Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Wizard of Oz gets folked up at the Alliance

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Lowrey Brown, Brad Raymond, Sharisa Whatley and Jordan Craig in the Alliance Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz
  • Greg Mooney
  • Lowrey Brown, Brad Raymond, Sharisa Whatley and Jordan Craig in the Alliance Theatre production of 'The Wizard of Oz'
The Alliance Theater opened a folksy, kid-friendly version of The Wizard of Oz Saturday night. The stage play closely follows the 1939 classic film starring Judy Garland, something that works both for and against the production. It hits all the musical highs with fine renditions of beloved songs such as "Over the Rainbow" and "If I Only had a Brain." But the film's most ebullient numbers such as the "Munchkinland Music Sequence" and "Merry Old Land of Oz" underwhelm without the backing of a full live chorus. The Alliance's Oz relies on pre-recorded chatter and sound effects to bolster many scenes, including those in Munchinkinland.

I eagerly anticipated the charge of voices and movement in the moments leading up to Munchinkinland's celebratory repertoire, imagining a cast of children rushing out on stage to welcome Dorothy. Instead, the set featured a tricked-out backdrop with flowers that flipped around to reveal smiley faces. Two puppeteers maneuvered the Lollipop Guild, presented as a triptych of wooden dolls. It was cute, but anti-climatic. Less successful was the use of a crow puppet as comedic relief during the scarecrow scenes, a performance that felt like a mediocre ventriloquism act.

The elaborate, folk art-inspired set design was the show's real star. The production team managed the complications of representing a fierce Kansas twister by playing with scale and shadow puppets. The mysterious mechanical contraption enshrouding the Wizard looks as though it was yanked from Downtown's Folk Art Park. And when the green stained glass panels of the Emerald City dropped down from the heavens I thought to myself, "Well, there's where all the resources for the munchkins went."

Sharisa Whatley gave a heartfelt performance as Dorothy. Brad Raymond's Cowardly Lion was the most fun to watch (even his "King of the Forest" solo, which I always fast-forwarded when watching the film as a child), and Je Nie Fleming commanded the most stage presence in her performance as the Wicked Witch of the West.

I took my 9-year-old niece to the opening, and excitement about how they would do the "melting part," where the Wicked Witch is finally defeated, dominated the car ride to the theater. I watched her become more and more entranced throughout the play as Munchinkinland gave way to the Yellow Brick Road and then the Haunted Forest and Emerald City. She was enjoying the fantasy, even if her aunt was caught up in the reality.

More photos after the jump.

Sharisa Whatley as Dorothy

Je Nie Fleming as the Wicked Witch of the West
  • Greg Mooney
  • Je Nie Fleming as the Wicked Witch of the West

The group visits the Emerald City

Tags: , ,


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Debbie Michaud

The Ultimate Doughnut Smackdown
The Ultimate Doughnut Smackdown

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

© 2016 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation