The Munchkins are coming
The Wizard of Oz
Much of the impetus to attend Western Nevada Musical Theater Company’s The Wizard of Oz is the anticipation of re-experiencing our favorite scenes from the 1939 film version starring Judy Garland. Conversely, the challenge as a viewer is to eschew the urge to compare this performance with the film. On the whole, WNMTC makes this version of Oz its own.
The costumes and sets are consistently good throughout the performance. The clothing worn by the primary characters—Dorothy, Tin Woodsman, Auntie Em—is appropriate for the parts while not being overwhelming. These simpler costumes make the perfect springboard off which costumer Denise McMasters jumped headlong into the dazzlingly bright and fun outfits necessary to convey the otherworldly environments encountered by the five travelers (Toto included).
Munchkinland is inhabited by, among others, children dressed in a variety of brilliant primary colors wearing adorably large hats shaped like flowers, a mayor with large emerald-green curly-toed shoes, and the Lullaby League in traditional pink ballerina wear. Snowflakes in the poppy forest are en pointe ballerinas donning elegant white with ethereally light tutus.
The sets are effective, providing just enough foundation to convey place without taking away from the performances. A fence, house-front and cellar doors with farmland backdrop serve as the Kansas farm. A few whimsically shaped, brightly colored hovel-fronts make up Munchkinland. The solid base of location and dress is underscored by a fine orchestral performance led by conductor Robert Grant.
The primary players deliver solid performances. Dorothy (Ashleigh Petrell) has a powerful voice and a strong stage presence. Her Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman companions (Lev Tagayev, Marcus Quiroga, Christopher Wiloson), the Wicked Witch of the West (Karen Chandler) and Glinda (Merci Hase) all offer convincing performances. Frustrating though, the songs and dialogue of some players are difficult to hear. Equipped with microphones, it’s difficult to tell if the players aren’t speaking loud enough or if the sound system is not working properly. The music, too, drowned out some of the weaker singers’ voices.
Standout performances by a number of the minor actors and some endearing and creative theatrical touches are an unexpected bonus. The few lines of song delivered by Bethany Mindrun, who plays the coroner in Munchkinland, inspired applause from the audience and the question of when she’ll be in a starring roll. The young children playing the Munchkinlanders are adorable and entertaining to watch throughout. The tap-dancing sequence in Emerald City, which begins innocently enough with three dancers and crescendos to a full stage of dancing and singing performers, gives a feeling of joyous exaltation that can only be achieved by inspired acting and direction.
A discussion of this performance would be lacking if the flying were not mentioned. From the cyclone scene, where a portion of the fence and a woman dressing behind a partition are lofted airborne, to Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the East and the Flying Monkeys, the system of pulleys and cables employed to create these stunts is used flawlessly and to thrilling effect.
WNMTC’s The Wizard of Oz makes fine work of a favorite tale. It’s a joy to see the classic piece acted live, and you’ll be happy you made the trip to see it rather than sitting on your couch and re-watching the 65-year-old version.