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
www.zilker.org
Through Aug. 12
Running time: 2 hr., 35 min.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Zilker Theatre Productions
Zilker Theatre Productions' <i>All Shook Up</i>
Zilker Theatre Productions' All Shook Up
Take Elvis at his silliest, mix in Twelfth Night, stir playfully, and you have the latest Zilker Summer Musical

Robert Faires, Aug. 3, 2018

Zilker Theatre Productions' <i>Shrek the Musical</i>
Zilker Theatre Productions' Shrek the Musical
The lovable ogre and company spring to life on the Hillside stage with loads of laughs and professional polish

Shanon Weaver, July 29, 2016

More Zilker Summer Musical
Nothing Less Than Magical
Nothing Less Than Magical
Veterans of the Zilker Summer Musical recall enchantment on the hillside

Robert Faires, July 4, 2008

More Arts Reviews
Filigree Theatre's <i>When We Were Young and Unafraid</i>
Filigree Theatre's When We Were Young and Unafraid
Sarah Treem's drama revisits a time not that long ago when American women were controlled

Laura Jones, Feb. 15, 2019

"Randall Reid: Past and Present" at Davis Gallery
The man who reassembles the past's artifacts has his own past's artifacts assembled for all to see

Wayne Alan Brenner, Feb. 15, 2019

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Southwest Theatre Productions' <i>Sweat</i>
Southwest Theatre Productions' Sweat
This production brings home the plight of the American blue-collar worker with sympathy

Jan. 25, 2019

Street Corner Arts' <i>We Are Proud to Present ...</i>
Street Corner Arts' We Are Proud to Present ...
This production is more than exceptional theatre; it asks thought-provoking questions about authority, perspective, and intention

Dec. 7, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Zilker Theatre Productions, Zilker Summer Musical, J. Robert Moore, Hannah Roberts, Kirk Kelso, Jordan Barron, Andrew Cannata, Pam Friday

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle