A family classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” is the Centenary Stage Company’s delightful holiday season offering. This is a joyous, highly entertaining all-family event that will charm the adults and “wow” the junior members. This production is beautifully directed and choreographed by Broadway, film, and television veteran Michael Blevins. Working with an enormous cast of 50, Blevins presents a surprisingly faithful recreation of the classic MGM film. The adaptation for the stage is by Frank Gabrielson and John Kane. They developed it for Britain’s highly honored Royal Shakespeare Company where it has become an annual event.
The music, of course, is directly from the film score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Incidental music, based largely on the songs, was by Herbert Stothart, with borrowings from classical composers. The story is from the 1900 book by Frank Baum. It was first produced on Broadway as a musical in 1902 by Baum!
Blevins, as the choreographer, has this large cast dancing at almost every turn. It is a spirited, enthusiastic collection of dance numbers featuring several dance pros working with a highly energetic group of dancers from Centenary’s excellent Young Performers troupe. The dance highlight is a number that was cut from the original movie “The Jitterbug.”
The musical highlight is, what else could it be, the song that was crowned the number one movie musical song of the 20th Century, the Academy Award-winning “Over The Rainbow.” The song receives a particularly fine presentation by the very impressive young lady who is Dorothy Gale-McKenzie Custin. She not only has a beautiful voice, but is a fine, charming actress who does the magic red shoes proud. She is ably assisted by the big scene stealer….Toto. Unlike the movie where the dog is a black terrier, Toto, played by Magic, appears to be a (white) Bichon Frise. Magic is owned by cast member Anthony Zas.
Blevins, as the director, has nicely cast the leading roles, first with the before-mentioned McKenzie Custin as Dorothy; playing a perfect Aunt Em is CSC member Lea Antolini-Lid; CSC artistic director Carl Wallnau is naturally fine as the Kansas farmer Uncle Henry. The three farmhands are all standout performers; Nick Ardito-Martelli demonstrates his tap-dancing talent as Hickory and the Tin Woodsman, Saquan Williams excels as Hunk and the “boneless” Scarecrow and the equity pro Jeremy William Hilgert is beyond perfect, if possible, as Zeke and the Cowardly Lion.
Miss Almira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West are played with proper nastiness by Broadway veteran Colleen Smith Wallnau. Steven Davis is spot-on as Professor Marvel and the Wizard. The beautiful good witch Glinda is played by Jessica Rzucidlo. Last, and possibly having the most fun in his role as the Wizard’s Guard, is James J. Nester. It is the obvious pleasure each of these actors is having that adds greatly to the over all enjoyment of this fine version of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Supporting the leads as singers and dancers are 16 ensemble members and 24 Centenary Young Performers. Their names are included below. Music is ably provided by a ten member orchestra led by music director Kevin Lynch. The members are Susan Braden, Rayne Cafaro, Kaitlyn Fay, Sarah Culp, Pam Dragosh, Shire Feingold, Stacey McCaffery, Gabe Valle and Anthony Bevilacqua.
One of the highlights of this production is the flying of the the Witches, the Wizard and the monkeys, a first for the Centenary Stage Company. The flying is the work of the highly repected theatrical flying service Flying by Foy.
Major credits: producers- Carl Wallnau, CSC artistic director and Catherine Rust, general manager; director/choreographer- Michael Blevins, assistant director- James J. Nester; assistant to director/choreographer- Jenna Black and Anthony Zas; costume design-Julia Sharp; set design- Will Rothfuss; light design- Elizabeth Sutherland; props master- Dani Pietrowski; make-up crew head- Amanda Roy; and production stage manager- James Russo.
ENSEMBLE: Dana Bartolomeo, Jon Bodi, Scott Ryan Braid, Laura Cantwell, Dan Compton, Kyle Dylan Conner, Christiane Darensbourg, Sarah Farber, Deborah Heagen, Lisa Kosak, Morgan Mack, Megan McGill, Samantha Santana, Laura Santarelli, Brittany Wienstein and Dita Wieser.
CENTENARY YOUNG PERFORMERS: Jenna Black, Jared Cowley, Raegan Davies, Jessica DeFort, Tyler Donovan, Alex Evans, Albert Garrido, Ciera Gross, Neil Ianniello, Sara Lee, Erin Martire, Lexie Miller, Andrew Nussbaum, Suzanna Nussbaum, Quinn O‘Hara, Raphael Pelczmann, Sydney Phythian, Kiana Rodriguez, Hanna Rose, Christina Stanton, Katie Yarussi, Meghan Yarussi, Anthony Zas and Dennis Zuravlev.
Again, if you are ready for a perfect fun event for the holiday season a visit to the comfortable Sitnik Theatre in the David and Carol Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College will not disappoint. Be warned however, that youngsters in the family may get the bug from seeing so many talented young people on stage….the acting bug, of course. It was a delight to visit Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion and Toto, too, in Hackettstown.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio November 25, 2012
“The Wizard of Oz” will run until December 9th. Tickets range from $20-$29.50 with discounts for students and seniors. Every Thursday night is “Family Night,” which offers a 2-for-1 rush ticket price when purchased at the door. Performance times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be a 2 p.m. matinee on Wednesday, November 28th plus 10 a.m. school matinees on Tuesday, December 4th and Wednesday, December 5th. There is 10 minute intermission between Act I and Act II.
The Friday, November 30th performance of The Wizard of Oz will coincide with Hackettstown’s Hometown Holiday Celebration, which will include the arrival of Santa in a horse-drawn sleigh, horse-drawn carriage rides between Centenary and the Holiday Gazebo, a parade featuring the Colonial Musketeers, performances by local choirs and a holiday bazaar. For more information on the celebration, visit the Hackettstown Business Improvement District website at hackettstownbid.com.
The dining hall at the Lackland Center will also host a special Yule Fest dinner ($12.50) before the show dates on Saturday, December 1st and 8th and a brunch ($10.00) on Sunday, December 2nd and 9th. There will be also be different vendors from the community selling special holiday gifts so that audiences can get an opportunity to catch up on their holiday shopping.
To purchase tickets or to find more information on other performances in the 2012-2013 season, visit www.centenarystageco.org or call (908) 979-0900.