Vista, CA—Moonlight Stage Productions is going big this summer season its 33rd, first with the sprawling and compelling “South Pacific and now “The Wizard of Oz” using the sets (Michael Anania) and costumes (Gregg Barnes) from the Madison Square Gardens production (dazzling and the best seen locally yet), surround sound throughout the amphitheatre with laughter and special effects (Chris Luessmann) coming from all directions, a giant digital Oz face that talks, Jim Chovock in a commanding performance as both The Gatekeeper and Wizard and Randall Dodge, our male heartthrob in South Pacific is too much fun to see as the Cowardly Lion. Just watch him roooarrrrr! (“If I Only Had The Nerve”)
Based on L. Frank Baum’s book with Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s music and lyrics “Wizard of Oz” was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture but lost out to “Gone With the Wind”. It did however win for Best Musical, Original song “Over The Rainbow”. How can you go wrong?
Adult actors play the leads in John Kane’s adaptation for the Royal Shakespeare Company version that more closely resembles the 1939 film where Dorothy Gale (Carlin Castellano) who lives with her aunt Em (Laura Douciere)) Uncle Henry (Ralph Johnson) and a trio of farm hands Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory (Stephen Petrovich, Randall Dodge and Carson Twitchell) find adventure in the Wonderful Land of Oz, Ruby slippers and all.
Just briefly, when we meet Dorothy she’s not having a very good day. Her dog Toto (Munchkin) bit the neighborhood grouch, Miss Gultch (Danette Holland who is also terrific as the green faced Wicked Witch of the West) and now she wants to take the dog away from her.
In a panic Dorothy runs away with Toto but is encouraged by the shaman, Professor Marvel (Jim Chovick), to return home. Just as she comes on to the farm strong winds and a tornado sweep both Dorothy and her house up, up and away finally dropping them both down on the Wicked Witch of the West’s house, crushing it. It probably wasn’t a great idea to disturb this one. Now lost in the Land of Oz she comes across Glinda The Good Witch of the North (Laura Douciere) who offers her help direct her back home.
No less that twenty five little Munchkins dance and sing their hearts out as Dorothy and her pals The Scarecrow (Stephen Petrovich), The Tin Man (Carlson Twitchell) and The Lion (Randall Dodge) continue to enchant taking us along with them on their travels and tribulations as they set “Off To See The Wizard”, down “The Yellow Brick Road” and finally home, “Over The Rainbow”.
Their hope is that the Wizard will help Dorothy find her way back to Kansas, and in the process the Lion his courage, the Tinman his heart (“If I Only Had a Heart”) and the Scarecrow his brain. (“If I Only Had a Brain).
Castellano who directs also choreographs a huge cast that includes not only the Munchkins but also a large ensemble of about twenty-two including the Poppies (great colors) and Winkies (“The March of the Winkies”).
I couldn’t help but comment on how terrific everyone looked in each and every dance sequence and the talent that Moonlight attracts. One of the dance numbers oft times edited out is the delightful Jitterbug number that includes Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Jitterbugs. It’s a hoot.
Once again musical director Elan McMahn guides her twenty-piece orchestra through all the popular and not so often hard OZ music with ease and precision.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the sterling performances of Carlin Castellano, whose overall talent both singing and dancing has a reassuring effect on the whole production, Danette Holland’s Wicked Witch, who flies through the air with ease (ZFX, Inc) and melts on cue and Toto (Munchkin) who will be retiring after this show.
For a completely enchanting evening at the theatre, take a trip with Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road to The Emerald City. You won’t be disappointed.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 10th
Organization: Moonlight Stage Productions
Production Type: Musical
Where: Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista
Ticket Prices: $15.00-$50.00
Venue: Moonlight Amphitheatre