It has been seven months since Enlightened Theatrics’ last production (The 1940s Radio Hour in December), but now that they are back on the boards, they fully delivered. The Wizard of Oz, directed by Vincenzo Meduri, is a theatrical feast that provides high quality, high class entertainment for the entire family.
Enlightened is known for bringing in professional, out-of-town talent, but with Oz it’s the Salem natives who steal the show, starting with Phoebe Jacobs of West Salem High School as Dorothy. Not only does she absolutely nail “Over the Rainbow,” but her charm and vocals keep the audience captivated through the entire show. She is matched by Tiffany Carstensen, Director of Theatre at McKay High School, as the menacing Wicked Witch of the West. Carstensen veritably channels Margaret Hamilton from the film, delighting the audience with each cackle and jeer. Portland’s Cassi Q Kohl is another stand-out as the floppy-armed Scarecrow. And while we are on the topic of a female Scarecrow—who fit in seamlessly, by the way—let me compliment Enlightened on its overall DIVERSITY OF CASTING. Let’s have more of that, please.
In addition to strong performances in acting, singing, and dancing across the board, the real feast comes from the technical marvels of the show. Rear-wall CGI projections provide both sweeping landscapes and special effects, an effective choice for covering the more cinematic aspects of the story. The lighting design not only sets the mood, but seeps into the house, creating a subtly immersive experience. Compliments as well to costume and make-up, which perfectly capture the fantastic inhabitants of Oz while remaining theatrical.
The plot follows The Wizard of Oz as you remember it from the classic film (adapted from L. Frank Baum’s novel, of course), with dialog and songs taken straight from the movie. But there are moments you haven’t seen, including corny puns, original choreography, and an entirely new number: “The Jitterbug,” filmed but cut from the classic film. While most performances remain close to their cinematic forebears, there are actually some improvements. Actor Kyle Jack’s Cowardly Lion took my least favorite song from the movie (“King of the Forest”) and turned it into a highlight of the second act. Bert Lahr’s performance in the film was always too simpering for me; Jack’s Lion is sympathetic, funny, and just the tiniest bit affected, but without any of Lahr’s self-indulgence.
There are a couple of loud bangs that may be “surprising” for young viewers, but the show is completely safe and un-scary (and tickets for those 17 and under are now just $10). The Wizard of Oz runs through August 28. Don’t miss it.
Summer Theatre in the Valley
If you missed the outdoor Shakespeare by Keizer Homegrown and the Valley Shakespeare Company, or the original readings by Theatre 33, don’t worry; there is more summer theatre coming up.
• Brush Creek Playhouse presents Love in the Cucumber Patch, a melodrama for the whole family, through August 14.
• Theatre 33 puts on its first fully-staged production, the one-woman show Maresfield Gardens, starring Susan Coromel, August 11–13.
• S.K.I.T. Theatre presents The Hobbit, a summer workshop production, August 13 only.
• Pentacle Theatre kicks off its next musical, 9 to 5, opening August 19.