Gabe Petri, Dustin Behr, Lil Clarke, & Josh Frost. Photo courtesy Lil Clarke.
The Wizard of Oz
By L. Frank Baum
Book adaption by John Kane
With Music & Lyrics of the MGM motion picture score by Harold Arien & E.Y. Harburg
Background music by Herbert Stothart
Directed by C. Kevin Swansey
Review by Leila Toba
Entire contents are copyright © 2019, by Leila Toba. All rights reserved.
Upon entering, you will see that Clarksville Little Theater has happily arranged a cheerful array of Oz Paraphernalia, where one immediately takes delight in the nostalgia of this timeless classic. For small donations, an audience member has a chance at winning one of these cherished antiques and items. The curtains open up on a modest set of Dorothy Gale’s home, a farm she lives at with her Aunt Em (Jeannette Helbig) and Uncle Henry (Ben James). Auntie Em and Henry are tending to baby chicks whilst the farm hands fiddle with a faulty wheelbarrow. The cast has already charmed the audience by playing together well, and appropriately setting a tone of fondness of one another. Lil Clarke is committed as Dorothy, effortlessly playing up the heightened distress of a young woman on the verge of losing her only friend. Her voice is lovely as the heroine of this tale. She is well supported by her companions The Scarecrow (Josh Frost), The Tin Man, (Gabe Petri), and The Cowardly Lion, (Dustin Behr) as she is spirited to the Merry Old Land of Oz. Frost Is bold as Scarecrow, making clever and deliberate choices in his delivery, to the great pleasure of his audience, and has a wonderful cadence to his voice. Petri rises to the occasion, with strong vocals and the innocent charm that matches well his friends. Behr was an absolute treasure as The Cowardly Lion, with powerhouse singing, honoring the classic concept of the original character, and still keeping the character uniquely his own.
As the story moves along, the set changes are wonderful, and dance performances by an adept cast create a highly imaginative and graceful rendering of the tornado, thanks to choreographer Donna Baird, whose work is meaningful and concise, despite the challenges of working with a young and sizable cast. The Munchkins are darling and energetic, a pleasure to watch. Baird is also gentle and soothing to see as Glinda, The Good Witch of the North. On the flip side of things, The Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Miller) is played out fearlessly. Her cackles and energy are exciting and adhere truthfully to the character. It is fun being in the audience and feeling playfully afraid when you hear her title song play. The Great and Terrible Oz (Jerry Prince) is lovable in this role, playing up the occasional dimwitted innocence, yet with care for the plight of those seeking his help.
The Land of Oz would not be complete without the commitment shown by the ensemble members. Quick costume and set changes prove this bunch to be the sturdy foundation of this show. The costumes by C. Kevin Swansey and Donna Baird are bright and lively. The ever-changing set design with the work of Swansey, Baird, Jerry Prince Christopher Stroud, Josh Fawbush, and Nicole Meisner, made this very difficult staging with many locations seem easy, while still retaining the exciting allure of all of the major themes in this universe.
The Wizard of Oz at Clarksville Little Theatre is beautifully executed by staying true to the origins of this classic story, yet being bold enough to create an original performance. With the combination of a winning cast and superb direction by C. Kevin Swansey, this trip down memory lane is not one to be missed. And while taking smaller children to the theatre can pose its challenges, I took my five-year-old niece Audrey with me, and she was utterly enraptured throughout the entire performance. You’re never too young, and you’re never too old. So if you get a chance, bring the whole family. Stories like these are meant to be shared with your loved ones, and a night or afternoon at this one will create a memory that will last a lifetime.
The Wizard of Oz
May 10, 11, 17, 18 @7:30 pm
May 12, 19 @ 2 pm
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129
Leila Toba is an actress who has worked with various theatre companies in Louisville.