“The Wizard of Oz” cast members Marc Robin (Scarecrow), Ian Knaur (Tinman), Carolyn Anne Miller (Dorothy) and David Girolmo (Lion). Roger S. Duncan photo

Maine State Music Theatre is closing out its 61st season with a classic tale that has captured the imagination and hearts of generations for 119 years. L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” returns to MSMT’s stage after a 58-year hiatus and it’s over-the-rainbow magical. The effects are breathtaking, the costumes and set are a dazzling array of color, the score is stunning, and the cast is truly enchanting.

When Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto are swept off to Oz by a tornado, they set off to see the Wizard in hopes that he can get them back home.  Along the way, they encounter perilous dangers like witches and flying monkeys and meet fantastical new friends that include a scarecrow, a cowardly lion and a man made of tin.

MSMT’s artistic director Curt Dale Clark and Marc Robin, the executive artistic producer at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are once again teaming up to co-direct “The Wizard of Oz,” with Robin lending additional talents as choreographer. The show holds a special place in their hearts. Their partnership began 28 years ago when Clark was cast as the Scarecrow in a children’s show version of “The Wizard of Oz” and Robin was the director.

This production at MSMT also marks Robin’s return to acting. He suffered a career-altering injury to his right ankle 18 years ago while portraying the Scarecrow at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. The award-winning director/choreographer is now stepping out from behind the curtain to once again play the role, and audiences are in for a special treat.

As a director and choreographer, Robin has a knack for bringing out the best in performers. It’s obvious why when watching him perform as the Scarecrow in this production. He radiates an enthusiasm that’s rarely seen in adults and his love for theater is simply infectious. This carries over to his comedic timing, captivating vocals and beautiful dancing, which is fluid and sublime. He’s a marvel to watch, whether he’s doing the jitterbug with the cast on the stunningly choreographed and costumed “Jitterbug,” or tumbling across the stage as an under-stuffed scarecrow who’s been freed from his pole.

Robin is the cherry atop a cast that’s bursting with talent. Carolyn Anne Miller makes her MSMT debut as Dorothy. She tackles the role originated by Judy Garland with ease, delivering gorgeous renditions of iconic songs such as “Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”

Miller’s companions on this magical journey are Robin, Ian Knauer as the Tinman, David Girolmo as the Cowardly Lion and her scene-stealing dog Toto, played by Tootsie and Zelda. Knauer’s well-oiled tenor is a pure delight and Girolmo’s rich baritone is perfect for both a lion’s roar and the operatic “If I Were the King of the Forest.” Girolmo unleashes his humorous side for the role, and it’s divine.

MSMT has cast a wicked good pair of Broadway leading ladies to play the Wicked Witch (Susan Cella) and Glinda the Good Witch (Lauren Blackman). Both are highly expressive, with powerful voices that command the stage.

In total, there are 51 splendid cast members that include a 23-member ensemble and a 20-member youth ensemble/Munchkins. Ben McNaboe leads an eight-member orchestra that delivers a score that’s as vibrant as the colors of the rainbow. Standout actors include Birdie Newman Katz as Aunt Em, Glenn Anderson as Uncle Henry and Michael Olaribigbe as an acrobatic Yellow Brick Road. Andrew Kindig is awe-inspiring as the Gatekeeper/Wizard.

Sound designer Shannon Slaton, lighting designer Jeffrey S. Koger and scenic designer Robert Andrew Kovach have pulled out all the stops to create a world that is a magical feast for the senses. Costume designer Travis M. Grant tops off the splendor with eye-catching costumes that are beyond whimsical. His trees are outstanding, played by the wonderfully outrageous Michael Peter Deeb, Tyler Johnson-Campion and performance intern Diego Cortes.

MSMT captures the wonder, magic and moving message of “The Wizard of Oz” with a production that’s well worth the 58-year wait. Join the theater’s amazing cast and crew as they set off to see the Wizard and marvel at the extravaganza along the way.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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