STAGE REVIEW SCT's 'Oz' is evening of pure magic

The spectacular costumes, beautiful music and special effects were totally enthralling to young and old alike.
SALEM -- Salem Community Theatre was off to see the wizard Friday evening at its opening performance of the musical version of "The Wizard of Oz."
The famous yellow brick road was replete with the lovable characters from L. Frank Baum's books, including Dorothy and Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, and of course, the bane of their existence, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Never in my writing career have I had so much advice on a review as I received from my two daughters who attended with me. My girls positively glowed from the beginning of the performance until long afterward, telling me that "you have to include" this and "don't forget" that to the point that would fill my allotted space many times over.
Granted it's the opinion of two youngsters, but as a grown-up kid myself, I can't help but agree with them. I have seen some excellent performances at SCT, but this lavish production definitely outshines them all. The spectacular costumes, beautiful music and unbelievable special effects were totally enthralling to young and old alike, and earned the cast of 80 a rousing standing ovation by the capacity crowd. This is a production that, if the public demands it, should be held over if at all possible so that more people can make the journey down that yellow brick road.
Astoundingly superb performances by every actor preclude any individual mention, but here is a list of the principal characters and the extremely talented actors who played them: Dorothy, Paige Kasten; Aunt Em, Mary Beth Morse; Uncle Henry, Joe Eritz; Zeke, Glen Peison; Hickory, Richard MacAleese; Hunk/Scarecrow, Roger Gaskins; Miss Gultch, Patty Eaton; Professor Marvel/Wizard, C. Richard Haldi; Glinda, Linda McKim; Wicked Witch, Jeanne Kelly; Lion, Kyle Snyder; Tin Man, Mark Hutson; Guard, John A. Zamarelli; and Nikko (Monkey), Kyle McLaughlin. And of course, last, but never least, was "Zoee" Yeagley as Toto, who, outside of one slight puddling incident, was flawless.
Munchkins, played by a large group of children, also were in full supply as the musical wended its way from Dorothy's home in the Kansas farmland to the wondrous, colorful world "Over the Rainbow" as the young heroine and her friends set out in search of home, brains, heart and courage, learning along the way some valuable lessons in friendship, love and that "there's no place like home."
The large chorus that populated the land of Oz as citizens, flying monkeys, Winkies, poppies, snowflakes, jitterbug dancers, crows, trees, etc. also was a delight to behold.
From set decorations to costumes to special effects, director John A. Zamarelli and his numerous assistants have mounted one of the finest productions in the area, and their hard work should be rewarded with a full house at each performance.
So follow Salem's red brick sidewalks to Salem Community Theatre to enjoy an evening in the magical land of Oz. And if you don't have a kid or two to take along, take the kid inside you. You'll be glad you did.

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