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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Wizard of Oz" at the Orpheum San Francisco

When a new play comes to town I can always count on two of my avid theater-going friends to give a full review. That was the case when they got to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's US debut of "The Wizard of Oz" now playing at The Orpheum Theater in San Francisco.  

First, a little synopsis about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz.  It is an adaptation of the all-time classic movie re-conceived for the stage. This new production contains all of the beloved songs from the Oscar®-winning movie score, the favorite characters and iconic moments, plus a few surprises along the way.  There are several new songs by lyricist Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  This is Webber's 18th musical.
The Good (Witch)

  • Danielle Wade, who played Dorothy, was absolutely fabulous.  Danielle Wade was chosen by the Canadian public through CBC TV's reality show "Over The Rainbow."  Wade has a strong voice and she was 'right on' for what the audience would think Dorothy should be and look like.  She got a standing "O" at the end of the show.  She was particularly strong during her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
  • Nigel the Cairn Terrier, who play Toto, almost stole the show.  There were lots of "Oooohs" and "Aaaawwws" from the audience.  Unbelievably obedient and unreal in terms of stage presence. Nigel has a seasoned acting career having played Toto since 2009 in "The Wiz" and now in "The Wizard of Oz" - a role he was destined for after being discovered and rescued by theatrical animal trainer Bill Berloni.
  • Nice quartet during the song, "We're Out of the Woods" by Dorothy, the Lion (played by Lee MacDougall), the ScareCrow (Jamie McKnight) and the Tin Man (Mike Jackson)
  • The use of high tech "3D-like" film with see-through screen over stage sets was nicely done.  The technique was used during the tornado scene and when the monkeys were flying.  This maybe a bit over used while inside the tornado, however.
  • Opening scene featured the farm house with a nice 3D-like background of the Kansas sky filled with clouds at dusk.
  • Grand scene when Glinda the Good Witch first appeared suspended high with her entire glittery skirt literally filling the stage.  It was a 'goosebump' moment.
  • Absolutely appropriate to bring young children.  
  • Ensemble dancing was great with some turkish-style dancing and use of double sticks.  They were very coordinated and precise.
The Bad (Witch)
  • Slight overuse of the high tech 3D film for the stage production.
  • There was a bit of lack-luster performance for the most heart-felt moments including the song "Already Home" which is close to the finale of the musical.
  • The volume of the dialog was low and coule be turned up a bit for those who are a bit hard of hearing.
  • Dorothy was definitely the strongest but usually the elders of the cast should be outshining the younger characters.  Jacquelyn Piro Donovan who played the Wicked Witch of the West was just okay.  Glinda, played by Robin Evan Willis held her own though when she did a duet with Dorothy
My theater friends are big fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, especially when it comes to "Phantom of the Opera."  However his sequel to Phantom, "Love Never Dies" has not been embraced as well as Phantom.  Interestingly my friends saw a few similarities between the "Love Never Dies" and "The Wizard of Oz" in the use of 3D-like film on the set.  In comparison to the set design for "Wicked" which uses mostly traditional design, it was deemed that the use of movies to create some of the major scenes was slightly overused.  But that does not take away from the overall enjoyment of the show and on a 1 to 10 scale this show gets a strong 7.5 mark by my friends.

Overall my friends had a fabulous evening at the theatre.  

The Wizard of Oz is a great family show.  Tickets are available now through its run which ends October 27, 2013.

Full Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary tickets for a review of this show.  All opinions are 100% our own.

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