There is No  Place Like Home
And No Other SHOW  like “THE WIZARD OF OZ”
By Iride Aparicio

Photo Credit:  Daniel A. Swalec

Emmanuelle Zeesman as “Auntie Em’ Sara Lasko as Dorothy holding her dog Toto Randy Charleville as “Uncle Henry,” Morgan Reynolds as “Hunk,” Jay McGill as “Hickory and knelling, Aaron Fried as “Zeke” in the Kansas farm

SAN JOSÉ, CA – Those who are familiar with the story of  Dorothy, the farm girl from Kansas who after being swept over the rainbow by a tornado  realizes that happiness dwells in another place, can now see her story live, on the stage of the S.J. Center for the Performing Arts in the new adaptation of “The North American tour of the “WIZARD OF OZ,” a Broadway San José, Nederlander Presentation that will be shown until February 4th.

The show is based on “THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ” a novel written by LYMAN FRANK BAUM (l856-l919) under his pen name L FRANK BAUM. The German/Scott American author wrote fantasy novels and short stories but is better known for his children’s books. In l939 THE WIZARD his most famous story was adapted to a movie by MGM with the late JUDY GARLAND cast as Dorothy. She made famous the song “OVER THE RAINBOW.”

The new version of “THE WIZARD OF OZ” is fantastic in its visual technology. The Video projections designed by JON DRISCOLL and recreated by DANIEL BRODIE, combined with the sounds effects of MICK POTTER give the audience  the feeling of actually being sucked in a monster tornado. Dorothy’s house, flies in front of our eyes, Miss Gulch riding her bicycle flies along the house, and in one of the most marvelous effects of the night, we see the sky swarming with winged monkeys flying.

Another improvement in  “THE WIZARD of OZ” Adaptation, of ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER and JEREMY SAMS, (who directed  the show) is that this  production has the original music of HAROLD ARLEN and Lyrics of E.Y.HARBURG, that we all love, plus additional music of ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER and additional Lyrics of TIM RICE. In other words, more songs.

The present adaptation, premiere at the London Palladium Theatre in March of 2011,  and embarked on its U.S. Tour in September 2013, It features the same award-winning creative team from London. JEREMY SAMS (Director) ROBERT JONES (Set and costume) ARLENE PHILLIPS (choreography)  HUGH VANSTONE (lighting and design) JON DRISCOLL & DANIEL BRODIE (Video projection and design)

The sequence of the story, follows  the sequence of the film’s script. The musical starts in the Kansas farm with Auntie Em (EMMANUELLE ZEESMAN) frantically counting the  baby chicks in the incubator helped by Henry her husband (RANDY CHARLEVILLE). Their farm's dynamo is broken, and her three handy-men Hunk (MORGAN REYNOLDS) Hickory (JAY McGILL) and Zeke (AARON FRIED) are trying to fix it at the moment. When Dorothy (SARA LASKO) looking frightened comes to tell her that TOTO (dog provided by WILLIAM BERLONI) bit the leg of their neighbor Mrs. Gulch (SHANI HADJIAN) who plans to take him away because of that, Em tells her to leave her alone because she is busy doing something else. After each of the handy men tell her the same thing, Dorothy, feeling rejected, starts dreaming of a place that she heard mentioned once in a lullaby: Over the rainbow.


L-R Aaron Fried, Jay McGill, Morgan Reynolds and Sarah Lasko

On opening night, this first scene lacked energy, Em (ZEESMAN) needed more realism in her part. Miss Gulch delivered her complaint to Dorothy’s Aunt and Uncle looking at the audience, and Dorothy’s rendition of  “Over the Rainbow” lacked feeling.

But the rest of the was excellent in both the acting and singing. As Professor Marvel, (MARK A. HARMON introduced the new song “The marvels of the world.” while projecting scenes of the world to Dorothy. in a beautiful voce. HADJIA in her role as the Wicked Witch, ""Rd Shoes Blues" in his role as The Lion (FRIED) showed well his cowardice, The tin man (McGill) told us convincingly what he would do if he had a heart singing in a beautiful tone of voice. And  in his double role as scarecrow, REYNOLS was charming, and made all the correct decision  in spite that he had no brain. Glinda (RACHEL WOMBLE) was darling as the good witch.


The Company of the THE WIZARD OF OZ in “The Merry Old Land of OZ”

And the creative sets and costumes, the music, the singing, the Munchkins, the witches, and  the people of Emerald City made watching the show a delightful experience.. And we have to add the dances, the best one, the one danced by the Witches’ Soldiers holding wooden sticks on their hands which was marvelous,

While the show we saw on opening night was not perfect, (If rated it would be a 31/2 instead of four stars) it gave the audience a chance to escape, with Dorothy, over the rainbow, and even learn a thing or two from the Wizard about diplomas, hearts and medals. We can say that it is the best “WIZARD OF OZ” that has been presented to date on the stage. On that night. it got an standing ovation.