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Review: "The Wizard of Oz" at the Palace Theatre

October 29, 2011 - Andy Gray
CLEVELAND -- There’s no “Wicked” revisionism here. The touring production of “The Wizard of Oz” that opened Friday at the Palace Theatre for a five-show run sets out to recreate the movie on stage and nothing more.

It more or less does, but the result is closer to something like Sesame Street Live than a Broadway musical.

The non-Equity cast is young, sometimes too young (Kelly Karcher, who plays Auntie Em, looks young enough to understudy Dorothy), and the inexperience shows. A few are better than average (Patrick Pevehouse is a lively, loose-limbed Scarecrow) but it doesn’t help that the staging largely asks the actors to mimic the folks in the 1939 movie. There’s no opportunity for them to put their mark on the roles.

Director Norbert Joerder uses some stage magic to try to recreate the movie magic. The Wicked Witch of the West throws fireballs and flies, the sound system adds some reverberating bass to the Tin Man’s metal and to Oz’s proclamations, and the cast wears sepia-toned costumes for the scenes in Kansas.

The production also restores the “Jitterbug” musical number that was deleted from the movie. It features some entertaining hoofing, but the choreography overall is less than magical. It looks particularly rudimentary on “Merry Old Land of Oz.”

Even at its best, it’s a show that reminds the viewer how much better the movie is. Those treating it as an opportunity to introduce little ones to live theater probably will be happier about the money spent (the top ticket is $65) than adults who are expecting something of the same caliber as the shows that make up PlayhouseSquare’s Broadway Series.

“The Wizard of Oz” will be staged at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Palace Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Tickets range from $10 to $65.


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