The Waco Civic Theatre's production of "The Wizard Of Oz," which begins its final weekend Thursday night, is a familiar and enjoyable one, if a bit stuffed.
Stuffed as filled with video projections of Kansas backgrounds, objects caught up in the tornado and the Wizard's fearsome talking head; plenty of Munchkins, Ozians and Winkies, all singing and dancing; characters who fly above the stage; a singing, apple-throwing Enchanted Forest; crow puppets; tap dance, a "Jitterbug" dance number done under black light; and live dogs.
No tigers and bears, oh my, but plenty more than lions.
It's no wonder that the stage production runs considerably longer than the iconic 1939 film it closely follows, clocking in at more than two hours, and it's a credit to director Lauren Weber, stage manager Katy Davis and the company that all these parts hold together and — the important part — entertain.
Fans of the movie, who with families are the target audience here, will find the story and characters intact. Kansas farm girl Dorothy (Kaleigh Huser) gets swept up in a tornado while running away from home, journeys in a fantasy land with a Scarecrow (Joey Tamayo), Tinman (Chris Coley) and Cowardly Lion (Henry Beard). They face obstacles from a Wicked Witch (a deliciously cackling Kristi Humphreys) and help from a good one, Glinda (Amanda Chancey), before finding the answer that leads her back home to Aunt Em (Cathy Hawes) and Uncle Henry (Piers Bateman).
The principals' singing is uniformly strong, a combination of individual talent and Christie Lujan's music direction, and the acting is solid enough. To be fair, they're in a difficult place: With dialogue, songs and an orchestral backing track largely intact from the movie, there's not a lot of room to put a personal stamp on a character; at the same time, there's peril in mimicking iconic performances, which (thankfully) doesn't happen.
There are a few non-movie references throughout the production, most notably a nod to the musical "Wicked," whose storyline is a "Wizard of Oz" spinoff, in the Oz logos seen in the Emerald City and a funny "Lion King" reference in the Cowardly Lion's solo.
Kelsey Ward's choreography is varied, from the group choruses of Munchkins to a tap routine by green-clad Ozians, swaying enchanted trees and a jitterbug-inspired "The Jitterbug," a number cut from the movie and performed with fluorescent costumes in black light.
Cory Garrett's scenic and technical design incorporates a lot of different elements, from Bryan Harman's video projections that echo the movie — in sepia for the Kansas scenes and complete with a filmic "The End" close — to clever movable panels that set the action in Kansas, Munchkin Land, the Emerald City and the witch's castle, all the while leaving space for a flying witch, Glinda, Dorothy and a winged monkey.
Breshena Crosby's costuming also covers a wide territory with the multiple shadings of green for Ozians the most appealing, though the use of rainbow-like striping and white in Munchkin outfits somewhat diminishes the impact that solid bright colors would have had.
The WCT's "Wizard of Oz" is what it is, but it accomplishes its goal of a well-performed, entertaining stage adaptation of a beloved story.
Reviewed here was the Ruby cast, which alternates performances with the Emerald cast. Principals in the Emerald cast are Evie Kunch (Dorothy), Reagan Seiler (Scarecrow), Jonah Hardt (Tinman) and Bill Selby (Cowardly Lion). For Toto fans, Roedi is the Ruby cast Toto, George the Emerald. The Emerald cast will start this weekend's run on Thursday night.
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Waco High School's Richfield Performing Arts Center, 2020 N. 42nd St.