A Girl, Her Little Dog and “The Wizard of Oz”
By Skip Sheffield
Imagine the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” as a Disney theme park attraction. The special effects extravaganza running through Jan. 19 at Broward Center of The Arts is a lot like that.
This new version of “The Wizard of Oz” opened first in England in 2011 then had its North American premiere Dec. 20, 2012 in Toronto, where it continued through Aug. 18, 2013. It combines the best Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg songs from the beloved 1939 MGM movie with new tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Danielle Wade, who was chosen by the Canadian public from her performance of the CBS reality show “Over the Rainbow,” is reprising her starring role as Dorothy Gale. Also reprising his Broadway role is a very talented dog named Nigel, portraying Dorothy’s scene-stealing pup Toto.
As in the movie, there is a prelude set on the Gale farm in Kansas, where we meet characters that will recur once a huge cyclone hits and lands Dorothy and her house in the Technicolor Land of Oz, crushing the Wicked Witch of the east in the process.
New songs, such as the opener “Nobody Understands Me” serve to flesh out the character of Dorothy and her motivations.
Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers figure even more prominently in this new book by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams. They even get their own theme song: “Red Shoes Blues,” sung by the Wicked Witch of the West and her Winkies.
Jacquelyn Pio Donovan’s Wicked Witch is curvier, sexier and funnier than Margaret Hamilton’s old prune in the movie.
The Scarecrow (Jamie McKnight), Tin Man (Mike Jackson) and Cowardly Lion (Lee MacDougal) are all younger and more attractive than their film counterparts.
Jay Brazeau is most kindly and appealing as the fraudulent Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz.
Special effects and giant video projections play a big part in this show. As of opening night there were some problems with microphone levels, which should be sorted out by the time you read this.
None of the new tunes are as timeless and catchy as the 1939 score. Only the show’s finale, “Already Home,” is really lovely.
Speaking of lovely, Danielle Wade is, in a sweet and girlish way, though her singing is no match for the incomparable Judy Garland.
As family entertainment it is hard to fault this show, though the cinematic chemistry and magic of the 1939 movie may never be surpassed.
Tickets are $34.50-$89.50. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.