The danger of recreating a classic is the possibility of the audience making comparisons between the original and the new version. But the upside is that, for most, the story is so familiar the audience isn’t worried about following the plot and has a chance to just sit back and enjoy the performances. This is definitely true of the Actors Guild of Parkersburg’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz—Young Performer’s Edition. This show is pure joy from beginning to end and will be loved by Oz lovers and those new to the story alike. Though the entire cast is just fabulous, the show is completely stolen by the two main adversaries: Ana Bennett as Dorothy and Willow Peyton as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West. These two alone are worth the price of admission. Happily, they aren’t alone, though, as they are surrounded by a huge cast of talented, well-trained young people from all over the Mid-Ohio Valley.
As I said before, Ana Bennett quite admirably fills Dorothy’s ruby slippers. She does the immortal “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” proud. Speaking of doing a part proud, Willow Peyton is pitch perfect as the evil green antagonist. The audience feels like she really would put a rock around Toto’s neck and drop him in the river and enjoy it. One fun addition found in this show is Olivia Raber as Dorothy’s beloved pup. Rather than casting a real dog, this story calls for making Toto a character with an actual part, and Ms. Raber is simply splendid as the canine companion.
No iteration of this story would be complete without Dorothy’s three traveling companions, and the three young people who play those parts are just great. Brittany Ward as Scarecrow, Zoe Koskey as Tin Man, and Jack Peyton as the Cowardly Lion truly shine. Peyton’s portrayal of the Lion who had courage all along is nearly as funny as Bert Lahr’s original.
The cast, too numerous to mention, all do a fantastic job. I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention the stellar work of Mollie Smith in the titular role. Though a small part, Ms. Smith does a wonderful job of creating a slightly brilliant and slightly daffy professor who is clearly doing his best to cope with being a truly terrible wizard.
While the cast all did a great job, it’s important to mention the amazing work of all the technical crews, under the leadership of Doug Parks and Joe Reeves. In today’s world of electronic backdrops, it’s refreshing to see a show with a good old-fashioned set, complete with moving parts. The backdrops are provided by a series of triangular columns on wheels with a different setting portrayed on each side. The work that had to go into creating them has to have been tremendous. And the set crew worked well in getting them moved into place, especially considering all the practice time lost lately to weather and health issues. And just like the set, the costumes are spot on, even Dorothy’s immortal footwear.
You need to see this show, whether you’ve seen the movie a hundred times or you have no idea who Dorothy Gale is. Get your tickets soonest, as it sounds like they are disappearing as fast as the Wicked Witch taking a bath. The curtain goes up on Friday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m. Subsequent evening performances will take place at the same time on January 28 and 29 and February 4 and 5. Matinees will take place at 2:30 p.m. on January 22, 23, and 30, and February 5. To get tickets, go to the Guild’s website. Do it now or risk missing out!