It’s easy to forget how ingrained The Wizard of Oz is on our collective conscience. The young performers edition production at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown not only reminded of that fact, but inspired a whole new appreciation for the classic tale of a young girl’s journey to find her true self amid a dreamlike world of colorful characters.
Everything about the production was magical from the moment the lights went down and the music came up. It had been many years since I’d seen the movie, but within minutes of the live performance, I found myself actually enjoying this version as much, if not more than the classic film. The set and scenery by Chris Mueller filled the room and was a feast for the eyes. The winding yellow brick road seemed to go on forever. Add to that the spot-on costumes by Ashli Arnold, and the tight and precise direction of Dave Hart, and Oz came to life more magically that I remembered from my childhood.
The cast of young actors were simply amazing, not just for their age, but for any age. Hannah Kepple‘s Dorothy was sweet and charming. The real life Toto played by Maybe Ruth marveled the audience as the most well-trained dog imaginable, among the hordes of dancing Munchins (perfectly played by younger cast members) and the vibrant ensemble of Dorothy’s traveling companions. Jackson Pelz as the Lion, Samuel Hooper as the Tin Man and Christian Carmean as the Scarecrow all gave fresh life to their classic characters. Rounding out the main cast, Reese Giles as the Wizard, Claire Griffin as Glinda, Hannah Daniels as the Wicked Witch, Samantha Kane as Auntie Em and Frank Davis as Uncle Henry all gave strong, precise and focused performances.
All the familiar songs are there too, from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” to “We’re Off To See The Wizard.” There’s no live orchestra playing, so the music is piped through the sound system, which actually gives the show an even more magical quality. I found myself thinking that I would walk out afterward to get on a roller coaster. The show had the feel of a theme park attraction, with vibrant young performers dazzling the audience with a tight and polished show. It is not to be missed by children of all ages.
The Wizard Of Oz continues its run Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown through Sunday, March 29, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $10-$18