THE WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum, Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, directed by Allen MacInnis (Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front East). To December 30. $15-$20. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNN
The stage version of The Wizard Of Oz might not send you completely over the rainbow, but director Allen MacInnis 's production is entertaining and energetic.
John Kane 's adaptation of the MGM film uses most of the dialogue from the movie and, vitally, imports most of its score, too. It also includes song intros and one production number (The Jitterbug, with its finger-snapping jive) cut from the 1939 classic, as well as backstories we've not heard before. It's a challenge at first to get the iconic film characters out of your head, but most of the performers create their own fully realized figures.
The show is anchored by Saccha Dennis 's heartfelt performance as Dorothy, the Kansas girl who discovers that she doesn't have to leave home to find her heart's desire. Apart from an occasional tendency to belt a note - sorry, the style doesn't work here - she captures the character's innocence and growing concern for others.
Sharron Matthews is also a standout, a Wicked Witch who's more like one of those strict teachers we all tried to avoid. Dorothy's trio of friends, played by Thom Allison , Paul McQuillan and Shawn Wright , are fun and nicely drawn, as is George Masswohl 's Emerald City guard.
Sam Moses gives a warmly avuncular turn as Professor Marvel and the Wizard. In comparison to the others, Molly Atkinson 's Aunt Em and Glinda feel bland.
Though the show is slow to get moving, it takes off when it comes to Oz. Here, the theatrical magic is mostly low-key but effective, especially Steve Lucas 's lighting. Michael Gianfrancesco's sets and costumes for Oz are clever - you'll be surprised and delighted with his Munchkin creations - and his watercolour backdrops for the Kansas scenes are prettily, properly old-fashioned.
A question, though. Fine that Oz is a backstage area filled with old props and set pieces, a space Dorothy populates with people from her "ordinary" life. But why a theatre? It's a good concept, but there's no connection to Dorothy or her life in Kansas. Give us one, please.