Theatre Review – The Wizard of Oz (Mirvish)

The new Andrew Lloyd Webber production of the much beloved film The Wizard of Oz is, in a word, pleasant.

The staging and décor stay pretty much to the original movie, and maybe that’s the problem. I remember a Wizard production of many years ago that played at the Elgin, which was really imaginative. For example, in the poppy field scene, luscious, seductive chorines were the poppies. This production is very routine by comparison.

The show does have several things going for it. The Canadian cast is strong. It’s nice to see Cedric Smith back on stage as the Professor/Wizard. Lisa Horner does a great job as the Wicked Witch. The three farm hands/Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, Mike Jackson, Lee MacDougall and Jamie McKnight respectively, are all talented guys. Charlotte Moore as Auntie Em and Larry Mannell as Uncle Henry are always good, no matter what. Robin Evan Willis is a gorgeous Glinda, and Toto is adorable. Danielle Wade as Dorothy (who was chosen by a television audience is not charismatic as she could be, but does, in a word, give a pleasant performance.

The best thing about the show is the additional songs by Webber and Tim Rice, which fall mainly in the Kansas scenes. Rice is clever, and is still the best lyricist that Webber ever worked with. They have also written an anthem that is destined to become a classic. “Already Home” boasts a beautiful melody and stirring words. Any chanteuse/chanteur is going to want to latch on to that one. It’s also nice that Herbert Stothart’s original background score has been incorporated into the show to go with the Arlen/Harburg original songs.

Out of fairness, I should mention that the mostly geriatric matinee audience seemed to enjoy the show muchly. I’m just disappointed that the production wasn’t more innovative.

The Wizard of Oz, original songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, (starring Danielle Wade, Cedric Smith, Lisa Horner, Mike Jackson, Lee MacDougall, Jamie McKnight, Robin Evan Willis, Larry Mannell and Charlotte Moore, directed by Jeremy Sams), Mirvish Productions, Ed Mirvish Theatre, Dec. 20 to Jun. 2, 2012

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