The Champaign Urbana Theatre Company travels over the rainbow for its current production, the timeless classic “The Wizard of Oz.”
L. Frank Baum’s delightful fantasy, originally brought to the stage in 1902, was immortalized in 1939 by the release of MGM’s Technicolor motion picture, which featured music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Yarburg, with additional music by Herbert Stothart, and starred a young Judy Garland, in her iconic role.
The CUTC production, using an adaptation by John Kane, pays tribute to the classic film, much to the delight of the multi-generational audience.
Director Jeff Dare leads his sizable cast swiftly through the beloved tale of Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto, who get swept up by a Kansas cyclone and are dropped over the rainbow into the magical land of Oz.
Dare, along with Scenic Designer Nicholas Shaw, utilizes on-screen projections enhanced by simple add-on set pieces to create the multiple locations needed for this tale, which travels from Kansas, to Munchkinland, through the enchanted forest, across the poppy fields, to the Emerald City, the witch’s castle and finally, back home. (There’s no place like home.)
Except for an early issue with the Wi-Fi connection, the show went on without a hitch.
Colleen Bruton shines as Dorothy, displaying well-trained vocals and a confident enthusiasm for her demanding role.
Her constant co-star, Milo, as Toto, very nearly stole every scene they shared, but Bruton held her own against the adorable mutt.
Bruton shares her journey along the yellow brick road with Nick Hittle (the Scarecrow), Jacob Smith (the Tin Man) and William Curtis (the Cowardly Lion).
The hardworking trio also play their Kansas counterparts, farmhands Hunk, Hickory and Zeke, respectively.
Also doing double duty impressively are Kari Croop as Auntie Em and Glinda, Susan Curtis as Almira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West, Jim Dieker as Uncle Henry and the Emerald City Guard and Lincoln Machula as Professor Marvel and the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.
Orchestra Conductor Dave Ivy is to be congratulated for the quality of the live music performed by his pit. With many theatre companies now opting to utilize pre-recorded accompaniment in their productions, I found it quite refreshing to see a full orchestra perform, and this ensemble did so exquisitely.
This production also features lively choreography by the talented Whitney Havice and colorful costumes designed by Laura Vavrin.
It is clear that a lot of love and hard work went into this production, and it’s too bad that the run is limited to four performances. With that being said, this production is a treat for the whole family.
For younger audience members (who I assure you will be fully engaged), booster seats are available upon request.