Alhambra’s Wizard of Oz

Some early results are in for the 2012 election year. The Alhambra Theatre decided to choose its summer play based on the votes of its fans and patrons, and The Wizard of Oz was the winner of the popular vote. The musical has now opened and will be playing through July 23rd. It’s not a surprise that it won; the novel by L. Frank Baum that inspired the play has had a strong following since it was first published in 1900, 112 years ago. In 1939, an Academy Award nominated film starring Judy Garland was made. The Wizard of Oz film was a yearly treat on network TV in prime time for many years, and every adult in the Alhambra audience on Gala Night has probably seen it multiple times.

The story of The Wizard of Oz is that of Dorothy (Kathryn Nash), a Kansas teenager who rides a tornado to a brightly colored fantasy land called Oz, full of Munchkins, a talking scarecrow (Dustin Maxwell), a rusting tin man (Robert Johnston), a cowardly lion (Henry Brewster) and a wizard (Earl Weaver) with a strange resemblance to a Kansas fortune teller. To return home, Dorothy must outwit the Wicked Witch (Jessica Booth) and is helped by Glinda, the Good Witch (Lisa Valdini).

Another companion of Dorothy is her tiny dog, Toto (played by Pebbles). That is an interesting story in itself. Three weeks ago, Pebbles was just one of many dogs at the Jacksonville Humane Society, blinking his big brown eyes at potential new owners as they looked for a dog to take home. Today he is a star, with a Twitter account, and is sure to find a new home after the show closes. Pebbles is a real scene stealer, and a director’s dream. He does just what he is told without a bark or a whimper.

Director/Producer/Choreographer Tod Booth directed this show in 2001 and 2007 and has once again selected a number of talented young people from the age of eight and up as performers. These kids work hard, with several entrances in different costumes while singing old favorites such as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead.” Those marvelous children include Caleb LaCroix, Evan Gray, Amelia Huckett, Alexander Lawless, Olivia Lynch, Savannah Roy, Carly Swain, Kyler Reed Unsworth, Daniel Clark, and C.Kyle Cox.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.