Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

The Laguna Niguel Community Theatre is putting on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.  Now when I think of The Wizard of Oz, I think of magic conjured up through vibrant colors.   As a matter of fact one might say that the bright colors are a representation of the actual story itself. As a film, the 1939 project that helped make Judy Garland a household name is not very complex.  Dorothy –the lost, little girl –is a saint in all but name while Glinda the Good Witch is practically an angel, and The Wicked Witch of the West is a deeply misunderstood animal rights activist.  Ok, I’m kidding about that last one.  She’s actually an evil, green lady who wants to kill Dorothy’s dog. The stakes are obvious.  Dorothy wants to get home, and the Wicked Witch wants to stop her.  With a central plot that is tailor-made for children, it seems the main question here is whether or not Laguna Niguel’s show will entertain young viewers.  My answer is it will if you get the right seats.

Given that the Wizard of Oz is so widely known, one might expect everyone onstage to simply mimic the film’s characters.  Happily, this is not the case.  I really have to hand it to our leading lady Emilie Manville because her Dorothy is her own person.  I love how she does something other than imitate the original film.  Manville’s Dorothy is friendly and seems mentally invested in the world that she’s inhabiting, rather than simply wandering hither and thither with a befuddled expression  (which other Dorothys often do).   Tiny –a real-life dog –plays her canine companion Toto, while her three traveling companions are played by Justin Bright (the Lion) Joseph Manville (the Tinman) and Nico Zani (the Scarecrow).  All three of them do a good job at playing their characters with enthusiasm and charm.  Charlene DeCicco plays The Wicked Witch of the West, who is  just the right level of scary for small children.  She’s not too loud, but she’s nasty, so you can clearly tell that she is the “bad guy.” The rest of the cast is large, with a list of performers numbering into the sixties, but a lot of shiny costumes keep the little ones’ focus.

The show is being held inside of the Sea County Senior and Community Center. Chairs are lined up on the floor of what is essentially a large reception hall.  I can’t imagine seating in the middle or back would be enjoyable for children, given how challenging it was for the adults in the audience. But it can’t be denied the performers in this show are invested, the costumes are lovely, and all the children in the ensemble are definitely having a blast while getting in some theatrical practice. Should you take your kids to this show?  By all means, yes, just make sure to get seats near the front.

July 29th – August 7th 2016

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