Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Wizard of Oz By Frank Baum

By Joe Straw

Somewhere there is a place, a tiny speck in every being that yearns to see The Wizard of Oz at least one more time. The Kentwood Players and the Kentwood Kids Production presents a surprising production of The Wizard of Oz adapted by Frank Gabrielson and directed by Meredith M. Sweeney at the Westchester Playhouse.

This particular production is the Municipal Opera of St. Louis (MUNY) version. It is a combination of the MGM film, the book, and Frank Gabrielson’s imagination. It is delightful in its own right and played with delight by the seemingly cast of 1000 kids scurrying about on stage hitting their marks and running off stage for rapid costume changes.

The production crew and Meredith M. Sweeney have to be congratulated for the tremendous amount of kid wrangling needed for this successful production.

The show started late, 10 minutes, perhaps the dust from the Kansas landscape blowing unusually hard that morning as menacing clouds gather along the horizon. Aunt Em (Hayley Novack), a farmhand (Amanda Araque), and Uncle Henry (Kobe Kubes) survey the darkness creeping up on them as the other farmhands (Emma Erenmark and Francesca Farina) watch with trepidation.

Dorothy (Camilla Vietina), with her dog Toto (Karine Trapenard), is one step in front of the pending storm. And as a gentle breeze follows them Dorothy belts out “Over the Rainbow”. It is an anticipated moment the audience yearns for and Vietina delivers successfully.

But Dorothy, slightly unaware of the tornado coming, is caught in her home as the nightmarish storm lifts her house and moves it from one side of the stage to another. Sound Designer by Susan Stangl does this almost in complete darkness but with some very nice sound effects. With the stage barely lit, the effects of a tornado moving the house back and forth is nicely done!

And, then, the house lands killing the wicked witch of the east - ruby slippers and all - taking us to a place we know exits. The Munchkin Farmer (a very funny Ezekiel Frederick) and Munchkin Mayor (Trinity King) surveys the damage and with the help of Munchkin Coroner (a very expressive Rachel Evans), The Lullaby League (Samantha Cruz, Rocia Vietina and Elizabeth Cruz) and Lollipop Guild (Josiah Taylor, Logan Hanning and Steven Lerner), determine that the Wicked Witch of The East is undeniably, dead!

The Sorceress of the North (Monica Allan) has a wonderfully strong voice that carries the Munchkins and helps them guide Dorothy to the Emerald City.

Ah, but who could forget the companions on our lovely trip. The Scarecrow (Amanda Araque), the Tinman (Emma Erenmark) and the Cowardly Lion (Francesca Farina) look for a brain, and heart and the nerve! Each of Dorothy’s companions was exceptional in getting her back to that patch of dirt she calls Kansas.

Who would put a damper on this lovely party? None other than the Wicked Witch of The West, wart nose and all (Madison Dewberry). She is quite good and quite menacing having the Munchkins running around in fear.

Those rascally Munchkins were Madison Browning, Makenzie Browning, Ella Cunningham, Valentina Povolo, Martina Povolo and Alan Trapernard. The Jitterbugs/Ghost were Madison Browning and Makenzie Browning.

Alan Trapenard was fine as Lord Growlie and The Wizard of Oz.

Chris Farina did a remarkable job with the singers. Their voices were strong and clear!

Meredith M. Sweeney directs a very charming and heartwarming production. She also made the wonderful costumes. The Wizard of Oz is surprising in its execution. Everyone should be proud to be a part of this production.

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