Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Ignored by her hard working aunt and uncle (Lyn Philistine and Fran Prisco), unfairly tormented by a mean spirited neighbor (Ellie Mooney), and placated by three well meaning farm hands, young Dorothy (Adrienne Eller) is feeling lonesome and unappreciated. She dreams of leaving everything she knows behind and discovering a world apart from her small Kansas farm. When her little dog Toto (Dusty) gets in trouble with the law, Dorothy decides to run away from home. It does not take long for her to realize her mistake, but before she and Toto can get back to the farm a tornado strikes and whisks them away to the land beyond the rainbow. With the help of her three new friends Scarecrow (Christopher Sutton), Tin Man (Christopher Shin), and Cowardly Lion (Nichalas L. Parker) our young heroine travels all the way to the Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz (Bill Van Horn) and the way back home.
Director Glenn Casale keeps all the action moving quickly along and a strong ensemble cast make the most of the classic score. Ellie Mooney perfectly embodies Dorothy's sunny disposition and indomitable spirit, but it is her excellent vocal performance that steals the show. Other standout performances include Christopher Shin as the sweetly sympathetic Tin Man and Nichalas L. Parker as the roaringly funny Cowardly Lion. Animals on stage are often more distracting than adorable, but it seems like Dusty (trained by William Berloni) was born to play Toto. He even looks up adoringly at Dorothy while she sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"!
Mary Folino's vibrant costume designs infuse the entire production with a sense of magic. Each piece is richly detailed and every oversized flower, sparkling sequin, and feathered hat contribute to the overall effect. The scenic design and special effects are, unfortunately, less consistent. The tornado that whisks Dorothy and Toto away from Kansas is illustrated by a section of fence being carried across the stage and some bright lights shined directly into the audience. When Dorothy arrives in Munchkinland two cute but unimpressive houses are the main indication that we are not in Kansas anymore. A backdrop of the Emerald City is similarly underwhelming. The spectacular costumes pick up a lot of the slack in these sequences and there are some excellent sets and effects. For example, the Wicked Witch of the West has an impressively daunting castle and some very impressive fireballs.
The Wizard of Oz at the Walnut Street Theatre is everything you know and love about the movie and so much more: a fantastic adventure about learning to be brave and a heartwarming story about coming home. This holiday season, treat your whole family to a fun-filled trip down the yellow brick road everyone will remember.
The Wizard of Oz runs through January 8, 2017, at the Walnut Street Theatre 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For tickets call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org.
Weekend Team (Performs all shows Sat. and Sun., Mon. eves., plus
matinees 12/21, 12/22, 12/23, 12/28, 12/29 and 1/5)*
*Denotes membership in Actors Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.