THEATER REVIEW: ‘THE WIZARD OF OZ’
Cardinal transforms Buskirk-Chumley into Munchkinland
By Doris Lynch – Special to the H-T
December 26, 2012
On Sunday afternoon two flying witches, two flying monkeys, one dog-munched neighbor, and a dog-lover named Dorothy — all these and more did some flying in Randy White’s awe-generating production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The audience — half children and half adults — almost became airborne too, responding to this high-quality show full of light, music and color.
Eric Anderson (musical director) led a 13-person orchestra that played wonderful music despite flames onstage and confettied snow and greenery falling from the rafters. From the overture to the last number, the orchestra played fine music.
Everyone knows the plot: dog bites nasty neighbor, nasty neighbor gets sheriff’s order to bicycle-ferry small canine away, Dorothy fights back, her family and farm friends advise her to follow the law. A tornado rips through Kansas and Dorothy lands in Munchkinland, her house guilty of a witch homicide.
The play started with the actors speaking at too fast a clip, but as soon as Dorothy (Charnette Batey) started singing “Over the Rainbow,” time slowed and we were all with her in that Kansas farmyard experiencing her loneliness and longing. As the Toto-carrying Kansan, Batey gave an over-the-top performance. Her singing and dancing were excellent and her character showed spunk, loyalty and vulnerability that captured everyone’s heart.
Susan Ellenwood played both the evil witch and the hyena-laughing Almira Gulch with diabolical meanness.
And what a rousing trio of actor/singers played Mr. Heart, Mr. Brain and Mr. Courage. Mike Price’s shivering, quaking lion frightened by his own tail was a joy to watch. And his song, alternately belted out with lion fervor and vibraltoed with scaredy-cat timidity, was one of my favorites.
Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow in the famous film, would have saluted Nat Zegree’s loose-legged, ultra-flexible performance. Scarecrow owned the stage in a series of gymnastic falls and in his singing and dancing.
And talking about greedy corn guzzlers, Ben Abbott, Markus McClain and Matt Weidenbener transformed Scarecrow’s song into a visual smorgasbord of orange-beaked, orange-legged man-sized corvids who danced with humor and athleticism.
Joe Gaines as the Tin Man gave “holding still” a whole new meaning.
Angie Malone’s costumes pushed the wow factor to a new level with each each scene. The Munchkins (talented singers and dancers all) dazzled in glittering wigs, hats and caps, stripes and polka dots in tens of colors and fabrics. And just when you thought Malone couldn’t produce a more dazzling scene, a field of bright red poppies bloomed onstage before transforming into snow-dazed flowers.
The talented munchkins were a joy to watch. They sang and danced with verve. Diane Buzzell’s choreography was captivating and used the entire stage well.
C. David Higgins’ set captured an old-fashioned farm in Kansas and a modernistic wizard’s palace that eerily changed into the Wicked Witch of the West’s evil domicile.
White’s direction involved a plethora of flying, as I mentioned earlier, and other complicated bits of onstage magic (pyromania anyone?), yet the cast managed to pull off these dramatic moments without a hitch.
The children near me all sat enthralled despite the length of the show. Find a young neighbor or a friend and visit this magical place over the rainbow this holiday season. You won’t want to go home, I promise.
THEATER REVIEW: ‘THE WIZARD OF OZ’
The Wizard of Oz Flies at the Buskirk Chumley 2012-2013
By George Walker – WFIU
December 24, 2012
The Cardinal Stage Company’s production of The Wizard of Oz directed by Randy White at the Buskirk Chumley is great fun. It’s a spectacular production with plenty of action, dramatic lighting, lots of flying, fiery explosions and exciting moments. There are forty three singing, dancing actors. Twenty are the double cast children of Munchkin land. Saturday night I saw Team Monkey. They alternate with Team Winkie. Eric Anderson conducts with a twelve piece orchestra.
The Buskirk Chumley stage can barely contain the action of The Wizard of Oz. They’ve built tall stair cases on the left and right sides. The Yellow Brick Road wanders along the apron in front of the orchestra, cast members fly above the stage, and they even use the theatre’s aisles for entrances and exits.
Charnette Batey sang strongly and acted well as the sympathetic Dorothy. It was neat to see her in the flying sequence of the tornado as at first she floundered in terror and then gradually got control and grace. Trixie, a local terrier was her good natured hard working dog, Toto. Maria Izzo Walker glittered as the sympathetic Good Witch of the North. Nat Zagree was a wonderfully athletic and funny Scarecrow. Joe Gaines played the durable Tin Man. Mike Price brought both bravado and sympathy to the Cowardly Lion.
Whether she was bicycling on the ground in Kansas or broom stick riding in Oz, Susan Ellenwood was just terrific as the nasty prune faced Almira Gulch and the nasty green faced Wicked Witch of the West. Ken Ganza was a charmer as Professor Marvel and the Wizard.
Everyone and especially fans of the movie are in for an extra treat at the Buskirk Chumley with the energetic Jitterbug dance scene and a number of other moments that didn’t make it into the movie, the dozens and dozens of costumes were designed by Angie Malone. Varied and dramatic choreography is by Diane Buzzell.
The Wizard of Oz, the Cardinal Stage Company’s holiday gift at the Buskirk Chumley Theatre is ready for unwrapping through January 5th.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker