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(Courtesy Photo) Tuacahnís ìThe Wizard of Ozî runs through Oct. 17 in Ivins.
Theater review: Witches fly in Tuacahn’s ‘Wizard of Oz’
Review » Familiar tale told with special effects as the Emerald City comes to redrock country.
First Published Aug 16 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Aug 16 2014 01:01 am

Ivins • Given Tuacahn’s propensity for creating live theater as a spectacle, you have to think that director Timothy Threlfall was rubbing his hands together in anticipation of staging "The Wizard of Oz." Just think about flying monkeys and witches, a tornado and the wonders of the Emerald City.

So it’s no surprise that the Wicked Witch of the West flies high above the outdoor amphitheater from unexpected places, often announced by a loud explosion. The flying monkeys perform all sorts of acrobatic tricks, again high above the audience. There’s a flying cow (thankfully not a live one) during the tornado scene. Images of the Wizard and Aunt Em, among others, are projected on a water screen. Live farm animals appear onstage, including a dog named Oggie playing the role of Toto.

At a glance

‘The Wizard of Oz’

A talented cast sings its way through the familiar story, augmented by special effects including flying witches, fireworks, live animals and projections on a screen made from water. Those who liked the Judy Garland movie or “Wicked” might enjoy seeing how the professional cast at this outdoor amphitheater presents the story.

When » Through Oct. 17, one night a week (check Tuacahn.org for details)

Where » Tuacahn Amphitheater, Ivins

Tickets » $28.50 (children) to $65.50 (adults) weeknights, $46.50 (children) to $79.50 adults weekends

Running time » Two hours, 20 minutes with a 20-minute intermission

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And don’t forget plenty of fireworks.

Of course, Tuacahn audiences have come to expect these simple tricks of the trade. None mean a thing without a good story, music and decent actors.

What’s amazing is the timeless nature of the songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. I haven’t seen the Judy Garland classic movie in probably 30 years, yet the words and tunes to "Over the Rainbow," "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," "If I Only Had a Brain," "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" and "We’re Off to See the Wizard" are so ingrained that it seems as if I saw the movie last week.

This is a lavish production that often plays to sell-out crowds. Chances are that many Salt Lake-area theater fans who saw "Wicked" in its run at the Capitol Theater and now know the backstory behind the witches will especially enjoy the story.

Other than the plentiful stage tricks and special effects, the production stays pretty close to the plot of the movie. Don’t expect any surprises or changes to the original classic in this straightforward telling of the story.

What those seeing this production should expect is a uniformly excellent cast led by Kari Yancy as Dorothy. While it’s impossible not to compare anyone playing the role with Judy Garland, Yancy makes it her own. She has a flawless voice and a winning way interacting with the other actors, as well as Toto.

Trevor Dion Nicholas, Todd Nielsen and Mark Reis carry off their dual roles as farmhands and as Cowardly Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow.

Bart Williams as Professor Chester Marvel and The Wizard of Oz is great as a flimflam man. And give Mary Gutzi, as the Wicked Witch of the West, kudos for all the flying she does over the stage, often with a broom spewing fire.

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A kids choir that plays both Munchkins and a field of poppies is suitably cute, especially the three young men who play the Lollipop Guild, who managed to elicit a big chuckle from the audience.

Though this is theater as spectacle, the characters aren’t ignored. By the end, the audience truly cares that Dorothy makes it back to Kansas, the Lion finds courage, Scarecrow gets a brain and the Tinman a heart.


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