It seems like I’ve been waiting for years for the TLT version of The Wizard of Oz . . . oh, that’s right . . . I have been waiting for years. Just so you know where I stand about the production by Tacoma Little Theatre, I love it. Not only does it bring back memories of the original film version released in 1939 and lets us see the entire story played out just a few feet from our seats; it also includes a Jitterbug, cut from the film due to production length.
“Universally acknowledged as one of the earliest feminist characters in American children’s literature, it is Dorothy who symbolically awakens the local citizenry and her fellow slumbering travelers. And it is Dorothy’s fearless independent character that compels her to question her surroundings and predicament in life. Through Dorothy’s problem-solving skills and determined leadership the ragtag troupe eventually extinguishes the evil that is nipping at Dorothy’s heels. There is no need or instinctual desire for external rescue. Dorothy operates on her own free will.” From The Wizard of Oz and Political Symbolism – sophiestale.com/the-wizard-of-oz-and-political-symbolism/
“As a director, artist, and human, my magic discovery is that I am not interested in just returning to what was, but instead, building what could be. This production honors everything we know and love about The Wizard of Oz but adds a few surprises along with a holiday twist. After being away from the theater for so long, I am excited to “come home” and embrace the magic of this revolutionary art form that changes the world one stage at a time.” – Andrew Coopman
Revolutionary art form indeed. From Musical Director Jeff Bell to Pyro Technician/Makeup Specialist Derek Mesford, to Technical Director/Scenic Designer/Visuals/Animation Blake R. York to Costume Designer Michele Graves and every member of the TLT Artistic Team they all deserve a hug and a pat on the back. It’s not easy being wonderful.
The character of Dorothy is played by Jolee Zamira, a product of Curtis High School who’s the Outreach Director for the Youth Board at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and has already performed at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. When she sings Over the Rainbow near the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, you know you are in for a treat.
The main characters from Kansas are the main characters in Oz. In Kansas, Dorothy meets up with Professor Marvel (Joe Woodland), a flim-flam man, who mis-directs Dorothy to gather clues about her, but does a good deed by sending her home. He’s well meaning, but is usually well out of his depth.
Miss Gulch, very well played by Stephanie Leeper, must have her way, no matter the cost. Her goal is to shape everyone to her specifications. Uncle Henry (John Limitone), Aunt Em (Jillian Grace Harrison, who has a glorious voice), Toto (Puppy Boy) & Dorothy (Jolee Zamira, another remarkable voice) are ill equipped to stop her need to be right. Stephanie looks and acts nothing like her portrayal as Miss Gulch or the Wicked Witch. Afterwards, I told her how much I enjoyed her performance and she confessed, “I’m having a ball being “wicked!”’
Soon our adventure leads to the magical land of Oz and we meet not only the Wicked Witch, but the Good Witch Glinda, and the Munchkins. Just as in the film, the Munchkins are fun to watch. The dancing and singing leads far from the everyday locations like Kansas and Tacoma. But with her ruby slippers, Toto, her three friends, and a brave spirit, Dorothy is determined to make everything right with the world and return to her place in that world.
Dorothy meets and makes her first friend, the Scarecrow. Scarecrow is battling four crows, who don’t scare easily. David Breyman as Scarecrow was a perfect choice. He comes across as nice, friendly, and helpful . . . but not so good at fighting crows; however, he’s great at deflecting fire sparks. Peg pointed out the Chap Wolff as one of the crows. We have seen Chap a number of times at Lakewood Playhouse and also at CenterStage. In the previous numbers I had missed him; there were so many characters on stage (my only defense). David Breyman who plays Scarecrow says, “This whole process has been the most fun and the hardest work I’ve done, and I’m so honored to have the chance to tackle a show and role this iconic and beloved.” He must have elastic joints because he dips and falls and flops so convincingly; he’s limber!
A little further down the road we meet up with the Tin Man (Noah Bruckshen) who wears his own shield but he only moves when he’s well-oiled, which Scarecrow is happy to assist him with. “This was my first production since the pandemic as it was for a lot of us and I can’t thank TLT and Andrew (Coopman) enough for making it feel safe while still being such a special, fun and nostalgic experience and I’m so excited to share the experience with audiences.” – Noah Bruckshen (The Tin Man)
The final member of the Dorothy-Oz gang is the Cowardly Lion, played by Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface. Chris and I met as Rotary members. He’s a great guy and a wonderful supporter of our community. He’s been in a number of other productions that are favorites of Peg and me, so I have been anxious to see his performance as the Cowardly Lion. He did not disappoint. He shivered, cowered and whimpered until he got his nerve. He shined. His song “If I Were King of the Forest” was a delight to see and hear.
We all waited for the big “I’m melting” moment and The Wicked Witch (Stephanie Leeper) along with her lapdog Nikko (Luke Miller) didn’t disappoint. As we mentioned earlier, pyrotechnics and misdirection can work magic . . . and they do.
In the end all is well and good. The heroes are safe, the villains punished, and the audience thrilled. The Wizard of Oz punched all the right buttons and all was right with the world. What a great holiday program to present to our community.
Even one act plays can take a lot of work, but musicals like The Wizard of Oz, have so many things going on, both on stage and back stage. We laud the director and all the stage, technical and building crews as well as the costumer and choreographer. The stage was complicated and flawless.
This show runs through New Year’s Eve. Get your tickets ASAP or call TLT to volunteer as ushers. You can do both and enjoy the production twice as much. For more information please visit the TLT website – tacomalittletheatre.com/blog/20212022/clue-rhe7l
Coming in January is Silent Sky – The true story of a brilliant, history-making woman, hitherto unknown to many of us. Directed by pug Bujeaud.
The photos are courtesy of Dennis K Photography.
The Tacoma and South Puget Sound area stage productions have outdone themselves this year with holiday cheer and quality as well as thoughtful productions.