Zilker Theatre Productions’ The Wizard of Oz

The 59th Zilker Summer Musical embraces all the joy in the familiar tale, making for a family-friendly show

Off to see the Wizard: (l-r) Andrew Cannata, Jordan Barron, Hannah Roberts, and Kirk Kelso (Photo by Suzanne McBride)

The Wizard of Oz is a curious animal. Originally a children's book by L. Frank Baum, it's a quintessentially American folktale about a farm girl and her dog in search of home. While the book and its sequels have faded in popularity, the 1939 movie adaptation with Judy Garland has found a sticking place in the American consciousness. Think how many common phrases came out of that movie, and how many other great musicals it's spawned. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

It's also, let's face it, pretty weak storytelling. I mean that strictly as a comment on the story itself, speaking as someone who's watched the movie (upon which the musical is based) many, many times with her family. I mean, why doesn't the Wicked Witch just take the silly red slippers off of Dorothy's feet? And what does Miss Gulch/the Wicked Witch have against dogs, anyway?

I'm telling you this because nobody in my household seems interested when I point these things out.

The Wizard of Oz is just a story we all know by now. Americans love it for its spectacle and its simple, innocent imagination.

Zilker Theatre Productions presents The Wizard of Oz this summer, and its production embraces all the joy in the musical, without irony. Director J. Robert Moore takes the cast in a direction that favors presentation over subtlety, making it a big show with a big heart for an outdoor venue. A number of the performances adhere pretty closely to how the 1939 film cast played their parts. For many, that familiarity will be enjoyable.

As Dorothy, Hannah Roberts carries the show capably. In the first song of a recent performance, she and the orchestra lost each other in pitch and tempo, although that's likely as not due to the challenges of operating a sound system in an outdoor amphitheatre. Before intermission, Roberts and the Cowardly Lion (Kirk Kelso) wound up carrying handheld mics for a few scenes until their mic packs could get fixed, and that sounds like a critique but it's honestly impressive that Roberts, a pre-professional actor, could manage her lines, her microphone, and a live dog in a basket with such aplomb. Live theatre, man.

The creative costuming by Pam Friday is worth a mention. So is the stamina of Dorothy's companions, who manage what appear to be thick and heavy costumes in the summer heat when most of the audience is fanning themselves. As singers, Andrew Cannata (the Scarecrow), Jordan Barron (the Tin Man), and Kelso imbue their parts with character; their acting matches the show in full-hearted broadness.

The Zilker production of The Wizard of Oz offers some family-friendly escapism, with familiar and pleasant songs. With spectacle and enthusiasm, the show presents what will be a fun evening of nostalgia for many.

The Wizard of Oz

Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater, 2206 William Barton Dr., 512/479-9491
Through Aug. 12
Running time: 2 hr., 35 min.

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