So, since I was born in 1948, I must have seen it close to half a dozen times before I went off to college in 1966. What pushed me over the Oz edge, though, was raising a daughter born in 1972. I remember watching the same movie many times with her. More accurately, too many times.
Delight in Dorothy's far-out adventures in Oz wore thin with those repeated viewings. My young daughter got thrills from the annual showings of The Wizard of Oz. Increasingly, I got irritated thoughts of "Oh, no, it isn't already time to see this damn movie again, is it?!"
Thus sitting in my second-row seat last night in the beautifully revamped Grand Theatre in downtown Salem was a healing moment for me. I'd never seen a theatrical production of The Wizard of Oz. As soon as actors appeared on stage, L. Frank Baum's story seemed fresh to me.
For one thing, there's nothing like live theatre. It's unpredictable, never repeated, as vibrantly three-dimensional as life itself (unsurprisingly).
When Toto, caninely played by Mickey Tate, ran across the stage at some climactic moment, I realized there was a non-zero chance that he'd run in an unintended direction. At least, that's what our dog often does in response to commands of mine, which Zu Zu views as requests to be considered, but not necessarily obeyed.
I found myself much more emotionally involved when Toto was in danger during the stage production, than in the movie. From my seat I could see this so-cute dog close up and personal. I cared about him. I was confident that he'd turn out OK, but with live theatre, like I said, there was a possibility of the unforeseen happening.
(Our dog, though equally cute in her own way, would be quickly cut from the show as soon as she failed to run across the stage, but rather raced to smell, and wishfully be given a bite of, what a person in the audience was eating.)
Dorothy, played by soon-to-be West Salem junior Phoebe Jacobs, was so talented as an actress, singer, and dancer, I now have vowed to never, ever bring up the fact of me having a lead role in the Woodlake Union High School junior class play -- except in the context of "Young people these days are so much more talented than me and my classmates were back in the '60s."
Everybody else in the cast of The Wizard of Oz, without exception, also was hugely enjoyable to watch.
The dancers were a favorite of mine every time they came on stage. Plus, close-up even the rhythmic zig-zag dance movements of Dorothy and her Scarecrow/ Tin Man/ Lion companions to "We're Off to See the Wizard" music looked more impressive to me than it did on a television screen. And I loved the sinuous sensuality of the female Apple Tree Dancers. The music is also live, by the way.
Bottom line: if somehow you've never seen The Wizard of Oz, go see this Enlightened Theatrics production. You've got until August 28. But if you have seen another version of The Wizard of Oz, the same advice applies, because with live theatre every show is different and unique.
Further, this production uses an updated script:
Employing the R.S.C. 1987 adaptation of the musical production, Enlightened Theatrics offers a more technically complex performance featuring as much of the aura of the classic 1939 film as possible on stage.
I didn't completely follow the plot point involving the Wicked Witch's plan to wear out Dorothy and her companions by getting them to dance a lot of jitterbug with the witch's minions, but I sure don't remember anything like this in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz.
This new scene to me was marvelously performed. So again, even if you think you're familiar with The Wizard of Oz, think again. The Enlightened Theatrics production is appealingly unique.