The Wizard of Oz. Marc Robin (Scarecrow), Ian Knaur (Tinman), Carolyn Anne Miller (Dorothy), David Girolmo (Lion).
(Photo by Roger S. Duncan)

BRUNSWICK– Some parts of classic shows just can’t be changed. In “Beauty in the Beast,” Belle wears a golden gown as she and the Beast dance to a tale as old as time. In “Hello Dolly!,” Dolly Gallagher-Levi makes her entrance at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in a stunning red dress. In “The Wizard of Oz,” the time-honored traditions are not just limited to Dorothy Gale’s blue gingham dress or ruby red slippers. The Wicked Witch of the West is green with a chilling cackle, Glinda the Good Witch’s pink dress glitters from every angle, and the flying monkeys are always scary. 

Maine State Music Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” hits all of these notes and more.

Based on the 1900 book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 MGM film “The Wizard of Oz,” the show follows Dorothy and her beloved dog Toto as a twister takes them from their home in Kansas to Munchkinland and down the yellow brick road to the merry old land of Oz. There, Dorothy meets her famous companions, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion who help her as she tries to escape the Wicked Witch of the West and get home. 

“The Wizard of Oz” has not been performed on Maine State Music Theatre’s stage since 1961, when the role of the Wicked Witch of the West was played by Margaret Hamilton, who also played the role in the film. 

It’s the perfect example of what Maine State Music Theatre does so well: taking a classic show, adding a little extra pizzazz through the costumes, set work and choreography, even adding in a few jokes, but keeping the essence of the show the same. This performance still feels like the beloved classic that MGM brought to our screens in vivid technicolor 80 years ago. 

The Lion (David Girolmo) the Tin Man (Ian Knauer) and the Scarecrow (Marc Robin) are all just as cowardly, heartless, and brainless as they need to be, and just as lovable as you want them to be. Even Toto (Tootsie and Zelda) is perfectly well-behaved and adorable.

Carolyn Anne Miller’s Dorothy is a great deal more energetic than Judy Garland’s, but like Garland, Miller brings the character to life. Miller’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is without a doubt her strongest and most heartfelt. 

The show’s classic songs, “Yellow Brick Road,” “If I Only Had a Brain,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” will keep the audience toe-tapping long after the curtain falls. 

It’s the ensemble cast though, who really steal the show. The munchkins, the dancing poppies, the sassy, cross-dressing apple trees, the citizens of Oz and even the terrifying monkeys are what makes the show so much fun. 

The “behind the scenes” cast, like costume designer Travis M. Grant, Scenic Designer Robert Andrew Kovach and Lighting Designer Jeffrey S. Koger, created a truly spectacular world, from the swirling tornado that lifted Dorothy’s house into the air, to the glittering Emerald City (and its emerald clad residents). 

Directed and choreographed by Curt Dale Clark and Marc Robin, the show is, as the theater puts it, one of the “greatest family musicals of all time.” 

“The Wizard of Oz” is on stage until Aug. 24. 

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