A Review of “The Wizard of Oz” at Loyola Academy

It’s overworked, but cliche be damned – The Wizard of Oz is a great film! More uniquely and even less trite was the stage production of it that was neither “Wicked” nor “The Wiz”.

Loyola Academy’s Thespian Troupe 4729 succeeds once again in their performance. The retelling of iconic pieces on stage is always risky. People (I include myself here.) come to plays, movies and books with preconceived ideas. “The movie wasn’t anything like the book!” and vice versa can be taken in different ways.

It’s a testimony of human creativity. Personally, I like a story the best in the first medium in which I’ve experienced it. But this in no way means I’m incapable of enjoying its retelling in a different form – on screen or stage, in print or animated. I’m thinking of “A Christmas Carol”.

L. Frank Baum’s classic is no exception. I first encountered this story through the film and have seen it dozens of times. I’ve seen “Wicked” and “The Wiz”. The stage production of it this past Thursday, April 3rd was most enjoyable because it didn’t try to be anything but what it was: a staged performance of the century-old story. Happily, there was no attempt to raw-ly imitate the film or any other previous stage production. There had to be some imitation or else it wouldn’t have been “The Wizard of Oz”, but the actors internalized the roles and interpreted them as they would.

Glenda was not the Glenda of the film; she was herself. Nor was the Wicked Witch a Caucasian (i.e. non-green) Margaret Hamilton. There was no attempt to “get at” the Wicked Witch’s motivation for her evil. Dorothy didn’t try to be Judy Garland. The Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, the Guard and the Wizard were who they had to be, keeping the charm of the classic characters without losing their own unique performances. All of the main characters succeeded in this.

The dance chorus and ensemble doubled well while singing and dancing in Munchkinland, Oz and the flying monkey business at the Wicked Witch’s castle.

The music was enjoyable and an harmonious fit with the dialogue and action. My personal favorite, the “Merry Old Land of Oz” was fun and exuberant. The Guard, main characters and Ozians filled the stage with voice, passion and fun and the auditorium was wrapped in their energy.

The set, the lighting and extra effects facilitated my own personal trip to Oz. In past performances at the Academy, I’ve always been impressed by the minimalism of the Loyola stages, but this time the simplicity was infused with a little more. Costuming, fog, color and lighting aided the banners and rest of the set to transport the audience from Kansas to Munchkinland to Oz and the Witch’s lair and back to Oz. Well done crew!

I am not a huge fan of quadrupeds. HOWEVER, I will state that I was very impressed by Toto. Without a doubt, I think he is the best canine thespian I’ve ever seen. I’m always appreciative of a dog who can do what he/she needs to do and move on!

Once again, I’m heartened by the love of theatre that is exhibited at Loyola – backstage, onstage and in the audience as well as in the hallways, classrooms, offices and homes of the entire community.