Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Review - The Wizard of Oz - Rodger's Memorial Theatre

We're off to see the wizardBeware, this is a long and rambling review more about my kids first time at a "live" play and less about the play itself since the show is well known and the venue is always great. Enjoy.

Lynette and I go to see plays a few times a year. Last summer, the kids asked if they could come with us so I started scoping out plays that the kids might enjoy...that would also be fairly close to home so they wouldn't have to have a super late night. Checking the schedule at Rodger's Lynette & I decided that Wizard of Oz was the one we'd shoot for so she picked up some tickets (great tickets - the kids had their own 3-seat front row all to themselves) in December and have been prepping the kids ever since. By the time we went last weekend, they were all bouncing off the walls with excitement (which made us a little worried about how they'd behave during the show).

We got to the theatre about 15 minutes early to do a pre-show bathroom break and to get the kids settled. They excitedly glanced through their playbill and were thrilled to see all the young kids that would be in the show. They saw the huge industrial strength fans in the corners of the theatre and made their predictions for how the tornado scene would play out. After a brief speech from the producer (in which he announced that they'd be in their new theatre in ~1-2 years...finally...hooray!), the lights went down and the kids fell silent in anticipation.

One of the first things that impressed them was that Toto was actually played by a real live dog that sat fairly obediently in Dorothy's arms, fidgeting a little bit until she gave him a treat. The kids intently watched the banter between Dorothy and her aunt & uncle and the farmhands and then watched as Toto was shoved into a bicycle basket and wheeled off the stage...only to come scampering back a few minutes later. They loved the special effects of the "fire" that Professor Marvel sat by and then were thrilled as they felt the wind of the tornado pulsing around us. After the "storm", Andrew turned around to point out to me that the big fans had been blowing.

Once in Oz, the actors really began to shine. The munchkins were played by a dozen or more kids ranging in age from what looked like 4 to 12. They each had great costumes and wonderful stage presence. Even though some of them forgot the words to their songs and fell behind on the dance steps, they still 'stole the show' during their scenes in that they were so full of energy and excitement that it was difficult not to absolutely love their performances. Each of the younger munchkins also played a flying monkey later and I saw some of the other munckins as Oz guards, Ozians or Winkie soldiers of the witch. The flying monkeys were great...screeching around with their wings, tails and long fingered feet. :)

To continue talking about characters, I really felt that the Scarecrow outshined the rest of the central characters of the journey. Dorothy, Tin Man and Lion did well, but Scarecrow just felt absolutely full of life and energy. He did a great job. Glinda was a lot of fun but I felt she (and I'm not sure if this was the actress' choice or the director's call) behaved more like the conceited/materialistic Glinda of Wicked than the bubbly Glinda of Wizard. Not that she did a bad job or that it was wrong to have her checking her makeup and powdering her just felt like an odd characterization. The Wicked Witch did a fabulous job as well and was amazing in her vindictive energy and passion for the part. After the show, the kids went up to get a picture with her and she stayed in character and remarked on how her wicked presence was intimidating them. She was great.

I've remarked before at how much I love having Rodger's Memorial right up the road from us. They always manage to bring in wonderful talent in terms of the actors as well as all the behind-the-scenes crew that make up wonderful productions...all of which is completely a volunteer effort, which is doubly amazing. The theatre itself is small which is both a blessing and a curse. It's great to have such intimate seats so that literally every seat has a great view. But at the same time, in order to 'stay alive', they really had to pack the seats in tight so much so that the seats are fairly uncomfortable (especially if, as the producer Dave Hill pointed out, you have a little extra junk in the trunk *grin*). I really look forward to the new location which should have slightly more leg room, hopefully more comfortable seats and yet will only go another 10-12 feet deeper into the theatre for seats so it will still have an intimate feel.

We're off to see the wizardRodger's does a great job and Wizard of Oz was no exception. I personally felt that the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch stole the show (except for moments when the kids were on stage, and then I was mesmerized by them). The show has finished its run but I definitely recommend keeping an eye out for its return to Rodger's (they do it every couple of years I think) and I can always, always, always recommend any of their productions (except Forever Plaid which I just can't understand being as popular as it is).

So, for both Wizard of Oz and Rodger's in general, I give an emphatic

5 stars

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