REVIEW: Dorman Theatre’s Phenomenal ‘Wizard of Oz’ Flies High

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“The Wizard of Oz.” Photo by Austin Baker

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

There’s no place like Dorman. There’s no place like Dorman. There’s no place like Dorman.

This mantra will likely be felt, if not spoken, all weekend as Spartanburg School District 6 and the Dorman Theatre Department travel to the magical Land of Oz for its annual spring musical. And this production is, by far, the department’s most enterprising and technically-challenging to date.

With nearly 100 students involved (actors, running crew, musicians and pit singers), and a mammoth budget to match, Dorman brings the cherished L. Frank Baum story to fruition in a marvelous extravaganza that features loads of actual flying, impressive video design and special effects, outstanding vocal work, vibrant costumes and adorable dance routines.

Sarah Hoffman exceeds all expectations as the Kansas farm girl Dorothy, who after a heated argument about her dog Toto (the canine actor Rory Dawkins in her second show at Dorman) with an irascible neighbor and soon-to-be Wicked Witch of the West (a devilish Kalista Pedersen in a prosthetic mask), runs away from home and gets caught in a tornado. But not before eloquently singing Judy Garland’s signature song “Over the Rainbow” from the landmark 1939 film version.

When her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East in Munchkinland, she is practically worshipped by the pint-sized Munchkins, a rambunctious ensemble of youngsters from third grade to middle school, who steal the show with an adorable, well-rehearsed and spirited dance number “Ding, Dong The Witch is Dead.”

She is given magical ruby red slippers by Glinda (a classy and noble performance by Kit Lindsey, who delicately flies in seated on a circular bench) and sent on the Yellow Brick Road to consult with the Wizard of Oz to find her way back to Kansas.

Of course, along her quest she recruits the Scarecrow (the dynamite and agile performer Perrion Porter with “If I Only Had a Brain), the rusted Tin Man (the impeccable David Pierce with “If I Only Had a Heart”) and the wimpy king of the jungle, the Lion (EJ Daniels in “If I Only Had the Nerve”).

You all know the story and I won’t spoil any of the surprises Director Leah Wren has in store for you. But prepare to be dazzled by the many flying sequence, spectacular costumes (especially the emerald flapper dresses in “The Merry Old Land of Oz”) and thrilling dance and tap sequences choreographed by teacher Blair Dawkins, particularly in the Emerald City and in “The Jitterbug.”

And be sure to arrive early and plant yourself in the center for a delightful immersive experience.

Other actors that deserve mention in this massive undertaking include LeAnna Hawkins as Aunt Em, Jack Bingham as Uncle Henry, Alex Davis as Hickory, Trey Westbrook as the Professor/Wizard of Oz and cute-as-a-bug third-grader Delaney Lux as the Munchkin Mayor, who is picked in a ball by Glinda and protected under her crinoline dress.

Vocal Director Alvetta Smith nurtured the top-notch singing, Dave Bruce is Orchestra Conductor, Troy McDowell is Technical Director, Set Designer is Pam Haloulos, Master Carpenter is Chris Drew and Sound Engineer is Rusty Milner.

Also, Flying Director is Dylan Trujillo, Fly System Operators are Ed Geth, Mark Dempsey and Tony Crist. Assistant Director is Leena Bishop, Stage Manager is Christel Hendricks and Assistant Stage Managers are Mattison Lawson and Elizabeth Hill.

In addition, Dorman’s production of “Grandma Duck is Dead” recently took first place at the Palmetto Dramatic Association High School One Act Play Festival and is advancing to Nationals to represent South Carolina in the National One Act Play Chapter Select Showcase at the International Thespian Festival in June. To make a donation to their travel fund, please email districtsixarts@gmail.com or call Leah Wren at (864) 582-4347, Ext. 3505.

 “The Wizard of Oz” continues Friday, April 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 21 at 2 & 7 p.m. at the Dorman High School College Career Fine Arts Center, 1050 Cavalier Way in Roebuck. Tickets are $5 and FREE for children 5 and under.

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