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December 21st, 2011 JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG | Theater
 

The Wizard of Oz (Pixie Dust Productions)

Hello again, Yellow Brick Road.

perfbox.oz_3807OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD - IMAGE: pixiedustshows.com
     
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It probably isn’t fair to fault Pixie Dust Productions’ staging of The Wizard of Oz for not doing something it’s not even trying to do. Nonetheless, in a world with, at minimum, one Wizard book, three movies and four plays, this curmudgeonly reviewer can’t help having wanted something more—divergence from the story told in the 1939 film; something contemporary, or edgy—from the production. Some historians argue L. Frank Baum, the novel’s author, concealed a populist political allegory within his apparent children’s story. The Yellow Brick Road allegedly represents the gold standard, bane of turn-of-the-century 99-percenters; Wikipedia it. How about an adaptation bringing that center stage? Anyone?

Oh, go see Wicked, you say—and you’re probably right. It’s the holidays. Pixie Dust’s The Wizard of Oz, directed by Greg Tamblyn and based on John Kane’s adaptation for the Royal Shakespeare Company, is Christmas-season theater—fun for the whole family, as they say—that’s got nothing to do with Christmas, and God bless it for that.

With many cast members (including local luminaries Erin Charles, Leif Norby, Dale Johannes and Joe Theissen) and even more costumes, this production is obviously expensive, but it never feels extravagant. In fact, it’s clear Pixie Dust is making technical reaches: The Wicked Witch’s broomstick flights look just a little turbulent, but the company gets an A for ambition. It also gets good marks for casting real kids as the Munchkins and a real dog (Happy, a cairn terrier) as Toto. It’s freaking adorable. The play actually does stray from the old script in a few instances, typically so characters can deliver groan-worthy puns (and once for the Cowardly Lion to make a Lion King reference). In the main, though, The Wizard of Oz is devoutly faithful to the best-known film version, and that ain’t so bad. It’s a well-worn story, sure, but a timeless one, too, about finding our smarts, heart and nerve within ourselves—and finding Oz wherever we may be.


SEE IT: Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, pixiedustshows.com. 7:30 pm Dec. 23 and 28-30; 7 pm Dec. 21-22; 2 pm Dec. 31; 4 pm Jan. 1. $15-$55. All ages.

 
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