‘The Wizard of Oz’ at The Puppet Co.

Back by popular demand, The Puppet Co. presents The Wizard of Oz, adapted from Frank Oz’s beloved tale with a script and puppets by Christopher Piper, and directed by Allan Stevens.

Set and Costume Designer Allan Stevens uses shades of grey in both the set and period costumes for the 1900 Kansas State Fair. A large screen shows old black-and-white photos as well, which then turns to bright Technicolor when Dorothy finds herself in the magical land of Oz. There are some clever tricks built into the set design for this production, manipulating different angles of various props for countless effects. Original music by Christopher Piper and Eric Brooks and Lighting Design by Dan Brooks rounds out the atmosphere, particularly when a tornado hits! There was an unfortunate technical difficulty at my show, which halted the performance for some time. However, the performers and crew were calm and collected throughout the ordeal, and Dorothy kept the awkwardness at bay by asking the audience some questions.

Courtesy of The Puppet Co.
Courtesy of The Puppet Co.

There are four performers/puppeteers working together in various roles for this performance; Christopher Piper, Stephen Kime, Joshua Aaron Rosenblum, and Carol Spring as Dorothy. Most likely you know the plotline of The Wizard of Oz— a young girl transported from her somewhat dreary home into a land of spirited adventure, where she makes friends with a band of “outsiders,” and they embark together on a quest to seek help from an idealized wizard. The Puppet Co.’s version is more closely related to the book than the movie, so if you have not read the book, expect some new creatures and plot-twists! The songs in this production are also original, with the most popular being one sung by the munchkins (whose costumes, by the way, are a work of comedic genius).

Trying to fit the plotline of an entire book into one hour is a daunting task, and sometimes it does feel a little rushed. However, I love how the real morals of the book are highlighted. The Scarecrow desires brains, yet he is the one who figures out how to re-animate the rusted Tin Man; the lion is a coward, yet he bravely lunges across a gorge to save his friends. These characters believe that they are lacking certain virtues, but they are not…and perhaps this journey will prove it. The performers are also engaging and fun, but the real “wow” factor here (as I find at every Puppet Co. production) are the puppets themselves. They use a variety of forms of puppetry, including marionettes, hand puppets, rod puppets, and a breath-taking puppet mask for the towering lion. The details and craftsmanship of these pieces are gorgeous, and well-worth being seen in action.

How could you go wrong with a production of The Wizard of Oz at The Puppet Co.? Parents are able to re-discover a childhood favorite with their own children, and have a blast while doing so. Take your tot before they head back to Oz!

Running Time: One hour, without an intermission.

The Wizard of Oz plays through July 20, 2014 at The Puppet Co.-7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or purchase them online.



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