Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Disgraced
Children old enough to sit still through a two-act musical but young enough to love The Wizard of Oz uncritically are the best audience for the non-Equity touring production of the musical at Washington's National Theatre through May 15although adaptors Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams have sneaked in a few anachronisms and witty lines for their parents.
Webber and Sams, who also directed, based their adaptation very closely on the classic 1939 film, even using pieces of Herbert Stothart's film underscoring and bookending the vividly colorful Oz scenes with sepia-toned opening and closing moments in Kansas. They also build up the first scene with extensive foreshadowing that Oz-lovers will catch immediately.
The beloved songs by Harold Arlen (music) and E.Y. Harburg (lyrics) are still there, along with some serviceable new ones by Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. Both the Wizard and Professor Marvel (Mark A. Harmon) now have solo numbers, as does the Wicked Witch of the West (Shani Hadjian), whose song ("Red Shoes Blues") sounds like something a Disney villain might sing.
As Dorothy, Sarah Lasko wisely avoids any imitation of Judy Garland. She gives a straightforward performance that shows Dorothy as what she is: a girl in her early teens trying to deal with the uncertainties of growing up. Harmon is suitably pompous, if a little youthful, in both his roles.
Aaron Fried as the Cowardly Lion gets to show off more than the Scarecrow (Morgan Reynolds) or the Tin Man (Jay McGill). Glinda (Rachel Womble) makes her entrance in a sparkling costume that's also part of the scenery (set and costumes both designed by Robert Jones), while the Wicked Witch wears a dark dress that appears to have been made out of leaves and her skin is a garish shade of chartreuse.
Jon Driscoll's video and production design, recreated by Daniel Brodie, and Hugh Vanstone's lighting design bring the audience into the heart of the tornado and provide an ever-present rainbow that occasionally shifts color. Jones has created a clever set with moving parts that allow for quick shifts and his costumes for the Emerald City residents are notable for their detail and shine.
The National Theatre