‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ at Adventure Theatre MTC

Adventure Theatre MTC presents the famed classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, based on the novel by L. Frank Baum and adapted by Jacqueline E. Lawton. Roberta Gasbarre directs this highly anticipated production, and delivers a thrilling show that allows parents to relive and share a beloved piece of their childhood with their children.

The cast of 'The WIzard of Oz.' Photo by Bruce Douglas.
The cast of  ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Scenic Designer Lydia Francis uses a foundation of simple, earthy tones to illustrate the mundane farm life of Kansas, with panels of wooden siding artistically placed around a large projection screen. This screen, with projections designed by Sarah Tunderman, shows a lot of different actions and settings, such as fields of corn, dense forestry, and winged monkeys in flight.

The projections, alongside lighting designed by Max M. Dolittle and sound by Kenny Neal, are used to transform the stage into the land of Oz. Lighting and sound work together to create a thunderous twister, ravaging forest fire, and the sparkly emerald city. However, my favorite technical element of the show has to be the costumes designed by Tyler Gunther.

All of the costumes are packed with creative and imaginative touches (The Tin Woodman looks great in a gray suit that’s been enhanced with bolts and patches of rust, and I enjoyed the winged monkey and his aviator cap), but the showstoppers are the witches. There are three witches on this production, and they all wear huge, lavish gowns that are packed with color and embellishments (one of them even lights up!) As for the Wicked Witch– forget the simple black cloak and pointed hat that you’re used to, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

We all know the story of Dorothy, a girl from Kansas who is swept away in a cyclone to the magical land of Oz, where she embarks on an adventurous journey to the emerald city and makes a few friends along the way. Paige Hernandez is great as the bright, spirited Dorothy, who yearns for excitement outside of her life of monotonous farm chores. When her wish is granted, she finds that what she truly wants is to return home to her loved ones, and sets out to meet the powerful Wizard (Alex Vernon, who juggles a few different roles in this production) for help. Her traveling companions all do fine jobs with their characters, especially with their movements; Henian Boone walks with a stiff gait as the Tin Woodman, Ryan Dalusung wobbles around as the Scarecrow (he is made of straw, after all), and Thony Mena leaps and bounds across the stage as an agile Cowardly Lion.

My favorite aspect of the story of The Wizard of Oz has always been the fact that these characters continually display the very characteristics that they are hoping to acquire; the “brainless” Scarecrow has clever ideas, the “cowardly” Lion saves them all with acts of bravery, and the “heartless” Tin Woodman shows affection and grace. I’m pleased that this facet of the story is so well featured in this particular production.

Sarah Olmstead Thomas is fantastic as both the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (she plays both– figure that!). Her portrayal of the Wicked Witch is as dramatic as her costume. Maggie Erwin welcomes Dorothy to Oz as the Good Witch of the North, and she also takes a memorable turn as the Guardian of the Gates and  gets a lot of laughs from the audience. Puppetry is also a big part of this show, and I loved it! Toto the dog is manipulated with a couple of rods, and a group of munchkins appear as oversized puppets as well.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is highly entertaining, with a talented cast, and thrilling costumes.

As a fixture of Glen Echo Park, Adventure Theatre MTC is a great place to welcome the warmer weather with your family, and their production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will be a hit with everyone…including you!

The cast of 'The WIzard of Oz.' Photo by Bruce Douglas.
The cast of ‘The WIzard of Oz.’ Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Running Time: One hour, without an intermission,

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz plays through May 25, 2015 at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 634-2270, or order them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif


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