“It’s a twister! A twister!” Suddenly, as crazy puppets circle a withered farmhouse, the audience is transported to the fanciful Land of Oz. The Madeira School’s vibrant “twist” on the much beloved “The Wizard of Oz” was imaginative and allowed the actors to create magical show that marked an afternoon well spent.
The original 1902 production of this acclaimed musical, based on the 1900s whimsical children’s story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written by L. Frank Baum, has since extended into a plethora of outlets from TV series to cinematography with the most famous being the 1939 film adaptation starring Judy Garland. The story revolves around a wishful Kansas farm girl, Dorothy Gale (Erica Glaser), who while running away to save her dog is caught in a tornado and whisked away to the quirky Land of Oz To get home, she must consult the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, but along the way she meets a Scarecrow (Gabrielle Bullard) in need of brains, a Tin Man (Anna Merod) in need of a heart, and a lion (Anna Bradley) without even a speck of courage. Hoping the Wizard will help, the group must face wicked witches, magic spells, and their own fears. However, when faced with the task of retrieving the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West (Alexandria Moriarty), the group may need a force even more powerful than magic to stop her: the faith among friends.
Erica Glasner was able to immerse herself into a personalized version of such an iconic role and kept a show full of wacky characterization grounded with an endearing wide-eyed charm. Displaying rich pure tones, her youthful attitude almost always seemed fresh and her chemistry with Toto (Puppeteer Clare Gillman) helped to capture the innocence and determination of the love existing between a girl and her dog. Breathing life into her puppet, Claire Gillman exhibited an evident skill that indicated her hard work.
Adding much hilarity to the production, Gabrielle Bullard’s vivacious spirit, superb choreography, and killer vocals highlighted her skills as a performer and her infectious passion commanded attention whenever she appeared. As a group, the four main characters had wonderful chemistry as well as impeccable timing that were overall generally consistent. Vocally, the group crafted brilliant harmonies that built off of the individual voices of each member, ending certain numbers with gusto.
Each cast member put her own special stamp on her character, allowing all to fully embrace the fanciful nature of the piece. One standout was Katelynn Barack, whose undeniable presence and creative expressions, without being too distracting, made her a delight to watch. While there were some timing issues during a few musical numbers and at times a lack of energy, overall the cast demonstrated a vivacious personality.
The stage crew, orchestrating a wide array of puppets, was more than efficient, as they seemed to almost be absorbed into the scenes. While some the crew seemed disengaged, this was more than made up by the crisp cues and stable flow of the rest of the crew.
When delivering a classic it can be unnerving to deviate from the expected, yet the students at The Madeira School succeeded with bright sincerity. In spite of some minor drawbacks, it doesn’t take a brain to see their heartfelt rendition of “The Wizard of Oz” proved that in order to achieve greatness, one just needs a little bit of courage