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Columns

Tales From the Motherhood in Batavia: Paramount musical takes audience over the rainbow

Dorothy Gale certainly isn’t unique in her youthful quest to escape her circumstances in search of the greener grass she dreams she’ll find “somewhere over the rainbow,” but the Paramount’s fresh interpretation of “The Wizard of Oz” sure is.

My daughter and I headed to the theater for the recent opening night and concluded that in spite of a few modern twists, there’s plenty for hardcore Judy Garland enthusiasts to appreciate.

For one thing, Elizabeth Stenholt, the Des Plaines native who plays Dorothy, practically channels Garland, the actress who famously starred in the iconic 1939 film of the same name. It itself was adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the 1900 children’s novel written by author L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W.W. Denslow.

Stenholt rocks this role. What a voice! Those of her merry band of comrades are equally superlative: Kyle Adams (last year’s Buddy the Elf) makes a crazy-flexible Scarecrow, Paul-Jordan Jansen (whom Holly recognized as last year’s Sweeney Todd) plays the Cowardly Lion and Carl Draper plays Tin man.

Holly’s favorite performer? Toto, Dorothy’s little dog. Oh yeah, I get that.

In typical Paramount fashion, there’s lots more to enjoy about this production, including the fantastic Paramount orchestra and the fabulous set, the latter of which actually received major applause (a first for me) during the twister scene that carries Dorothy and Toto far from their Kansas farm.

Notable mentions include the choreography, especially that of the “Jitterbug,” a dance sequence that didn’t make the cut in the 1939 film; the fun, funky props; and the costumes, particularly those featuring lots of steampunk elements.

Glinda the Good Witch’s dress is a stunning electrical feat, but I admit, I was distracted by her harness belt after she disembarked from her aerial bubble. No Paramount production would be complete without puppets, and this one, featuring clever crows and flying monkeys, is no exception. Those entertaining Paramount puppets never disappoint.

The grass isn’t always greener, and when Dorothy yearns to return home, Glinda reminds her she had the ability to go home again all along. Originally from Kansas herself, “Wizard” Director Amber Mak has performed in “The Wizard of Oz” eight times in her professional career. It’s clear she’s got this story down, but what’s up with the ending?

This “Wizard” is thoroughly satisfying, but Dorothy’s best friends, the friendly farmhands who figured prominently on her trip down the yellow brick road, are absent when she wakes up from her Oz adventure.

“What the heck? That’s my favorite part,” I said.

“He (Jansen) was in a lion costume,” Holly explained.

Okay, sure, a logistical nightmare. But a girl can dream, right?

Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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