By PAM HARBAUGH
Audiences are off to see the Wizard in the Henegar Center’s fun, lively and oh-so-colorful production of the musical “The Wizard of Oz.”
The show, directed by Hank Rion, is such a delight. Although Mr. Rion may not have wanted comparisons to the movie, it’s quite impossible not to do so. I’m happy to say this is a most faithful retelling of this story and it has all the elements you have come to love and, yes, expect…plus more.
That’s not to say you won’t be surprised. Because you will thanks to some gorgeous visuals (bravo scenic designer Austin Butler) that help transport you back to Great Depression era Kansas then whisks you away courtesy of a tornado to the boldly colorful Land of Oz.
If you’ve never seen the movie, then pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…that is…all that follows because it is laden with spoilers.
It begins in an absolutely gorgeous black and white setting where Dorothy (a sweet voiced and spirited Kirstin Williams) sings her pitch-perfect lament, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Fast forward little bit and you’re inside a tornado (cleverly created by lighting designer Joshua Huss)…and boom! You’ve landed in a place bursting with color, witches and absolutely adorable munchkins (children’s director Christine Manning Brandt spins her magic), headed up by their Munchkin Mayor (such a funny Aidan Holihan).
The Wicked Witch of the West (Dion Khan) chews up the scenery the way she’s supposed to…we would all be so disappointed if she (he) didn’t. And the good witch, Glinda (Whitney Baldwin) sets Dorothy and Toto on their way down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz.
I mean really…what’s not to love already?
But then you get the fun antics of the Scarecrow (a sublime Dillon Giles), the Tin Man (the amazing Daniel Grest, he who makes just-everything-look-so-easy) and the Cowardly Lion (a most funny Richard Klenotich II) who, I’m sincerely happy to say, is modeled after Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion in the 1939 movie, which is exactly what he should do because that’s what we all want, right? Terrific makeup work here, as well (congrats to makeup designer Traci Wines and her crew).
And you haven’t even arrived yet at the Emerald City. So, yes, in case you’re wondering, this show does give you your money’s worth.
Emerald City dazzles with every shade of green you can imagine. And the Wizard (a sonorous Rob Landers) is properly scary and commanding one moment then soft and cuddly the next. The fearless foursome venture into a forbidding forest, get captured by flying monkeys (OMG the costumes in this show…huge shout out to designers Andrew Cline and Vanessa Glenn and their costume construction crew).
Oh..wait…the pyrotechnics. There will be those (created by Steve Rossi) and they do thrill especially in the Wizard’s great hall.
So you have all this and heaven too — in this case, heaven is a terrific pit orchestra led by conductor Jordan Evans. It’s also very sweet music direction by Kaimi Lucker and lovely choreography by Kim Cole.
But all Dorothy wants is to get back to Kansas and to Uncle Henry (Mitch Abrams) and Auntie Em (Ann Travolta), because, after all, (say this with me please) “There’s no place like home.”
Wow. And there’s no place like to Henegar to set all these moving parts into a unified whole designed to delight. And that it does.
If you want to see a little video from opening night, click here.
SIDE o’ GRITS: “The Wizard of Oz” runs through Dec. 20 at the Henegar Center, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $16 to $26. Call 321-723-8698 or visit Henegar.org.