bunt sign

Friday, July 28, 2000

The Summer Repertory Theatre's season has about a week to run, and I'm frantically trying to see as many productions as I can find time for. Tonight it was The Wizard of Oz, and I'm really glad I was able to see it.

I'm not going to critique it, except to say that it made me feel good. And that's a rarity these days.

The Burbank Auditorium on the Santa Rosa JC campus was packed with kids and adults, many of them related to members of the huge cast, crew and orchestra. Most of those in the company are college age, since it's a summer program for students to put together a series of professional repertory productions. Children from the community were cast as the Munchkins, so the average age in the room was considerably lower than at most local theater shows. But there were also a few older, paying customers like Mom and me (although we got our tickets with the company discount because she works as a volunteer usher there at times).

We also sat in the third row, so we could see and hear everything. At times we could hear the musicians a little too well, but the acoustics in that theater have improved in the twenty years or so I've been seeing plays there. And that is about the only halfway negative comment I'm going to make.

It was a joy to see the children in the audience respond to the familiar words and characters and the well-known songs. The play is adapted almost scene for scene from the film, and it's really kind of comforting to know what's coming. You don't have to second guess your responses to the action in front of you, when it's already there in your head. That's the case with most well-known plays, of course, but even more so when one is as thoroughly established and loved as this one.

Since the orchestra is easily accessible, there were children milling around even before the show started, and the young musicians graciously allowed them to get close and ask questions. The mother of one of the Munchkin kids sat across the aisle from us; I recognized her from the Romeo and Juliet audience. I don't know how many times she must have sat through this production since the season started in mid June, but she seemed to enjoy it as much as anyone.

The sets were simple but flexible, and you could easily imagine the many settings, from the Kansas farm to the enchanted forest. Wonderful lighting and sound effects were used to create the twister illusion, and many imaginative touches showed the affection with which the show was put together. I loved when the Munchkin children returned in the second act playing the field of poppies, and then used their capes to transform themselves into a snow-covered landscape.

All of the actors recreated the cinematic versions of their characters marvelously, and that was exactly the right way to go. Nobody wants to see any version of Dorothy that strays far from Judy Garland's portrayal. The one exception was William McNeil as the Cowardly Lion. He was Bert Lahr, sure, but with a slightly ironic twist on the old "dandy lion" thing. At any rate, he stole the show. It's a larger than life role anyway, but it takes a commanding stage presence and a lot of flair to pull it off as well as he did.

It was such a lively, entertaining show that it helped me shake the blues away at a time when I've been a little down. I'm seeing one more show, Sylvia, before the season ends, and now I'm looking forward to it even more.

previousbunt signemailnext

Latest recommendation:

Sari, ...phoenix rising..., July 28, a song is worth a thousand words

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
Subscribe to the notify list.

Either I'm too sensitive, or else I'm getting soft.