Review

The Wizard of Oz
by Christian Youth Theater

Itís Americaís fairy tale, L. Frank Baumís immortal Wizard of Oz. Christian Youth Theater-Chicago in Zion ended their 2008-2009 season with it, beginning their show with narration from the book, and ending it with a surprisingly touching goodbye scene between Dorothy Gale and the new friends she makes over the rainbow.

Twelve-year-old Madison Bennett stars as Dorothy, a young actress whose Over the Rainbow is sweet and pleading and hopeful. Of course, actually finding yourself thrown over the rainbow by a twister and being threatened by a wicked old witch would make anyone eager to start making friends, and her first friend is none other than her real-life brother, Miles Bennett. The two of them have fantastic rapport as he gets his feet under him and, with good physical comedy, helps guiding her down the yellow brick road.

Coincidentally, two other siblings play her other friends Ė the talented Cramer brothers consisting of Jonathan Cramer as the Tin Man and David Cramer as the Cowardly Lion. Jonathanís gentle voice and demeanor is all heart, but with a great sense of humor as well (like letting out a hopeless groan when his rusted lips donít seem to be able to communicate the importance of ďoil canĒ to the Scarecrow). And older brother David Cramer is a marvel throughout, a comedic genius who owns the stage as he infuses the Cowardly Lion with creative humor, personality, and vocal work whether heís doing a funky dance and turning a roar into a meow, all of his prowess coming to bear on his If I Were King. But even with all that talent, he canít convince a hesitant Dorothy to look up and see if his nose is bleeding.

Dorothyís terrific group of friends are met with an equally terrific adversary. Elizabeth Argot begins with one of the best takes on Miss Gultch, scrapping the normally cartoonish portrayal for a bitter and business-like misanthrope. Her Wicked Witch of the West is also more bitter than over-the-top evil, and it works well. She can also bring it singing-wise, leading the way through The Jitterbug song and dance.

Elsewhere, Taylor Pfenning and Jonathan Metzger are good, natural farmers and guardians Henry and Em. Diana Lebar is a sweet Glinda who, as the Good Witch of the North, disappears not by pink bubble but via white snowstorm. Colin Kovarik is a gentler, kinder, less humbuggy sort of Professor Marvel and Wizard (when he gets caught behind the curtain, the video screen depicting Ozís dramatic alter-ego turns into the off-the-air color bars). And little Toto too does very well, generating some extra laughs with he decides to go for a new entrance Ė unseen hands gently pushing the sitting Toto onto the stage.

Director Christopher Ninness and his team put together a good show with some creative touches. The 3-D glasses to view the wizardís monstrous alter ego was a fun idea even if the effect on the video was minimal. The tornado scene was well done with black lighting and having the house following the illuminated stockings of the doomed Wicked Witch of the East, drawing us into the land of Oz featuring a bunch of adorable Munchkins who are very curious and nervous about Dorothyís arrival, as well as an impressive bunch of Emerald City Ozians who welcome us to the Emerald City with their dynamic personalities and dancing to Chelsea Lappís original and varied choreography that helps make Dorothyís, and our, trip away from home a most entertaining one.

Performed May 1 - 10, 2009

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Dorothy Gale: Madison Bennett
Aunt Em: Taylor Pfenning
Henry Gale: Jonathan Metzger
Hunk/Scarecrow: Miles Bennett
Hickory/Tin Man: Jonathan Cramer
Zeke/Cowardly Lion: David Cramer
Glinda: Diana Lebar
Miss Elmira Gultch/Wicked Witch of the West: Elizabeth Argot
Professor Marvel/The Wizard of Oz: Colin Kovarik

~ Munchkins ~
Mayor: Noah Olsen
Barrister: Melissa Rau
City Father: Michaela Martinelli
Coroner: Kiersten Johnson

Lullaby League:
Annika Johnson
Sadie LaBelle
Katrina Routanen

Lollipop Guild:
Max Colburn
Andy Murphy
Chris Schwaar

Marie Amsler
Amanda Brown
Lauren Bunke
Erin Cahill
Samantha Campbell
Jackie Carlson
Lexie Chaisson
Morgan Condron
Carissa Davis
Tayler Dennis
Katie DeReus
Caleb Engelhardt
Sarah Erickson
Ana Clara Guass-Moreira
Katie Harrop
Samantha Harrop
Kira Herden
Rachel Jessen
Lukas Kuhn
Abby Parrott
Jackson Ptasienski
Danielle Richards
Katie Roscher
Abbey Schlicksup
Kelly Sisson
Ryan Tucker

~ Oz Tappers ~
Kristin Boone
Allie Harrop
Hannah Schaefer
Emma Stephens
Thea Stephens
Katrina Sudman
Jenna Westerberg

~ Jitterbugs ~
Alyssa Boone
Kristin Boone
Carsten Colburn
Matt Ellis
Joe Englehardt
Alexandra Fabrie
Codie Ford
Allie Harrop
Diana Lebar
Jonathan Metzger
Doug Schaefer
Hannah Schaefer
Ryan Schwaar
Emma Stephens
Thea Stephens
Katrina Sudman
Jenna Westerberg
Devon Yach

~ Monkeys ~
Nikko: Jonah Saller
Marie Amsler
Morgan Condron
Carissa Davis
Elizabeth Erickson
Sarah Fehland
Kira Herden
Rachel Jessen
Abby Schlicksup
Kelly Sisson
Ryan Tucker

~ Optimistic Voices ~
Elizabeth Argot
Allie Harrop
Hannah Schaefer
Emma Stephens
Thea Stephens
Katrina Sudman

~ Winkies ~
General: Joe Engelhardt
Jonathan Argot
Megan Biere
Tarin Coberly
Carsten Colburn
Daniel Conway
Jessica Dawson
Matt Ellis
Isaac Engelhardt
Katie Harrop
Kasey Johnson
Elise Kolterman
John Lentz
Lottie Page
Doug Schaefer

~ Cyclone ~
Alyssa Boone
Rachel Cahill
Carsten Colburn
Zari Davis
Matt Ellis
Vicki Gomski
Kyle Grendys
Ann-Melissa Husel
Amy Karlson
Crystal Kovarik
Mary Beth McHugh
Kathryn Price
Doug Schaefer
Karalee Smith
Gabby Walker

~ Ozians ~
Guard: Ryan Schwaar
Jonathan Argot
Megan Biere
Alyssa Boone
Erin Cahill
Rachel Cahill
Tarin Coberly
Carsten Colburn
Daniel Conway
Zari Davis
Jessica Dawson
Matt Ellis
Isaac Dawson
Matt Ellis
Isaac Engelhardt
Elizabeth Erickson
Alexandra Fabrie
Sarah Fehland
Codie Ford
Vicky Gomski
Kyle Grendys
Ann-Melissa Husel
Kasey Johnson
Amy Karlson
Elise Kolterman
Crystal Kovarik
John Lentz
Mary Beth McHugh
Jonathan Metzger
Lottie Page
Taylor Pfenning
Kathryn Price
Jonah Saller
Doug Schaefer
Karalee Smith
Gabby Walker
Devon Yach

Director: Christopher Ninness
Assistant Director: Christine Colburn
Musical Director: Suzann Denlinger
Choreographer: Chelsea Lapp
Intern Director: Alexandra Agos

   

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