The Muse Machine delivers a first-rate, crowd-pleasing production of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” the arts education organization’s 28th annual student musical presented at the Victoria Theatre.
Over 100 Muse students from across the Miami Valley are featured in director Rufus Bonds, Jr.’s faithful, fluid and fast-paced staging of the beloved 1939 film, adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company and fueled with fantastic tunes by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. In addition to strong, engaging portrayals by key players and music director Timothy Olt’s steady orchestra, a truly vibrant ensemble executes Lula Elzy’s lively choreography with unified joy, especially in the absolutely adorable Munchkinland sequence, sprightly “Merry Old Land of Oz” and exuberant “Jitterbug.”
As Dorothy Gale, Madeline Shelton impresses far beyond her lovely rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Fully present in each moment and particularly careful not to underplay the pivotal Kansas scenes, Shelton astutely showcases the spectrum of Dorothy’s capricious personality from bratty insensitivity to poignant self-awareness. She is also firmly supported by a delightful trio consisting of the amiably understated Dan Baughn (Hunk/Scarecrow), very endearing Davis Sullivan (Hickory/Tin Man), who delivered a breakthrough performance as Jack in last year’s Muse production of “Into the Woods,” and charming, fittingly Bert Lahr-esque Jeremiah Plessinger (Zeke/Cowardly Lion).
Further, Odette Gutierrez del Arroyo is terrifically intimidating as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, Cameron Hale Elliott distinctively tackles the roles of Professor Marvel, Emerald City Guard and The Wizard of Oz, Paige McDonald and Patrick Espy are believably bonded as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Kaja Burke-Williams, Carly Snyder (a phenomenal Little Red Ridinghood in “Into the Woods”) and Ellen Geiselman hit the mark as feisty, sashaying trees, and Hayley Penchoff, possessing a striking Billie Burke sensibility and timbre, shines as Glinda.
Equipped with colorful sets and costumes provided by Music Theatre of Wichita, this thoroughly entertaining “Oz,” dynamically accented with whimsical and ominous flourishes courtesy of sound/film designer David Sherman, is an enchanting example of the Muse pedigree.
“The Wizard of Oz” continues through Jan. 15 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Performances are Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 65 minutes; Act Two: 60 minutes. Tickets are $25-$59. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com