On Wednesday, Petunia and I had the privilege of being guests of SHN* for the opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. I have long been on record as a huge fan of seeing productions at the Orpheum, San Francisco’s gorgeous, intimate gem of a theater. Our seats for the night were in the orchestra section, rather toward the middle, so we enjoyed a pretty spectacular view of this marvelous production.
What made it special? For starters, it felt very San Franciscan, especially because of the colossal neon rainbow (pictured above) evident for much of the production. It looks like something straight out of a 70s disco and is just fabulous, overshadowed only by Glinda’s (played by Robin Evan Willis) spectacular entrance in a dress that also looked very disco – sparkling, glittery, and silvery. Her magnificent character stole the half of the show that the loveable scarecrow did not steal. He, the Tin Man, and the Lion are a rather funny trio. And the real, live Toto –- a rescued Cairn terrier –- garnered the biggest applause upon entrance and end.
This performance stood out because of some new songs and dance numbers; the ensemble works well together throughout them. I am so used to seeing munchkins as small, so their full-size was a bit of a surprise, as was the witches’ hair, collectively shaped into some sort of funnel-updo that neither Petunia nor I cared for – just too sci-fi, really. We also tended to think that Dorothy, played by Danielle Wade, was kinda “meh” – but in some ways, that’s good. It did not feel like the whole production was staged only around her. It felt more balanced than, say, the movie. And plus, since every Dorothy ever is going to be held up against Judy Garland, well, them’s big shoes to fill. But this one has a non-traditional path to the Broadway stage: the Canadian public chose her as she competed on a reality show called “Over the Rainbow” on CBC-TV.
While it’s not Wicked, this round of The Wizard of Oz still delivers a great production of a classic tale. I would see it again and recommend it to friends, even those with small children. The flying monkeys are markedly less scary than in Wicked. And the way the play also uses some movie theater-type projections of images adds some depth and interest. I would see it again with a friend, so it gets a thumbs-up from me. Enjoy the show!
The Wizard of Oz will play at the SHN Orpheum Theatre from October 16-27. Tickets are available at www.shnsf.com or 888-746-1799.
*Note: I received complementary tickets to the show courtesy of SHN and committed to writing a review; however, I did not commit to writing a favorable one. These opinions are entirely my own, and I actually did enjoy the show and encourage you to see it for yourself, especially if you can do so at the Orpheum.