The current, virtually sold-out production of Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” at Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron is a bona fide replica of the original adaptation to the stage first produced by the British Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987. The only modifications are the highly creative changes made to fit all of its bigger than life features onto the small stage at the S. Maple Street digs of the Cauldron.
The Cauldron’s producing director, Laura Conners Hull, credits “a first rate creative team” for “re-imagining the dreamscape world of Oz in an impossibly intimate setting.”
It’s an overwhelming success; a colorful, energetic and passionate rendering of the original script with all the same memorable songs and phrases that made the 1939 movie version one of the most cherished American cinematic triumphs of all-time.
There is a youth theater component to the show, with many “young performers who were part of our inaugural musical theater training program,” Hull says. “Over the course of eight weeks they were put through their paces with master classes in dance with (director) Matt Conner and vocal direction from Iyona Blake. There are some rising stars in this group that I’m sure you will see on professional stages in the future.”
Young actress Tiara Whaley as Dorothy makes it easy to forget Judy Garland in the movie version, opening with a thrilling rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” and managing her growing troupe of those unforgettable “friends of Dorothy.”
Whaley won the Helen Hayes Award this year for her performance in the Cauldron’s production of Tony Kushner’s “Caroline or Change” last season, and so did Blake for her role in that same show. This time in addition to being this show’s music director, she takes the roles of Aunt Em and Glinda the Good Witch.
Dorothy’s three fellow travelers on the yellow brick road are played deftly and with gusto by Harv Lester as the Cowardly Lion (also Zeka back in Kansas), Alan Naylor as the Scarecrow (Hunk on the farm) and Willie Garner as the Tin Man.
Then, there are the other indispensable roles, E. Augustus Knapp as the Wizard, Jim Lynch as Uncle Henry and, last but definitely not least, Laura Connors Hull herself, having a rare opportunity to render her considerable thespian skills as the scary, green-faced Wicked Witch of the West.
Over three dozen of the youth theater products fit perfectly in their well-executed parts as Munchkins, the Lollypop Guild, the Lollypop League, Crows, Poppykins, Ozians, Winkies, Flying Monkeys and Jitterbugs.
All the great songs are reprised, from “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead,” “Yellow Brick Road,” and “If I Only Had a Brain,” to “If I Only Had a Heart, “If I Only Had the Nerve,” “If I Were King of the Forest” and “Jitterbug,” the last one a dance number reflecting the swing era of the age when the movie was made.
Any lover of the movie young and old, including those of us who’ve seen it dozens of times over, will love this show, plain and simple.
Creative Cauldron’s (410 S. Maple Ave, Falls Church) “The Wizard of Oz” runs through the weekend with the final show this Sunday, June 25, at 7 p.m.