Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
A well-known and much-loved classic played this weekend at the Swartz Creek Performing Arts Center as Light in the Dark Musical Theatre’s production of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz opened with a matinee and evening performance on Saturday. It’s an ambitious undertaking for a number of reasons, but it is not without its highlights.
Beginning its second year, Light in the Dark Musical Theatre Co. took advantage of the generous playing space to put an amazingly large group of “munchkins” in their cast. Marshaling a bevy of youngsters is tough for any reason, but when they must be ready to “take the stage” on time, move in at least semi-sync and sing in unison, it is a major achievement when they do it. Kudos to directors Stephen Visser and Joshua Bleau for wrangling this young troupe (we counted 30+)!
The Wizard of Oz may be most familiar via the film version. (Remember, it started in black and white and then became color upon Dorothy’s arrival in Oz. Technicolor was new back then.) So, having been whisked away in a cyclone, house and all, the story really began after Dorothy landed, house and all, on top of the Wicked Witch of the East. Interestingly, the brown tone set switched to a colorful background at this point.
Microphones are used in this show to some affect. They were not always equal in their sound projection and, it could be somewhat hard to hear each equally.
Still, certain players stood out both as performers and singers. As Dorothy, Clio sophomore Sarah Falardeau was perky and adorable with a crisp, strong voice and competent command of the stage. She set the tone throughout and often brought order when it threatened to breakdown.
Dawn Sabourin was terrific as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her screeching laugh and menacing air along with her impressive stage presence made her worth the price of admission.
While Joshua Bleau (Scarecrow/Hank) and Jeremy Love (Tinman/Hickory) both have strong voices, they were handily overpowered by Aaron Furman (Cowardly Lion/Zeke) in the vocal department. Furman’s voice was strong and powerful enough to bypass the mic if necessary. Still, as a trio these three were comical and fun to watch as they managed to find the Wizard and fulfill their dreams.
The rest of the story is intact – the Witch is overcome and everyone gets what they wanted. Dorothy keeps the ruby slippers, and there’s still “no place like home” in the end.
A few things bothered us about this production. First was the lag time between scenes. The curtain seems to unnecessarily go down too often only to reveal nothing changed when it rises.
We also wondered if the music (taped) was slowing the action as so often happens when actors must wait for music.
Sets were minimal and might have been easily changed without the curtain in order to move the action along. In that case, backdrop projections could have eased in slowly as well.
We loved the literal “light in the dark” on stage at the outset. A nice, symbolic touch. Still we wish this troupe would consider using live musicians (if only a piano) to accompany their future shows. Musicals are a huge undertaking. There is so much more to producing them, and if this troupe plans to do them exclusively, then a system including live music needs to be part of the plan. (Just our opinion.)
The Wizard of Oz has one more performance today at 2:30 pm. Skedaddle over to Swartz Creek and catch this one if you can!