|The Concord Patriot||
June 28, 1979
By ANN CHANG
"The Wizard of Oz" will close on Saturday. Those who have yet to see this imaginative, professional production should get tickets - it’s too good to miss.
On opening night, I took a discriminating but somewhat jaded nine year-old critic. After the production we made a list of the "bests" and "really neat" parts of the play.
Topping the list is the dance of the winged monkeys. That particular scene was described in all its exciting detail to a skeptical older sister. Then there were the ‘lion’s cheeks." This particular category includes all the make-up, the lion, the munchkins, the marvelously ugly witch, the beautiful square-eyed scarecrow. . . but emphasis was directed to the lion’s cheeks. The reason being. . . is that it is difficult to make a man resemble a lion but the make-up did not require the suspension of belief - ‘he has puffy cheeks and neat whiskers," my critic said. "He really looked like a lion!"
The costume list included everyone. Strangely enough, Dorothy didn’t rate accolades for dress. "Anyone can get a checked dress. Kids wear them to school," my critic informed me.. However, Toto was an entirely different sight! His silky, black coat, complete with an expressively pert tail was inviting. "Me looked so smooth and soft. I really would like to pat him."
It also turned out that there was a great deal of admiration for the energy of perseverance of Toto who managed to get through the whole production on all fours and move at a creditable rate of speed.
It would not be fair to describe to closely the special effects that removed the production from the ranks of the amateur to a high professional level. Since all are familiar with the Oz story, just imagine, how, technically, you would confront the problem of the twister, a witch being melted by water, the magnificance of the wizard, and convey the feeling of traversing great disasters as Dorothy traveled the yellow, brick road.
Whatever solutions might be imagined, the ones that were worked out for this production were spellbinding. The technical proficiency of the participants was flawless, timing perfect, and the overall effect was one of excellence supported by belief. The witch did melt, the twister did twist, the house did fly, and the wizard was magnificent!
When trying to pinpoint a favorite character, my critic wasn’t so positive - she liked them all. It is true, voices carried, diction was good, songs were on key, and actions fitted the words and moods. Dorothy was too good to be a model for a nine year old. "I could never do that," she said, "but I might be able to handle a part. as a Glenda Child or a mini-munchkin.’ There were 24 children in the chorus and mini-munchkin ranks. These parts were played with precision that comes from long hours of practice and attention to detail. No effort was spared on even the smallest part. The costumes of the children blended with the rest of the production. More important and impressive was the realization that these roles were not treated as "fillers" to a larger part or enhancement of the ‘stars." The dances that the children performed. . . were just that . . . dances . . . not as so often happens in local theatre, a mindless shuffle. The parts sung by the children were understandable and as such, added greatly to the overall excellence of the whole production.
The stars. There were stars ... after all, Dorothy is on stage most of the time. Sarah Reece carried off the part of Dorothy very well. Her empathy for her traveling companions, and the emotions raised at her own plight was felt by the audience. Her singing voice was pleasant and her stage presence kept the action moving.
The scarecrow, Gary Natoli, was perfectly suited for his loose-limbed part. His gymnastics were astounding. The tin man, John Butterfield, was suitably stiff and clanky, while Bob Peters strutted about with all the chutzpa of a cowardly lion. These parts were well cast and the performance of each one complemented the other to make a well-knit production.
The music did not intrude, but again . . . as with the choreography, special effects, and costumes, helped to make the entire production one big delight from start to finish.
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