Last Friday, I made the annual pilgrimage to St. Louis's municipal outdoor theater, the Muny, to see the Wizard of Oz. I wasn't quite sure what to expect in a musical drawing off of the 1939 MGM film, but I did expect to see something fairly good. The movie, I think most people will agree, belongs to that mystical canon known as The Classics ™. When filmography is looked back on much as literature is now, Oz will surely hold a spot in the realm of film-ature.
To me, that made it harder to imagine as a live performance work. While many musicals go the opposite direction from play to film, or films move from dramas to live musicals, it seems a bit less common for a musical film to move to the stage. As far as I can tell, while other stage adaptations of the story have existed, the MGM film has claim to a different sound track, one that this play used. And, for that matter, used very well.
The main characters in this production all seemed to have had spots on the Muny roster from last year (and, in particular, from the two plays I saw: Jesus Christ Superstar and Mame). While they were up against difficult acts from the original, they did a great job with all of the songs, keeping the flavor close to the movie without seeming like they were merely providing stale imitations.
The sets were well thought out, as always, and I was pleased to see that they managed one of the most memorable parts (at least for me): Miss Gulch/the Wicked Witch of the West flies at the beginning while riding on her bicycle. There were some changes to get the work on stage, for example, pyrotechnics were the preferred means of dramatic entrances or exits, and I would say those alterations were really great. Because they weren't used entirely consistently, the fireworks' shooting up managed to add surprise to several scenes.
Probably the one who really stole the show was none other than Toto, Dorothy's dog. This was one well trained pooch, barking at just the right times, tolerating lots of commotion and just acting rather adorable (and I'm not even fond of dogs, typically). He got a very healthy applause at the end.
As a whole, I'd say the Wizard was not as good as the Music Man or Jesus Christ Superstar at the Muny, but it was well worth seeing, and, if it were still possible, I would say you should go see it.