Thursday, December 17, 2009

Media Theatre's Oz is a pot of gold

When Dorothy Gale entered Oz, Judy Garland entered immortality. The movie has been seen by almost every child in the world who has seen a movie. “Rainbow” is the most popular tune ever; a mystical, lyrical and melodic story of a child's spiritual passage from adolescence to adulthood.

The professional cast of The Media Theatre created and evidenced the same love for their characters in this stage production as the iconic film actors did in 1939.
The theatre on Media's main drag is a renovated cinema not unlike The Grand. It was but twenty-five minutes from my home in Brandywine Hundred and most certainly worth the trip.

I attended with my college senior son Grant and elbowed him hard during the “Lollipop Kids” number, portrayed by a gaggle of beaming kids whose delight with being on stage was palpable. Grant had played one of those attitudinal rapscallions when in third grade.
With these characters so imprinted in us, it's a difficult task for the actors not to fall into caricature. All of the major players are Equity actors and have impressive credits, including the prestigious Walnut Theatre and The Prince in Philly. Media actors and productions have won “Barrymores,” the regional Tony's, on many occasions.
With the first four notes of “Rainbow's” lead in out of her mouth, it was evident that Dorothy (Kim Carson) would be an aural delicacy. As Judy preached herself, Carson made the lyrics her own.
Judy was 4'11”. Carson is a tall woman, but this does not seem to matter vis a vis her wide-eyed innocence in this “childlike” role. Her interaction with her compadres down the Yellow Brick Road was delightful. As I surveyed the audience, all had plastered smiles that could not be shaken.
Scarecrow (John Jarboe), Cowardly Lion (Daniel Stanton) and Tin Man (Patrick Ludt) are superior singers and dancers. Ludt, in fact, did a tap dance turn as the Tin Man to great effect. One has great expectations on the entrance of the Lion and that first “put 'em up, put 'em up” monologue. Stanton had the audience doubled over.
Wicked Witch (Kathryn Kendall) was over archingly-nefarious. Her 'dissolution” by Dorothy's pail of water was a clever special effect.
Jitterbug (Joey Tierno) is a recent college grad with a minor in dance. On this night, however, he majored in flips, tricks and leaving the ground for extended periods.
In the program even Toto (Ziva Larsen) had a bio. He most certainly is one of the most laid back Cairn Terriers in stage history, or else on xanax. He is on the majority of the time, is tossed back and forth and nary says a peep (or bark).
Director Peter Reynolds, who serves as director of musical theatre at Temple, did a fluid job with his ensemble cast. The action was forever brisk.
“The Wizard of Oz” speaks to your feelings, not your intellect. It comforts and inspires. Children identify Dorothy with their fears; adults identify with their dreams.
A poor little girl is sent down a perilous path. Along the way she must slay wicked witches and stand up to mighty wizards. We are made to see all the fantastic adventures through Dorothy’s wide and trusting eyes. She makes the unbelievable believable.., the unreal real.

This is a wonderful production for the entire family. Tix are very reasonable. 610.891.0100

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