'The Wizard of Oz' at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Monday, August 11, 2014 By: Nancy Sasso Janis Source: Patch

The year of The Wizard of Oz continued as my teen and I headed to Elmsford NY for a wonderful dinner and a show at Westchester Broadway Theatre. Their Royal Shakespeare version of The Wizard of Oz (that is, the faithful recreation of the 1939 movie) opened on July 31 and is the 185th musical that WBT has produced during their 40 years. In fact, the theater is the longest running, year round Equity theatre in the history of the state of New York.

Although this was only the fifth time we have traveled to Elmsford, I don’t think we have ever enjoyed a WBT musical more than this beautiful production. The most amazing special effects, the perfectly executed costumes, and many talented members of the cast brought this production to a new level, making it the best Oz yet.

Devon Perry debuts at the WBT in the role of Dorothy Gale and she sang a wonderfully heartfelt “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Chris Kind also debuts at the theater as Hickory and a perfectly silver Tinman, and Tim Dolan played Hunk and a copper faced Scarecrow. Jayson Elliott had the comic chops to become a very funny Zeke and Cowardly Lion.

Ken Jennings, who has the face of a cherub and has done eight Broadway shows including Tobias in Sweeney Todd, was comic perfection in the dual roles of Professor Marvel and The Wizard. Michelle Dawson played a glorious Glinda the pink and made an impressive entrance complete with bubbles. Nadine Zahr played Aunt Em and Benjamin Dean played Uncle Henry and the Ozian guard. The members of the adult ensemble were all very talented and with the help of some scenery played Munchkins. A few children played moving and dancing Munchkins and were very natural.

In the role of the green witch and the snippy Miss Gulch, Nicole Tori was spot on in her WBT debut. While she closely matched the cackle of her movie version, her black ensemble was closer to the one worn by Elphaba in Wicked than the Margaret Hamilton version, so I loved it. Her melting was most convincing.

Nigel the dog, trained by William Berloni, was a perfectly obedient Toto, but Snickers was ready to step in as his understudy if need be.

Richard Stafford has directed this production with an eye to detail. He used all the aisles of the WBT to make the patrons seated nearby feel like a part of the action. The spinning house and the video Oz were my favorite technical elements but I wasn’t sure if the ladies in white playing ukuleles were snowflakes or angels as the snow fell on the lighted poppies. Jonathan Stahl did the fun choreography for all of the strong dancers in the ensemble and William Stanley served as Musical Director of the eight musicians in the house.

WBT productions always have excellent costumes but this time the costumes designed by Tim McQuillen-Wright and his assistant Robert Silva were even more impressive. Best tinman and lion costumes I have ever seen and the Munchkins were as whimsical as they were colorful. The sepia tones of the first scene were just as well done and both Prof. Marvel’s coat and the Wizards outfit were a work of art. Wigs/hair by Gerald Kelly made everyone look even better and kudos to Danielle Masterson on all-around great makeup design. Graceful lighting by Andrew Gmoser and flawless sound design rounded out the technical excellence.

The chef added two new items to the dinner menu, his special “pretzel chicken” and bacon wrapped homemade meatloaf, as well as Kansas City Country Style BBQ ribs as the Show Special. My meat eater deemed the boneless ribs “yummy.”

The Wizard of Oz runs at WBT through September 21. There is a Dinner & Theatre Family Pack available that offers a savings of $48 for families of four.