Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Leads help color large-scale ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in Sheboygan

Sheboygan Theatre Company The Wizard of Oz cover_1558014125201.jpg.jpg

Photo caption: Featured in the Sheboygan Theatre Company production of “The Wizard of Oz” are, from left, Adam Guenther as Tinman, Bridget Bullard as Dorothy Gale, Joe Phillips as Scarecrow and Duncan Doherty as Cowardly Lion. (Sheboygan Theatre Company)

***

Sheboygan Theatre Company’s version of the super-classic “The Wizard of Oz”…

+ Features lustrous singing by Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion.

+ Has a wonderful Witch cackling and crackling such indelible lines as, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”

+ Is long.

+ Teems with children having a blast as Munchkins.

+ Has a Toto – a real pooch – that is extremely patient as it tags along on Dorothy’s adventures, though the patience is tested mightily by the sight of a hot dog (that it ends up inhaling).

+ Wrestles with sound balance, notably early with Dorothy’s voice being cloaked in “Over the Rainbow.”

+ Contains a mixed bag of set pieces from ordinary (backdrops) to eye-popping (the Wizard’s giant green face with rolling eyes and moving mouth). Included are references to steampunk, an industrial look included in the floor-to-ceiling movable gears in the shoulders of the stage and in the staircase of the Witch’s lair.

+ Is laced with special effects, including falling snow, the Wizard’s ominous voice, a tornado funnel that moves (with human help) and a black-light scene for the lively “Jitterbug.”

+ The live orchestra has plenty to do, not only coloring the end-to-end popular songs but playing fill music for the multiple scene changes with a large stage crew toiling thanklessly except for this: Thank you for all your hard and tricky work.

+ Is laced with interesting bits – wisecracking crows (puppets) and apple trees (performers), a handmade wagon (the Professor’s) and real carriage (on the farm) and specialized costuming for Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch’s cadre of suited monkeys (with scuba-like tanks of their back).

+ Is attracting large houses that, if Wednesday is an indication, give standing ovations because the piece feels good – and Bridget Bullard is particularly radiant as Dorothy.

Three more performances continue to Sunday, May 12, in Leslie W. Johnson Theatre.

The theater is unique and particularly sprawling in layout among area performance spaces. Much of the action takes place on the proscenium stage in the rear of the amphitheater-like house. Come time to “follow the yellow brick road,” Dorothy and friends skip along a painted golden path arcing through the half-circle space nearest the audience.

Director Lorenz Marcus care-fully guides a big cast – 76 folks enthusiastically presenting precious material.

The care shows in characterizations, a kind of mellow tone in the leading roles. Such as: the finesse of J. Gravelle as Professor Marvel/The Wizard, the warmth of Kristen Sorenson as Aunt Em/Glinda and the home-ness of Eric Johnson as Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard.

Sharon Quinn seems to take great joy being nasty as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West. As the Witch, Quinn is downright playfully wicked-y – like a Fourth of July sparkler.

Each of the main players adds a tidbit to her/his role to make it her/his own, on top of a solid voice. Bridget Bullard brims with nuance, as if she IS Dorothy. Joe Phillips’ Scarecrow is nimble and a kindly, gentle soul. Adam Guenther is smooth, a kind of opposite to the creaky joints of Tinman. More than anyone, Duncan Doherty ventures into adapting Cowardly Lion in adopting a British accent, all the better to sound lofty/majestic/regal in “If I Were King of the Forest” in his classically rooted voice.

It takes guts to get a lot of people to buy into tackling this oversized and difficult project, and this production is another example of what a theatrical person told me, “If it were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun.”

***

Creative: Book – John Kane; music – Harold Arlen; lyrics – E.Y. Harburg; additional background music – Herbert Stothart; based on the novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 film version written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf; director – Lorenz Marcus; stage manager – Katy Ries; music director – Karen Christopherson; set designers – Steve Toeppel, Sue Toeppel; costume designers – Bev Dulmes, Sue Platz; lighting designer – Pat Smith; sound designers – Amanda Ellis, Jeff Wakefield; properties designers – Lisa Masbruch, Nan Gibson; hair/make-up designer – Cathy Perrone; assistant stage managers – Alex Blindauer, Abby Marcus; executive director – Jackie Erdman

Cast:

Dorothy Gale – Bridget Bullard

Aunt Em/Glinda – Kristin Sorenson

Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard – Eric Johnson

Zeke/Cowardly Lion – Duncan Doherty

Hickory/Tinman – Adam Guenther

Hunk/Scarecrow – Joe Phillips

Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West – Sharon Quinn

Professor Chester Marvel/The Wizard – J. Gravelle

Toto – Anya Ries

Ozians and other roles: Tara Annis, Katarina Beilfuss, Jackie Blindauer, Shannon Bullard, Kate Calvano, Rachel Carlson, Owen Denson, Cheryl Driscoll, Hailey Gruenke, Charlie Heim, Brian M. Leffin, Michah Lilyquist, Elizabeth Plotka-Heinen, Meg Thiry, Corrine M. Schultz, Abby Wetzel

Munchkins and other roles

Emma Annis, Ellianna Benton, Lindsay Biebel, Shelby Blaha, Charlotte Bullard, Trinity Bustamante, Hailey Carson, Jazelle Diedrich, Abigal Ehlert, Addison Ehlert, Alison Guenther, Alexis Hahn, Annie Handley, Gwendelyn Harder, Lilliana Heinen, Brooke Rachel Hess, Karli Hopkins, Grace Jacoby, Hannah Kalk-Lorge, Ava Jonas, Ally LaPoint, Lilian McFarland, Lili Nagle, Elizabeth O’Boyle, Naomi Ochs, Ariana Paterson, Alayna Petrauski, Lukas Reshchke, Joshua Rueger, Grace Rhode, Maranda Serna, Becca Shvartsman, Michael Stephan, Nicholas “Nico” Torres, Jaydn VanderWeele, Abby Waters, Juliana Wetzel, Daisy Wilson, Danielle Wilson, Bella Wiesse, Hanna Wright

Orchestra: Music director – Karen Christopherson; piano – Michael Schnell; violin 1 – Clara Montes; violin 2 – Lily Montes; bass – Noah Barteit; flute – Leo Vigliette; reed 1 – Richard Tengowski; reed 2 – Paula Harder; French horn – Greta Thorson; trumpet 1 – Chris Woller; trumpet 2 – Ryan Rabe; trombone – Keaton Galezio; percussion – Greg Tengowski; percussion – Robert Milanowski

Running time: Three hours, 5 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. May 16, 17, 18

Info: stcshows.org

***

Musical numbers

Act I

“Over the Rainbow” – Dorothy

“The Cyclone” – Instrumental

Munchkinland Musical Sequence and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” – Glinda, Dorothy, Munchkins

“Follow the Yellow Brick Road” – Munchkins

“If I Only Had a Brain” – Scarecrow, Dorothy, Crows

“We’re Off to See the Wizard” – Dorothy, Scarecrow

“If I Only Had a Heart” – Tinman, Dorothy, Trees

“We’re Off to See the Wizard – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman

“If I Only Had the Nerve” – Lion, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman

“We’re Off to See the Wizard” – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion

“Poppies” – Glinda, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Poppies, Snowflakes

Act II

“Optimistic Voices” – Girls Chorus

“The Merry Old Land of Oz” – Guard, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Ozians

“The Merry Old Land of Oz” (Reprise) – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Guard, Ozians

 “If I Were King of the Forest – Lion, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman

“March of the Winkies” – Winkies

“The Jitterbug” – Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Jitterbug

“Over the Rainbow” (Reprise) – Dorothy

“Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” (Reprise) – Winkies, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion

***

NEXT SEASON: “The Addams Family” musical, Oct. 4-12; “It’s a Wonderful Life” adapted by James W. Rodgers, Dec. 6-14; “The Nerd” by Larry Shue, Feb. 21-29; “Mary Poppins” musical, May 15-23. Studio Players productions to be announced.

THE VENUE: The 870-seat Leslie W. Johnson Theatre in Horace Mann Middle School is a one-of-a-kind theater space for Northeastern Wisconsin. Its layout creates special demands that can lead to rewards in unique theatergoing. The spacious facility is in the shape of an amphitheater with steep stairways. The seats are red. The ceiling is high. The front row of seats is on the performance level, which is a half circle. A proscenium (flat front) stage area extends across the rear line of the half circle. The school was built in 1970. The aura of the lobby and theater combined is that of a community gathering place.

THE PEOPLE: Leslie W. Johnson was a Sheboygan superintendent of schools. Horace Mann (1796-1859) was a leader in the development of public education in the United States, including the teaching of teachers.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My seven books are available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.