As a kid, I watched The Wizard of Oz annually on TV. The 1939 film is a classic, and its stars, including Judy Garland as Dorothy, songs and lines are iconic. Now it’s been turned into a stage musical.
Unfortunately, a touring version of The Wizard of Oz, at the Aronoff for a two-week run, never gets beyond reproducing the film. A frame around the stage is illustrated with strips of film and reels, and sets are backed with sepia-toned video projections. Lots of colorful costumes, scenes and special effects mimic the film’s ambiance.
This Wizard of Oz hasn’t decided whether it’s a Broadway musical (truth to tell, it’s never been near Broadway) or a children’s show (the cast uses more than a dozen local “Munchkins”). But it’s marketed as the former, and tickets (as much as $65) are priced just like other Broadway Across America shows at the Aronoff. This Wizard is too familiar for most adults and way too long for kids.
The charming source material provides occasionally entertaining moments, including a scary depiction of the storm with the farmhouse swirling away to Oz. This is a non-Equity tour (the performers are not members of the professional actors union). As Dorothy, Cassie Okenka is just adequate, but her companions — Noah Aberlin as the loose-limbed Scarecrow, Chris Kind as the clanking Tinman and Jason Simon as the Cowardly Lion — truly remind us of their familiar characters.
The farmhands have coy lines (about intelligence, soul and bravery) in the opening scene to nudge us regarding characters they’ll soon play. We’re offered a few references to current Broadway hits, like Lion King. But most of this show is a soulless hodge-podge that needs to be shortened.
Some kids on opening night enjoyed The Wizard of Oz with wide-eyed wonder. But just as many talked, fussed and whined, especially as 10 p.m. came and went. I’m not sure whom this show was intended to please.
THE WIZARD OF OZ, presented by Broadway Across America at the Aronoff Center's Procter & Gamble Hall, continues through Nov. 23. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.