Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”
Production: The Wizard of Oz
Theater: Seven Angels Theater
Writer: L. Frank Baum
Book: John Kane
Music/Lyrics: Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg
Director: James Donahue
The Howard’s Exhale – “A Childhood Film Favorite comes to vibrant life- Oz-tastic!
Lavishly and authentically recreated, we offer bows and applause-to Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury, CT for their current masterful musical reproduction of the 1939 MGM Technicolored film – The Wizard of Oz, considered “one of the greatest films in cinema history”. Offering fantasy, a sentimental score by Harold Arlen and E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and such memorable characters as The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion and The Scarecrow- take a most fantastic walk down the Yellow Brick Road from Munchkinland to the Emerald City in an effort to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West and help our beloved Dorothy, and Toto too, return to her home somewhere over the rainbow. My friends – this production has heart, it has brains, it has courage – it’s an Emerald Gem!
On this sultry early summer day, the Seven Angels theater is literally packed, free ice cream day aside, the theater is full of families, young and old to see this musical version of The Wizard of Oz. Observing tender tots dressed in either full Dorothy Gale regalia, from blue and white gingham dress to red ruby slippers, cowardly lions in tails, Reynolds-wrapped tin men, and scruffy scarecrows makes one think there is an “Oz-Con” taking place here instead of a musical being presented. Who knew, OZ was such an upswing affair, as I overhear a young boy adorned with “faux paws” and fighting off invisible “Winkies”, repeatedly say to his dad “I’m a mean old lion”!
As a child of the somewhat innocent ‘60’s, I so recall our entire family gathering around our old black and white Zenith Television to watch “the event” – “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton and Frank Morgan as The Wizard. It wasn’t till many years later that I was able to see the film as intended in vibrant color, and in its entirety- or so I thought. Unbeknownst to many – the film because of running time issues, actually had planned songs and dialogue missing.
What makes this production an exceptional experience, Seven Angels has quite rightly utilized the 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company’s rendition, which uses the original screenplay, dialogue, original unheard songs such as “The Jitterbug”, and various song introductory verses rarely ever heard including that from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” – “When all the world is a hopeless jumble, And the raindrops tumble all around, Heaven opens a magic lane, When all the clouds darken up the skyway, There’s a rainbow highway to be found, Leading from your window pane, To a place beyond the sun, Just a step beyond the rain, Somewhere over the rainbow…” Absolutely beautiful and not to be missed by Oz–aficionados.
A good cast is worth repeating- let me justly say I was mighty impressed with our Seven Angels Cast and ensemble, including: Madeleine Tommins as our courageous Dorothy; Justin Torres as The Scarecrow; Carey Cannata as The Tin Man; James Donahue as The Cowardly Lion (perfectly cast – he reminds one of a young Bert Lahr); Cristin Marshall as Glinda – (your creative bubbly bubble entrance was oh too cute) and Joe Stofko as the stoic Uncle Henry.
Our witchipoo aka “The Wicked Witch”, Pam Amodio, reminded me more of Nanny “Euphengenia Doubtfire” at times, which is a good thing, witches can be scary for an audience mostly of young children. But in another world, we had wished she had given it a bit more of the ‘ol Margaret Hamilton-esque slant, especially when provided the gem “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too”- wow now that’s a line!
And now for the coveted “ Howard Noticed You Awards” this time we honor two- firstly Mr. Robert Melendez as the Oz Guard, this up and coming actor is a “scene stealer” when on stage, singing/dancing/acting, and that hair of his has a mind of it’s own- good job. Second- the well renown and acclaimed actor – Mr. Scott Kealey as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Professor Marvel” – folks literally traveled from throughout New England to see Scott in performance- and so did I – excellent- a hearty applause of appreciation!
Seven Angels Theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” is beautifully crafted for the stage, and brought forth joyful tears to this reviewer and a grateful audience. Enjoy!
“The Wizard of Oz” is currently being produced at Seven Angels Theater. For tickets call the box office at 203-757-4676, online at SevenAngelsTheatre.org, or at the box office at 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. Free Parking. Just off I-84. GPS directions use: Hamilton Park, Waterbury.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.