Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Wizard of Oz” at DPAC Is a Wonderful Multimedia Musical Extravaganza

"The Wizard of Oz" stars (from center) Danielle Wade as Dorothy Gale, Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow, Lee MacDougall as the Cowardly Lion, and Mike Jackson as Tin Man (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

“The Wizard of Oz” stars (from center) Danielle Wade as Dorothy Gale, Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow, Lee MacDougall as the Cowardly Lion, and Mike Jackson as Tin Man (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s nifty new version of The Wizard of Ozis a wonderful multimedia musical extravaganza. Based on the classic 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film and playing six shows through Sunday at the Durham Performing Arts Center, the First North American Tour of The Wizard of Oz is chock-full of spectacular special effects, including an onstage tornado and a terrifying (but thankfully brief) appearance by those infernal flying monkeys that the Wicked Witch of the West (played to hissable perfection by New York, NY actress Jacquelyn Piro Donovan) sics on badly frightened Kansas runaway Dorothy Gale (Danielle Wade) and her three fearful companions on the Yellow Brick Road: the Scarecrow (Jamie McKnight), the Tin Man (Mike Jackson), and the Cowardly Lion (Lee MacDougall).

Donovan, who garnered rave reviews as last-minute substitute for Cybill Shepherd as Dolly Levi in the North Carolina Theatre‘s gala May 2011 presentation of Hello, Dolly!, is delightfully devilish as Oz’s Queen of Mean, the garishly green Wicked Witch of the West, who vows to eternal enmity toward Dorothy and her little dog, too, after a tornado whisks Dorothy’s house from Kansas to Oz and drops it smack dab on top of the hapless Wicked Witch of the East, whose prized ruby slippers Dorothy dons and refuses to hand over to her inadvertent victim’s indignant sister — the Wicked Witch of the West — whose icky upswept coiffure makes her look like Lady Gaga on a good hair day!

Jacquelyn Donovan doubles the fun with her malicious mien as mean old Miss Gulch, the nasty neighbor who threatens to have Toto (Nigel or Loki) destroyed, because the feisty little dog bite her bony ankle. Danielle Wade, who won her role in a contest sponsored by CBC TV’s “Over the Rainbow” reality show more than validates the votes of the Canadian viewers who selected her. Indeed, her poignant rendition of Dorothy’s signature solo, “Over the Rainbow,” comes straight from the heart, and is in no way a Judy Garland imitation.

Jamie McKnight’s pratfalls as the rubber-legged Scarecrow, Mike Jackson’s stiff-jointed amblings as the rain-rusted Tin Man, and Lee MacDougall’s nervous strutting and fretting as the Cowardly Lion are all adorably awkward. Their sublime silliness will amuse children of all ages.


Danielle Wade as
Dorothy Gale


Jay Brazeau as the
Wizard of Oz


Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as the
Wicked Witch of the West

Larry Herbert and Chelsey Duplak are “American Gothic” characters come to life as Dorothy’s hard-working Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, trying to raise chickens in a climate in which ferocious tornadoes are a frequent occurrence; and Amanda Struthmann, substituting for Robin Evan Willis as Glinda the Good Witch, provided a glamorous and palpably good counterpart to the hideously ugly and just plain mean Wicked Witch of the West. But it is Jay Brazeau, who does delightful double duty as the genial fortune teller Professor Marvel (who befriends Dorothy) and the megalomaniacal Wizard of Oz (who dispatches Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion on what he considers a suicide mission to the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle to wrest her broomstick from her and bring it back to the Wizard).

Oh, what a Wiz Jay Brazeau is! Behind the curtain, he’s a tyrant of the first order, with a thundering voice that makes its hearers tremble; but when Toto exposes him as an ordinary man employing extraordinary magic-lantern technology to terrorize the inhabitants of Oz, he quickly changes his tune and becomes more like the itinerant fortune teller Professor Marvel, Dorothy’s avuncular host who offers to share his meager supper with the runaway farmgirl as the surrounding winds begin to form themselves into a funnel cloud.

Although the spectacular onstage pyrotechnics that director and adapter Jeremy Sams and choreographer Arlene Phillips employ to add snap, crackle, and pop to the proceedings set off DPAC‘s smoke alarms at a key moment during Tueday’s opening-night performance, this terrific touring version of the 2011 London and Toronto production of The Wizard of Oz has wonders well worth beholding. The cast and creative team have magic to do, and they do it very well, indeed!

Even those damned flying monkeys — which gave me nightmares during my youth every year that the film was broadcast on television — are vividly recreated onstage in this PG-rated musical. The nightmarish landscape surrounding the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West is also the stuff that night terrors are made of. So, leave the toddlers at home … please.

The First North American tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of "The Wizard of Oz" is based on the London and Toronto productions (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

The First North American tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of “The Wizard of Oz” is based on the London and Toronto productions (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

SECOND OPINION: April 10th Chapel Hill, NC preview by Zach Godwin :; April 10th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: and April 9th news article:; April 9th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: and April 4th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must register to read these articles); April 6th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Charity Apple:; and Sept. 10, 2013 New York, NY preview by Michael Gioia and Andrew Gans: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the April 8th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE WIZARD OF OZ at 7:30 p.m. April 10, 8 p.m. April 11, 2 and 8 p.m. April 12, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 13 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.

TICKETS: $42.75-$121.75 (including fees).


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and









NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13th, performance.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900 novel): (fan site by Eric P. Gjovaag) and (Wikipedia).

Book: (Library of Congress online facsimile edition).

L. Frank Baum (novelist, 1856-1919): (Wikipedia).

The Wizard of Oz (1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical-fantasy film): (official website), (TCM Movie Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Harold Arlen (music, 1905-86): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (lyrics, 1896-1981): (Yip Harburg Foundation) and (Wikipedia).

Herbert Stothart (incidental music, 1885-1949): (Wikipedia).

Noel Langley (screenwriter, 1911-80) (Wikipedia).

Florence Ryerson (screenwriter, 1892-1965) (Wikipedia).

Edgar Allan Woolf (screenwriter, 1881-1943) (Wikipedia).

The Wizard of Oz (2011 musical): (official website), (, (, (Facebook page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (additional music and new songs): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Sir Tim Rice (additional lyrics and new songs): (official website) and (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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