Click your heels
The Wizard of Oz
The 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, with its familiar storyline, characters and songs, is one of those rare cultural touchstones that instantly bring you back to childhood, no matter what your age is now or when you first experienced the Judy Garland classic. The first generation saw the Technicolor film in theaters, subsequent generations gathered around for the once-a-year traditional television airing and now, everyone has ready access to viewing the movie whenever the mood strikes.
The California Musical Theatre’s Music Circus opens its summer season with this classic that mimics the movie version and delivers the enchantment we came to experience and expect, with wide eyes all around—from seniors down to the spellbound kids. When the first strains of “Over the Rainbow,” “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard” were heard and the audience of all ages first set eyes on Dorothy and Toto, there was a visceral reaction that swooped through Sacramento’s Wells Fargo Pavilion—it seemed as though every person there had found that magical place in his or her heart where the wonders of The Wizard stay safe and warm.
The show begins with everything bathed in sepia tones, and just like the movie, once the tornado blows through and we land in Oz, vivid colors abound. The cast is enthusiastic, and the standouts deliver, most notably Emily Walton as Dorothy, Jamie Torcellini as the Cowardly Lion, Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as the Wicked Witch, a cast of talented local kids as the Munchkins, and the irresistible Toto, too. The sets are beautifully rendered, the live orchestra is stellar (if you take along a child, walk them down to the orchestra pit beforehand so they can see the musicians tuning up), the special effects are clever (a flying monkey!), and the cast is enthusiastic. A few aspects were left wanting—the whirling modern dancers don’t really capture the tornado, the sound system had a couple glitches and the mechanical Oz isn’t very magical.
Still, the magic prevails overall, so click your heels three times and fly over to H Street to revisit your childhood with the great and powerful Oz.