By Chris Zuver, A&E Editor
From October 19 through 22, the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center put on a show that brought both nostalgia and fascination to all who attended, with the fall-season staple: “The Wizard of Oz.” The theatre was packed with people of all ages. Some were coming to relive the timeless story from their childhood while others were experiencing the story for the first time.
The tale of Dorothy’s journey through the Land of Oz was presented in the style of the famous 1939 film. The actors were beyond convincing, speaking all of the famous lines as well as adding some more modern phrases and jokes to connect to the audience. Most notably, the Witch of the West was cruel, but also self-absorbed and sassy. Her iconic laugh was enough to elicit goosebumps.
Special effects mostly relied on actors and a background screen. There were also some minor fire effects and wires used occasionally for Glinda the Good Witch as she flew on and off stage, or in the famous tornado scene where both Dorothy and Miss Gulch are flown into the sky by the wind. Overall, the scenery brought the story to the audience in a larger-than-life sort of way. The colors ranged from lush and vibrant, to dark and disturbing. In other words, the environments matched the mood.
The play was divided into two acts. The first featured Dorothy’s trip to the Land of Oz and her trip down the yellow brick road where she meets her friends. The second act starts with the arrival at the emerald city, the group’s final confrontation with the Witch of the West, and finally Dorothy’s return to Kansas.
The play starred Elizabeth Teeter as Dorothy, Drew Humphrey as Hunk/the Scarecrow, Martin Fox as Hickory/the Tin Man, Patrick Blindauer as Zeke/the Cowardly Lion, and, of course, Nessa as Toto.
The music was provided by two ensembles and an orchestra. The ensembles included one for adults and one for kids and teens. The adult ensemble consisted of members of the Actors’ Equity Association, The Big Muddy Dance Co., and Webster University’s Conservatory for Theatre Arts. The orchestra consisted of members of Musicians’ Association Local 2-197 as well as a few members of the University of Missouri-St. Louis Orchestra.
Costumes were made and provided by the Kansas City Costume Company.
The play was presented by the Variety Children’s Theatre, which featured some 58 children with disabilities both onstage and backstage. The integration was done fantastically, with every actor and actress helping to create the cast of Oz.
Variety created the Children’s Theater nine years ago. Since then, they have worked hard to perform a different production each year. Past productions include “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Annie,” “Peter Pan,” and “Mary Poppins.” The group works with children ages 7 through 21.
For decades, this has been the time of year that the classic 1939 film has been watched on TV’s nationwide. This live performance was a great chance for both young and old to experience a now-traditional tale of over a hundred years in-person.