Gov. Mark Dayton could declare December Andrew Lloyd Webber Month in Minnesota. The British composer’s music is at the front and center of big shows in the Twin Cities.
Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” opens Friday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. But first up is his adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” which began an extended run Friday at St. Paul’s Ordway Center.
The composer has supplemented Harold Arlen’s original songs and score from the landmark 1939 MGM film with eight pieces of his own, including “Bring Me the Broomstick,” a big number by the Wizard that closes the first act; “Nobody Understands Me,” a pensive song by Dorothy, and “Already Home,” a show-closing number that Dorothy sings with beatific witch Glinda.
It all works seamlessly in Jeremy Sams’ captivating production. Sams, who co-adapted the film with Lloyd Webber, has staged an eye-catching show that uses Jon Driscoll’s vertigo-inducing video projections and Robert Jons’ scenic and costume design to transport us to a chiaroscuro carnival of munchkins and flying monkeys, witches and a blustery wizard whose chicanery reveals the truth.
This “Oz,” whose contemporary updates nod to “Wicked” and to other Broadway shows, sweeps a viewer into its mysterious world like the tornado that spirits runaway farm girl Dorothy from Kansas to Oz.
A lot of the show’s success has to do with Arlen’s original music, conducted with romance and spirit by David Andrews Rogers and delivered efficaciously by a cast of mostly Canadian actors.
Danielle Wade, who plays a more mature-looking Dorothy than we are accustomed to, has a gorgeous voice. That she holds back at first on “Over the Rainbow,” almost as if she’s finding her character, only builds up excitement and adds to the payoff when she finally goes full throttle.
Jacquelyn Piro Donovan has the Wicked Witch’s cackling laughter down pat. She injects a lot of humor into the green villain, including a moment when she pops up in the audience.
As both the Wizard and Prof. Marvel, Jay Brazeau is lovably fuddy-duddy. And Robin Evan Willis shimmers as Glinda.
The supporting players — Mike Jackson as the Tin Man, Lee MacDougal as the Lion and Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow — use physical humor and affecting voices to make their characters endearing in a show that captures the charm of the original film but also feels fresh.