Few things in pop culture are as universally iconic as “The Wizard of Oz.” Even if you belong to the .001% of the population who has never seen the movie, phrases like “Follow the yellow brick road,” “We’re not in Kansas anymore” and “There’s no place like home” have woven their way into the vernacular.
This is why it is tricky to stage a production of something that everyone and their little dog are familiar with because you’ve got a lot of expectations to live up to even before you set foot inside the theater.
This doesn’t leave a lot of room for much creativity or originality, but the touring production of “The Wizard of Oz” now playing at the Fox Theatre through May 18 meets these challenges head-on.
With some impressive set design and effects, the familiar story of Dorothy and her perilous journey through the magical Land of Oz comes to life in an eye-popping way.
This musical incorporates all the beloved songs from the 1939 movie version, with the lone exception being the loss of a personal fav “If I Were King of the Forest” (Supposin’ you met an elephant?/I’d wrap him up in cellophant!). Oh well.
Rounding out this particular production are some new songs written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and while none of them come close to eclipsing the original classics, they are solid enough to fit seamlessly in with the rest of the tunes and not just feel like filler.
The cast is solid and does his or her best to push their respective characters into some slightly new directions. Danielle Wade gives us a more confident and assertive Dorothy Gale and does quite well taking on the unenviable vocal task of living up to Judy Garland.
Jamie McKnight delivers an exceedingly more brainless and gentle Scarecrow, Mike Jackson is respectable as a brawny, composed Tin Man, and Lee MacDougall makes for a much daintier Cowardly Lion.
Broadway vet Jacquelyn Piro Donovan has a lot of fun as the Wicked Witch of the West, giving her a more sassy and sarcastic presence than merely a sinister one.
The only ones who play it straight up are Jay Brazeau as The Wizard and Nigel, who plays Toto, although Nigel gets extra points for hitting his marks and for not hiking his leg on a Munchkin. Who’s a good boy?!
The real magic to be found was in the audience on the faces of all the children in attendance. This is the perfect show to introduce the kids in your life to the wonder of musical theater as it is familiar enough to hold their attention and impressive enough to feel larger than life.
But then let’s be honest, we’re all kids again when we link arms and skip down the yellow brick road. Just don’t miss your chance to see “The Wizard.”
“The Wizard of Oz” is now playing at the Fox Theatre through May 18. For tickets, call (314)-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.