With vibrant colors, clever humor and beautiful songs, The Academy Theatre in Meadville wrapped up its three-week run of “The Wizard of Oz” this past weekend on Sunday, Oct. 23. “The Wizard of Oz” marks Sue Wentz’s eighth time acting as director for The Academy Theatre, and her experience is evident. Working with her husband, Kerry Wentz, who designed the sets, Sue brought fresh ideas to a story that has been retold a thousand times.
The performance opened on Friday, Oct. 7 and ran until Sunday, Oct. 23. Even in the last weekend of their run, the energy in the theater was palpable, as the actors drew the audience into the play time and time again. The small size of the theater allowed for an intimate environment, at times letting the audience feel as if the actors were interacting directly with them.
“The Wizard of Oz” follows teenaged Dorothy Gale, who is swept from Kansas to Oz with her dog Toto. Traveling through Oz in search of the Wizard, Dorothy meets and befriends a unique group. The Scarecrow, who is missing a brain, the Tinman, who is in need of a heart and the Lion, who wants courage, all join Dorothy in her journey. The Wicked Witch stalks the heroes throughout Oz as she schemes to steal Dorothy’s powerful ruby slippers.
Grove City High School Junior Sydney Adams did a fantastic job as Dorothy. She drew the audience’s sympathy as she faced obstacles from losing her beloved dog to wandering lost in a foreign world. Adams’s voice was quiet but pleasant, and she beautifully performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Mary Lee Ross’s performance as the Wicked Witch was entertaining, as she mastered the Witch’s infamous cackle and piercing tone. Josh Lapping and Libby Hornstein shined as the Scarecrow and Glinda, respectively. Lapping’s voice slid smoothly over his solo “If Only I had a Brain,” and his chemistry with Adams’s Dorothy added an interesting dimension to the musical. Although Hornstein’s singing parts were limited, her beautifully distinct voice was one of the most impressive in the show.
The two stars of the show were, undoubtedly, the Lion and Toto. Jonny Rick, a frequent performer in The Academy Theatre, played the Lion with charm and perfect comedic timing. His clever and sometimes improvised jokes were made perfect with his delivery. He flawlessly embodied the lovable and adorably, cowardly lion.
Waddles, the Yorkie-Pom mix who played Toto, stole the show with his excitement and energy. Quiet and well-behaved, Waddles at times seemed as engrossed in the show as the audience.
“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” the first musical number performed in Oz, was one of the best in the show. Giving the audience their first peek into Oz, the number was full of energetic choreography and beautiful singing. Highly entertaining, “Ding Dong” prepared the audience for their trip through Oz.
To differentiate between the colorful Oz and monochromatic Kansas, the costumes and sets for Kansas were cleverly designed as black and white, giving the impression of a drab, unimaginative world. Dorothy’s classic blue and white checkers were exchanged for a brown and white dress, and the backdrop was painted in gray, brown, and white colors. The dull depiction of Kansas lent more beauty to Oz, with its sparkling art work, brilliantly colored set pieces and gorgeous costumes, all popping against a bright backdrop.
While there were a few problems in the performance, such as a slight malfunction with the wires, causing the Wicked Witch to fly off stage only to reappear again a few seconds later, “The Wizard of Oz” was a highly enjoyable and wonderfully performed musical. Sue Wentz made great use of her small cast, giving audiences a captivating trip to the magical land of Oz.