May 16, 2006

Theater Review - The Wizard of Oz

 There’s nothing small about the Clarksville Little Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Community theater is alive and kicking its heels just a short hop across the bridge. Fifty actors (including an adorable ocherese puppy) gave their all in a rousing opening night performance. Although the plot of “Oz” is an American cliché, this theatrical version (adapted by John Kane) is a treat for the senses. The special effects, choreography and costumes are dazzling. Director Gary Tipton deftly manages this huge cast in an obvious labor of love. I kept hoping some of the actors would stop mimicking their film counterparts and show more originality, though; but this is a minor quibble. The production is not without creativity, however. The cyclone is cleverly portrayed by youngsters dressed as slashing rain, dizzily spinning Dorothy’s house in a blaze of strobe lights and thunder. The goofy crows (absent from the film version) with their banana-like beaks are fun, as are the militant Winkies. The Wicked Witch (veteran actor Liz Vissing) asks the Winkies what we’re all dying to know: What does that horrible “O-E-O” song mean? The answer is not so obvious. Rebecca Chaney clearly relishes playing Dorothy. She looks and acts just like Judy Garland, but her musical style is her own. James Butterfield is outstanding as Hickory/Tinman. Kathy Chaney is riveting as Glinda. The Munchkins (numerous children) are cute but not cutesy. The three graceful trees sing with angelic voices not unlike the Andrews Sisters. Jake Morris enjoyed a stellar debut as Toto, flubbing only one cue, but was rescued by the cowardly lion (Chris Meier).  With a talented, enthusiastic cast and crew, CLT’s “The Wizard of Oz” is a fresh look at an old favorite, and a bargain to boot.BY SHERRY DEATRICKleo@leoweekly.com