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Teen critic Bedell on ‘The Wizard of Oz’: Amazing props, emotion needed

By Charlotte Bedell

Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here.) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:

Walking out of the auditorium after Providence High School’s March 10 production of “The Wizard of Oz”, I thought, “That was amazing.”

The whole stage was permanently beautiful with ever-changing props. Cast members jumped out from the stage with vivid colors representing the invigorating Land of Oz where scarecrows can walk and nice witches really do exist. Scene after scene, new props would be lugged out onto the stage, some massive and some unneeded. I can’t imagine where all these props fit back stage, or how much time was spent creating them, but they sucked you into Oz and reluctantly let you out.

The music, performed by Providence High School’s orchestra, was energizing. Their music permeated the auditorium and reflected the jovial curiosity of Dorothy and her newfound friends trekking along the yellow brick road. During multiple songs, singing would take place on a sort of extended stage about the width of a sidewalk surrounding the orchestra. Characters would be singing right in front of the audience as the music swelled around them. It was truly magical and it went well with the enchanted world of Dorothy’s dream. The music sounded as if Providence High School had brought in a professional orchestra; it was a talented group of students.

Almost everything was perfect. The actors sang charmingly to the professional-sounding music on a vibrant stage full of beautifully-wrought props. Something was lacking, though. Through the entire eye-popping splendor on stage, there was hardly emotion, and that emotion is what makes “The Wizard of Oz” so touching. There are manifold stories in such a simple play, but Providence High School’s cast didn’t seize them. They let the gorgeous props form the audience’s perception of Oz instead of shaping it themselves, and they let the beautiful music express the emotion of the song instead of through their own voices. The lack of emotion left a sort of hollow feeling to all the scores and to the rest of the show.

Providence’s props, music and even choice in actors were magnificent. What they were missing, though, was the emotion necessary to make “The Wizard of Oz” complete. To really serve justice to a melancholy tale about the value of home, feeling is necessary, and Providence High School just didn’t quite grasp that.

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts) and the Blumenthal Student Critic Program.
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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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