable story with whiz-bang dance numbers, lightning-fast costume changes and scenic transitions that occur in the blink of an eye. There is a robust, rhythmic swing to Kory Danielson’s musical direction of new orchestrations by Neil Bartram that captivated kids of all ages who marveled at the fan-dancing crabby apple trees—who double as back-up singers—the corn-crunching crows and a fanciful poppy field that unfolds out of nowhere.
There is an exciting and extremely efficient use of a broad pallet of projection (Mike Tutaj), lighting (Lee Fiskness), and sound effects (Christopher M. LaPorte) on the crisp scenic design of Scott Davis that together bring to life the mystical nature of the story. Combining live action and models to create the Kansas twister, an ingenious Yellow Brick Road, and the magical Emerald City, Hill’s “The Wizard of Oz” is barrels of fun.
Conductor Kevin Reeks amps up the dance numbers, particularly “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead,” and Ingram’s phenomenal staging of “Jitterbug,” which had the whole house spinning, including two little girls in the second row who were jockeying back and forth in their seats for the best view of Dorothy and her friends every step on the way to Oz.
They were the first ones standing at curtain call to give the superb cast of Chicago Shakespeare’s “The Wizard of Oz” their rousing approval.
CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER
THE WIZARD OF OZ
through August 25th
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