Suze Diaz — It was a lovely Opening Night on a warm Saturday evening for one of the most beloved family classics appearing on stage at the Historic Lyceum Theatre in Downtown San Diego. L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” unfolded in iconic fashion featuring a cast of 40 STAR Repertory Theatre performers from ages 6 to 60. This musical is based on the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer film to which the STAR Repertory was blessed to secure the rights of the movie version with all of the original songs. Director Scott Kolod and Producer Meredith Kolod stay faithful to this version in the casting and staging with assistance from Assistant Director/Choreographer Kevin Burroughs and Musical Director Benjamin Goneia. A few entertaining added bonuses sprinkled throughout the production highly compliment the show to the delight of the lively audience.
Photos by Suze Diaz
The much-adored story follows Dorothy Gale, a young Kansas farm girl who lives with her Auntie Em, Uncle Henry and a few farmhands who are also her friends. When a mean neighbor, Miss Gulch, is determined to take Dorothy’s dog, Toto, to the pound, Dorothy and Toto run away. In their travels, they meet Professor Marvel T. Scott who skillfully convinces Dorothy to go back home where they eventually find themselves in the middle of a cyclone hit. Seeking safety back in the farmhouse, Dorothy and Toto find themselves transported to Munchkinland in the Merry Old Land of Oz where they are helped by Glenda the Good Witch; threatened by the Wicked Witch of the West (when she finds out Dorothy’s farmhouse had landed on her sister and now Dorothy possesses her sister’s ruby red slippers); and discover new friends in the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion as they make their way to Emerald City to meet the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. The adventures they experience on the journey are full of excitement, poignant moments, amusement and pure joy.
A fun opportunity to participate in “Wizard of Oz” trivia was given by character Professor Marvel where patrons won small cash prizes if they answered correctly and quickly. Questions such as who was originally cast as the Scarecrow and what year was the original movie filmed engaged the audience before the show began. The production was reminiscent of the movie itself with a super giant video screen backdrop accompanied by imaginative set props. For example, the magic that occurs when the video screen changes from the sepia tones of Kansas to the colorfully bright sights of Oz to simulate the film’s legendary use of Technicolor is well executed. The costumes created by Felicia Broschart and her creative team presented each character beautifully as they performed their individual roles.
The cast is superb. From beginning to end, there is an enchanting energy that radiates onstage. Isabella Torinello as “Dorothy” is fantastic. She possesses a comparatively excited and nervous wide-eyed innocence equivalent to Miss Judy Garland’s portrayal of the same character. Her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is beautifully clear, crisp and endearing. Katelyn Bell (Glenda the Good Witch) and Kristin Morales (Wicked Witch of the West) also capture the classic look and speech mannerisms of their roles in quality style. From the notorious cackling laughter of the Wicked Witch of the West to the effortlessly gliding calm presence of Glenda the Good Witch, these two actors maintain their roles with excellence. The adorable presence of the Munchkins in Munchkinland is marvelously charming. Their musical number of “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead/Yellow Brick Road” will have you singing along with glee.
Comedic timing and zesty vitality are embraced heartily by the spirited threesome that includes Ben Monts (Scarecrow), Andrew Morales (Tin Man), and Doug Friedman (Cowardly Lion). Special bonuses appear as Dorothy meets each character, as each individual’s “If I Only Had A….” performance is amusingly clever. A special nod is given to Doug Friendman’s Cowardly Lion’s solo, “If I Were King of the Forest”, for the humorous reference to “The Lion King”. As Dorothy collects her animated gang of hopeful helpers, you’ll be wishing you were alongside them on the yellow brick road singing “We’re Off to See The Wizard”.
Raffle prizes for the raffle drawings delightfully packed with wonderfully themed goodies was disbursed to the winners during intermission. One special raffle prize was a giant colorful show poster autographed by the entire cast and auctioned off for a incredible donated amount for which the proceeds are designated to help support the next show’s production cost. Shoutouts for certain cast members to appear during the auction were granted as the bids rose higher amidst cheers and laughter as the audience prepared themselves for a splendid Act Two.
Treat yourself and the whole family to enjoy this fantastic production. Do not be surprised if you find yourself in a jolly state of mind at the end of the show. The remaining show dates and show times are:
- Friday, August 10, 2018 • 7pm
- Saturday, August 11, 2018 • 2pm & 7pm
- Sunday, August 12, 2018 • 2pm
Plenty of parking is available at Horton Plaza and can be validated for a flat rate at the theater. Come a little early and enjoy the Lyceum’s two concession stands with reasonably priced food and refreshments. Plenty of seating areas are available on both floor levels inside the theater. Other food options are conveniently close by outside the theater.