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“The Wizard of Oz” Wows at DPAC

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)

Just about everyone knows the story of Dorothy Gale, her dog Toto, and their journey to the land of Oz. Surprisingly, however, DPAC’s “The Wizard of Oz” manages to bring a sense of novelty to this classic tale. Featuring new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as all the hits from the beloved 1939 film, this new version of “Wizard” is delightfully funny and refreshingly original. While still the same, sweet story at heart, the revamped script offers more detailed characterizations of Dorothy’s (Danielle Wade) Oz sidekicks: Tin Man (Mike Jackson), Lion (Lee MacDougall), and Scarecrow (Jamie McKnight).

While Jackson certainly holds his own as the Tin Man in search of a heart, MacDougall and McKnight go all out with their performances. McKnight creates a delightfully dense Scarecrow with his perfect comedic timing and unique delivery while MacDougall turns the Lion into a self-proclaimed “friend of Dorothy,” playing many of his lines for the benefit of the adults in the audience. And Wade, who won the starring role via a Canadian reality show, is the kind of Dorothy little girls dream of: pretty, sweet-voiced, and often more than a little reminiscent of Judy Garland. Wade delivers a particularly powerful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” holding onto the song’s last note for an impressively long time Jacquelyn Piro Donovan also wows on stage in her role as the Wicked Witch of the West; she carefully balances the role’s comedic and villainous demands, bringing to life a character that’s a perfectly evil and perfectly funny foil to Dorothy’s sweetness. The real stage-stealer, however, is Nigel, the little rescue dog who plays Toto. Never missing a cue and always looking utterly adorable on stage, it’s no surprise that Nigel garnered more applause than any other cast member at Tuesday night’s performance.

Not only does DPAC’s production, directed by Jeremy Sams, feature a stellar cast, but the special effects are pretty spectacular too. Through video, flashing lights, and a lot of noise, audience members feel as if they’re being transported to Oz right along with Dorothy, and, later in the show, the Wicked Witch’s infamous melting scene is almost magical, especially for the younger viewers.

It’s not just the “high tech stuff” that’s impressive either. Set and costume designer Robert Jones is certainly not afraid to play around with color. He keeps the early Kansas scenes drab and dark and the Oz scenes appropriately colorful, mirroring the famous transition from black and white to color in the original film. And, when it comes to costumes, Jones doesn’t use his sparkles sparingly. Dorothy’s red shoes and Glinda’s (played by Amanda Struthmann on Tuesday) long, glittering gown demand attention onstage. The fast-paced choreography, which includes an incredibly complex and fascinating to watch routine during “Hail-Hail! The Witch is Dead,” is also mesmerizing.

“The Wizard of Oz” may have been done time and time again, but viewers have certainly never seen it done quite like this. DPAC’s version is a real treat for the young and the young at heart.

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).


Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click To read more of her writings, click and

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews