The tuneful score by the late James P. Doyle combines a variety of musical styles all of which are appropriate for the book. In addition, his clever wordplay constantly tickles the ears with bright insights. Joe Cascone has adapted Baum’s episodic book with a keen sense of theatrics. The concept here is that Baum is presenting his familiar tale with his touring troupe.
“Just a Touch of Humbug” they sing as they introduce the tale with an assortment of simple yet effective theatrical tricks. A series of splendid drops painted by Blain Berdan establish the locations. Sheila Lacasse provides an unending series of dazzling costumes for Munchkins, crows, field mice, flying monkeys and Hammerheads. These roles are all played by a small ensemble – just the size and type Baum would have toured with in his early years.
Bryan Chamberlain brings particular tenderness to the role of the Tin Woodman – a role he created in the original staging. Civic Light Opera favourite David Haines delights as the comically Cowardly Lion.
These three are so charismatic that any actress playing Dorothy has a challenge to keep up with them. Fortunately, Cascone has found Olivia Stupka who, on opening night, delighted audiences with her strong singing and sympathetic portrayal.
Carol Kugler as the Queen of the Field Mice uses her powerful voice to lead the ensemble in the revivalistic “Pull Together” – one of the highlights of the first act. Julie Lennick is a hilariously nasty Wicked With of the West, balanced by Sandi Horwitz who delights as the slightly sarcastic Good Witch of the North. In the final adventure Andrea Strayer uses her lilting voice to great advantage as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.
The whole production is overseen – both onstage and off – by Joe Cascone whose lifelong love of the Oz stories serves as inspiration to everyone involved.
This is perfect family entertainment, not to be missed. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another ten years for the company to revive this delightful musical.