The cast of the Wizard of Oz Radio Play brought to life the vintage production in grand fashion on the stage of the Acorn Theater Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 5 and 6.
Both performances left the audience feeling breathless, young at heart and in awe. The timeless characters were given new life by the performers, who instilled in them warmth, humor and, in some cases, fear. Soprano Martha Cares brought tears to one’s eyes in her final rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and kept the audience enthralled with her journey through corn fields and down the yellow brick road on her way to the Emerald City.
Another opera performer, Robert Swan, made the audience quiver as he brought the Wicked Witch to life. Dennis O’Connor played the beloved dog, Toto, as well as the loveable, brainless scarecrow. Darren Stephens showed all that the Tin Man really did have a heart, and Kevin Murray made everyone fall in love with the Cowardly Lion. Amber Carnahan gave an endearing performance of Glinda the Good Witch. Many cast members played multiple supporting parts, such as Professor Marvel, Mr. Gallagher, the munchkins and Aunt Em. Those performing were Chloe Naumann, David Fink, Dave Knoebber and Anne Jenkins. The Wizard of Oz and the Guard were played by Warren Moulton.
In addition to the play, there were radio commercials and spot announcements. Once again, the comedy team of O’Connor and Murray had the audience in stitches as they presented local business sponsors in foreign and unique dialects: The Frenchmen touted French Twist, Mexican hombres promoted El Rancho Grande and, out of the middle east, the duo hailed the cuisine at Café Gulistan. O’Connor brought the incomparable George Burns back to life and John Wayne and his sidekick, Gabby, made an appearance for Dewey Canon Trading Post (although Wayne stated that he preferred his horse to a bicycle). Executive Director of the Acorn Sandra Thompson played Libby Collins as the voice of the Lux Soap commercials as well as directed the show. Pianist David Lahm provided the music and set the mood for the play, and Knoebber designed the colorful set.
In the past four years, the radio show performers have brought to the Acorn Miracle on 34th Street (2015), It’s a Wonderful Life (2014) and War of the Worlds (2013). All of the performers donated their time for the benefit of the Acorn Theater.
Cares said of the show, originally produced in 1939, “I’ve always loved The Wizard of Oz, it is a true classic that has endured the test of time.”
Many who attended the show felt they had traveled back to their childhood with a renewed spirit, and that the cast deserved a Tony Award for a performance well done.