Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Palo Alto Players stages movie classic, 'The Wizard of Oz'


They’re off to see the Wizard (from left):  Michael D. Reed as the Cowardly Lion, Noelle Wilder as the Scarecrow, Lauren D’Ambrosio as a crow, Ian Catindig as the Tinman and Libby Einav (alternating with Penelope DaSilva) as Dorothy Gale.   (Scott Lasky photo)

A movie that remains vivid in my memory is “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland.

Palo Alto Players’ stage production of L. Frank Baum’s classic story, as adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, aims to create such memories in new generations while recalling them for the older crowd.

Directed and choreographed by Stacey Reed, the PAP cast of two dozen kids and adults does justice to the adventures of young Dorothy Gale (Penelope DaSilva, double-cast with Libby Einav) after a tornado swoops her from her Kansas home to the Emerald City of Oz.

While she’s on a quest just to get home, she meets three characters who have their own needs that they hope the wizard can provide.

The Scarecrow (Noelle Wilder) wants a brain. The Tinman (Ian Catindig) wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Michael D. Reed) wants courage.

Together they overcome various perils, thanks in part to Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Jessica Ellithorpe), who grants their wishes. Their archenemy is the Wicked Witch of the West (Barbara Heninger).

When they finally see the wizard (Chloë Angst), it’s a big letdown.

But Dorothy, with her beloved dog Toto, finds her way back by clicking the magic ruby red slippers and repeating “There’s no place like home” three times.

Thus she wakes up in a wagon in her yard surrounded by familiar faces. It was all a dream brought on by the tornado. Her companions in Oz were actually people in her home life.

Although the reviewed Nov. 5 production had a shaky start, it soon picked up steam, thanks to a talented cast. Among the standouts is Heninger, who does double duty as the Wicked Witch of the West as well as Miss Gulch, the cantankerous neighbor who wants to take Toto away from Dorothy.

Wilder as the Scarecrow and farmhand Hunk is a deaf performer who signs and mouths their lines and songs while outstanding singer Lauren D’Ambrosio, costumed as a crow, speaks and sings them. The limber-limbed Wilder also is such a talented dancer and actor that the deafness becomes secondary.

Another outstanding singer is the imposing Reed as the Cowardly Lion. His “If I Were King of the Forest” displays his operatic bass voice. He does double duty as designer of the fearsome tornado projections.

The orchestral music is recorded while Rachel Michelberg serves as music and vocal director of the music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg.

The colorful costumes are by Jenny Garcia. The set and props are by Kevin Davies with lighting by Edward Hunter and sound by Sheraj Ragoobeer.

The two-and-a-half hour running time might be a bit much for the very youngest viewers, many of whom squirmed and talked aloud. (PAP advises that no children under 3 will be admitted.) Still, the show is a good introduction to quality, live theater and an enjoyable experience.

“The Wizard of Oz” continues through Nov. 19 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call 650-329-0891 or visit