That’s the Yellow Brick Road, Munchkins.
If you want to see the dark side of Oz, there’s the stage production of Wicked. If you want to see the funky side of Oz, there’s always The Wiz.
Actually there was an original stage version in 1902, just two years after L Frank Baum’s book, called “America’s first fairy tale.” Over the years, others tweaked the story, predating the 1936 film classic that has been part and parcel of our American lives over the years.
When the PNC Broadway Pittsburgh series took its latest trip to Oz at Heinz Hall this week, we found a warm and fuzzy and, yes, familiar production. Of real note were a handful of new songs by Broadway heavyweight team Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita), all of which nicely fit into the iconic score of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.
The Wicked Witch of the West (Shani Hadrian), sans the pointed black hat, was deservedly given Red Shoes Blues (“She’s prissy, she’s clueless and I want her shoeless.”) and Dorothy got to sing Already Home with Glinda near the end.
Strangely enough, Lloyd Webber also toyed with some of the background music, particularly the scene where the main characters are rescued with a patchwork quilt of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain amid other tunes.
But then, that’s the fun of classic productions, to bring a new light to them. So some production elements were put on steroids — Professor Marvel’s magic lantern wagon with its large global slides, a Kansas sky and tornado projected on a giant screen that covered the stage and a bright neon rainbow. Only — that Yellow Brick Road mostly stayed in place instead of revolving in some fashion. But that could be due to technical issues.
When looking overall, this version was its own rainbow of former productions — a few updated comments ala The Wiz, a mechanical set from the Wicked Witch’s lair in Wicked and a mostly cinematic touch from the film — a potpourri that surprisingly gave Dorothy’s journey its own charm, geared, as it was, for family entertainment.
The leading characters were traditionally lovable themselves. Hunk/Scarecrow (Morgan Reynolds), Hickory/Tin Man (Jay McGill), Zeke/Lion (Aaron Fried) and even Professor Marvel/The Wizard — also came back at the end with Dorothy (Sarah Lasko), making for an American family portrait.
So there it was, a storybook ending, made even more so by the tiny girl who was sitting on her mother’s lap in front of me. Clad mostly in pink, she also had a coordinated surgical mask covering her mouth. But her attentive posture and spirit were engaging, adding to the evening. And when Dorothy began singing “Home,” she turned to her mother with a delighted look on her face and gave her a great big hug, giving the song and this Wizard of Oz an extra tug at my heartstrings.