“The Wizard of Oz” musical, playing at Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson through June 15 is probably the most complex show to grace the stage at this theatre. It is magical.
If you have never been to a production at Show Palace — this is the show to see. It is a fun romp and adventure through the magical land of Oz, with characters who feel like old friends and a timeless message of love and friendship.
Under the direction of Jill Godfrey with stunning dance choreography by Megan Morgan, music direction by Bill Cusick, set and lighting design by Tom Hansen, and jaw dropping costumes, this is the formula for a sold out show.
“The Wizard of Oz,” based on the well-known 1939 fantasy film, was developed into a Broadway musical and made its premiere in 2011. This production is the RSC version, but still has all your favorite songs from the original screenplay written by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg such as “”Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” and “Yellow Brick Road,” and a laugh-filled script that will captivate you.
Molly Ann Ross is perfect as dreamer Dorothy. Her lovely refined voice and old fashioned innocence allow her to fill those sparkling red shoes well.
With youthful exuberance, Ross’ delivery of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is flawless. She leads her trio of friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion with authority down the yellow brick road as they begin their odyssey to the Emerald City to see the Wizard and have all their wishes granted. Toto, the very well behaved little dog, was a crowd pleaser. This little Yorkie endures loud voices, music, smoke, along with tons of commotion on stage, and never misses a beat.
The staging is pure genius. Hansen’s beautifully painted backgrounds and lighting design lends authenticity to every scene, and elevates the production above a typical dinner theatre performance. Prepare to be wowed.
Godfrey not only directs, she also plays several roles, including the Wicked Witch of the West. With her high pitched shrill voice and commanding presence, this witch is wicked to the core. She also plays the shrill and imperious neighbor Miss Gultch, who wants to take Dorothy’s dog, Toto, to keep him from messing up her garden.
Working with young children can be a challenge but Godfrey and her team worked miracles with these ultra-talented children. They exude cuteness without being cloying as the tiny munchkins. The snowflake dancers in the Poppy Fields were adorable.
To accomplish the depth of the journey to Oz in a small theatre, Godfrey has the cast members walking through the aisles, pulling the audience into many scenes.
The tornado dance sequence was executed perfectly. We experience the tornado through the scrim curtain, as it swirls and spins out of control over the Kansas prairie farm where Dorothy Gayle lives with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. And the “Jitterbug” dance sequence by the cast as they are attacked by bugs sent forth from the Wicked Witch, was enchanting.
The sweet scarecrow, (and the farm hand ) is played by Nicholas Landmesser. His dance movements have you nearly believing he is truly made of straw. “If I Only Had a Brain,” performed with comedic backup by four male dancers dressed as black crows is one of the comedic highlights of Act I.
Logan O’Neill, the creaky Tin Man, in need of a an oil can, is superb. His robotic dance movements as he exercises his joints after Dorothy oils them, is smooth and convincing. With dancing trees, “If I Only Had a Heart,” is endearing. O’Neill also plays Hickory, the farm hand.
And oh, the Lion! Jason Sofge as the appropriately lovable lion who is afraid of his own tail is simply wonderful. His “King of the Forest,” where he vacillates from being a ferocious lion belting out his notes, to a meek lamb afraid of his own shadow, was excellent. Sofge rounds out the three farm hands as Zeke.
Tom Bengston as Professor Marvel, The Guard at Oz Palace, and the magnificent and powerful Oz himself, is a show standout. He makes each character uniquely different.
The lovely Andi Sperduti-Garner, as Glinda the Good Witch, is effervescent and gorgeous in her glittering costumes. As Auntie Em, she is a stern and hardworking farm wife, but as Glinda, she glitters as she sashays across the stage. And of course, Rick Kistner as kind Uncle Henry always gives a solid performance.
Lose yourself in this stellar production of “The Wizard of Oz,” so that you, too, can be reminded that in the end, “there really is no place like home.”
“The Wizard of Oz” at Show Palace Dinner Theatre will have three performances weekly through June 15: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are for sale at the theatre located at 16128 U.S. 19 in Hudson or by calling the box office at (727) 863-7949. Tickets are also available online at www.howpalace.net. The cost is $49.50 for dinner and show.