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THEATER REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz

by Chris Conley

THEATER REVIEW (WSAU) -I now know what dozens of kids in Mosinee have been doing this summer. If the neighborhood parks and the swimming pools have seemed a little quiet, that's because the youngsters have been in rehearsal for The Wizard Of Oz. It seems like every child in town is a Munchkin, a flying monkey or a Ozian.

That's by design. Last year's Mosinee Community Theater production of Chicago had no roles for kids. This year's goal was to choose something with many youth-performance opportunities. And it's joyous to see so many kids on-stage. You'll smile as members of the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild come forward. I melted as cute little poppies turned into snowflakes before my eyes.

Our Dorothy, Hanna Raczek, has a very demanding part. She's on-stage from curtain-up to final bows, and she earns her applause for the weight of her role. She has the additional challenge of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' - the definitive entry in the Great American Songbook that will forever belong to a 17-year-old Judy Garland. Raczek has a pleasant singing voice and is a solid actress. She's surrounded by gems in the supporting cast. Danny Koplitz (Scarecrow) and Michael Ruhbusch (The Cowardly Lion) were my favorites. Kim Pittsley, as the Wicked Witch of the West, is superb and steals every scene she's in.

And then, there's the dog. As Toto, she's constantly on-stage is being led, carried and moved about. She's a very good sport. I even saw her getting a short walk behind the Creske Center during intermission. Inga the black terrier mix is the best pet in town.

But this is a long night at the theater. Arthur Freed and his MGM movie-makers in 1939 made the right cuts from an even longer book. This script, a 1987 adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company, adds too much dialogue and stretches out the time between the beloved songs. The Jitterbug scene, a large dance production in the second act, is the best addition that you're not familiar with from the movie. MCT is known for its excellent choreography, and this was the dance highlight of the evening.

At a running time of nearly three hours, this is a long telling of a story we're all familiar with. Happily, there's enough cuteness to carry the show across the finish line.

Chris Conley
7.24.14

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THEATER PREVIEW (WSAU) I owe a debt of thanks to Mosinee Community Theater.

Their production of Annie in the summer of '04 was the first live theater I saw after moving to Central Wisconsin. It was formative.

When deciding whether to move from New York to Wisconsin, one of the things I weighed was my love for the arts. Even when I lived in the suburbs, Id make regular treks to Manhattan to see what I wanted to see. Hot new Broadway show... I'd get tickets. Up and coming singer at the Beacon... I'm there. Radio City Christmas Show? Yep, load-up the kids and bring 'em along. These were things that were a part of my life, and I'd be leaving them behind.

Mosinee Community Theater showed me that live performance can be a joy no matter where it is. And I so thoroughly enjoyed myself that I've sought out other groups and have enjoyed their shows. These days I see move live theater than when I lived in New York.

Tonight Mosinee Community Theater presents The Wizard Of Oz. I understand there are dozens of young, cute Munchkins, a Dorothy with an enchanting singing voice, and a chance to hear a wonderful score that the recording techniques of the 1939 film don't quite capture.

There are also rumors that a usually-well-behaved dog will be making an appearance.

I'll post a review after tonights performance.

Chris Conley
7.24.14

The Wizard of Oz by Mosinee Community Theater is performed at the Creske Center Thursday-Sunday at 7pm.