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The Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Old Town School of Folk Music Children's Center. Toto, a toy, leaps well--when thrown from the wings. The Munchkins wear tiny feet at their kneecaps. The tornado is an eddy of actors swirling crazily, and the wizard a giant glowering puppet head. Emerald City's efficient interactive version, only 75 minutes long as neatly adapted by John Kane, preserves most of the beloved MGM film's songs, much of the dialogue, and all its Technicolor warmth.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the children's classic by Chicago writer L. Frank Baum, this sprightly staging by Dado (best known for her visceral work in Hellcab and Tracers) pays tribute to the peculiar strength of the book--its celebration of the power of friendship to overcome witches, Winkies, and all our worst fears.

Nothing suffers in the shrinkage, certainly not the songs. Jennifer Teter holds things together nicely as wondering, wide-eyed Dorothy. The endearing Scarecrow (a very limber Scott Silbor), Tin Man (deadpan Tom Meier), and Cowardly Lion (scaredy-cat Patrick Brennan) recall the film originals but never slavishly so. Sarah Hayes casts a certain spell as Glinda, Eric C. Johnson sputters nicely as the Wizard, and Sarah Parker makes a scary but never nightmarish Wicked Witch of the West.

--Lawrence Bommer

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