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‘The Wizard of Oz’ at SouthLake Christian Academy

blumey student critics
T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
Grace Wallace

With frequent television showings and a massive fan base spanning generations, “The Wizard of Oz” is one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed movies of all time. That makes it difficult for any theatrical production to offer something new come opening night. SouthLake Christian Academy’s success in presenting an energetic, enthralling performance of “The Wizard of Oz” may have been a result of the musical’s inherent heart, rather than any innovative take on the classic.

In the story many know well, young Dorothy is swept out of Kansas and into a magical world filled with talking lions, evil witches and an all-powerful wizard. She and her new-found friends uncover good moral qualities within themselves and discover that there is, in fact, no place like home. Southlake’s rendition of this ruby-studded classic followed the script of the movie movement by movement, making it rather unoriginal yet a pleasing spectacle for the entire family.

From the dull, black and white atmosphere of Kansas to the intricate, vibrant world of the yellow brick road, SouthLake’s well-crafted set bore a striking resemblance to the set in the 1939 movie. This, among other similarities such as costumes, accents and personas, did not make the musical any less pleasing to the eye and ear.

Leah Wallace had a suitable voice for Dorothy, reaching the notes in “Over the Rainbow” with ease. She maintained the cheery spirit of a child, though she could have stretched her acting abilities during more serious scenes to help the audience empathize with the character. The role of Dorothy’s foe, the wicked witch, was played by Kaitlin Miller in all its screechy glory. Though frightful in her green skin and pointed hat, Miller too could have stretched her acting to include some variety in vocal tone.

In contrast to the woeful witch, the ensemble reflected Dorothy’s bubbly attitude, never losing energy and maintaining vocal harmony (which is no easy feat in a converted gymnasium with traditional gym acoustics). The other members of Dorothy’s quartet contributed sincere performances ripe with laughs brought on by the Scarecrow’s (Kyle Hammil) bumbling nature, the Tinman’s (Josh Robertson) rigid movement and the Cowardly Lion’s (Alexa Wallace) search for bravery. These three and Wallace carried the audience down a yellow brick road that led to the knowledge that you must believe in yourself and find where you belong.

SouthLake made an interesting choice by including “The Jitterbug,” a musical number cut from the movie score because the film’s director felt it was too silly to match the preceding fantasy. The number did not detract from the show but was slightly distracting, making the evil witch seem less sinister in her plot to claim the ruby slippers. Because the audience had at this point become immersed in the world of the movie, this sudden deviation in tone felt out of place.

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