The timeless tale of The Wizard of Oz had their opening night of their new production by Tony, Grammy and Oscar winner Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera) on December 4th at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. This was a fun production for the family and all ages. Upon walking into the lobby of the Ordway I noticed instantly a little girl who was wearing the iconic red slippers, braided pigtails and of course the farm girl blue checkered dress.
I must applaud whoever designed the lobby of the Ordway for this production. There was a set up in the lobby of what was an upside down Christmas tree complete with decorations and a small house with the Wicked Witch of the East's recognizable striped socks and red ruby slippers. Upon further examination of the tree, it was discovered that the tree was supposed to replicate the tornado that appears in the show. How creative!
Now for the production itself. I thought it was enjoyable and charming. I have never been the greatest fan of the movie The Wizard of Oz however since it was a staged musical rendition, I was hoping that I would enjoy it. Webber does a fantastic job of re-imagining a story that many generations know and love while at the same time adding an almost new modern feel to it. For example one of my favorite things about the show was the amazing portrayal Jacquelyn Piro Donovan created of The Wicked Witch of the West (below).
She was just as evil as the original with the same cackle of a laugh while at the same time adding an almost diva-esque quality to the character. The production has the classic songs from the original Oscar award-winning movie such as "Over the Rainbow" and "The Merraward-winning Oz." Webber does write new songs as well such as "Red Shoes Blues."
Recently I saw a production of the restaged version of Les Misérables where they used a projection screen to add a sense of depth to the stage. This production of The Wizard of Oz used that same concept however to the point of annoyance. The projection screen I think is a really amazing technique that designers can use however at some points I felt like I was watching a movie. The screen should have been used to slightly enhance the audiences interpretation of Oz, now create it for them. At times I felt like the magic of musical theatre was nonexistent. As a co-worker of mine said "Attach those flying monkey's to some pulley's and get those pretties to fly!!"
The Wizard of Oz will be playing at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts through December 29th. Get your tickets before they fly off back to Oz!
*Photo Credit: Tom Donoghue