By Erika Brown Thomas
There’s no place like Paramount for the holidays.
Aurora’s Paramount Theatre presents The Wizard of Oz with the nostalgia of yesteryear and the technological trappings of today.
Under the superb direction of Amber Mak, the production is a delight for the brains and hearts of the whole family, although with a PG rating, audiences should ensure the youngest viewers in their party are old enough to maintain their courage through some of the louder, scary scenes. There are loud sounds & strobe lights & fog, oh my.
Elizabeth Stenholt takes the reins as the beloved heroine, Dorothy Gale and sails away with a stunning rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Her first-rate vocals are as winsome as her traveling companion, Toto (Nessa) who executes her every move with perfection.
As Dorothy journeys to Oz – she is first met by the loveable Scarecrow, played by Kyle Adams. Adams has a penchant for drawing out the laughter from even the corniest puns and brings the tenderness of this familiar storybook friend to light with ease.
The Tinman (Carl Draper) and the Lion (Paul-Jordan Jansen) complete the collection of companions journeying to Oz. Both actors do their charismatic characters justice with gestures reminiscent of the actors who originated the roles while also adding their own characterizations—Draper with his tapping tin toes and Jansen with vocal prowess.
Harriet Nzinga Plumpp gives both her characters—Aunt Em and Glinda the Good Witch—a modern day woman’s backbone and the wherewithal to attend and truly be the savior when called for. Her entrances as the Witch of the North are truly enhanced by the creative team of scenic, lighting, costume and sound designers (Kevin Depinet, Christopher Rhoton, Theresa Ham, Greg Hoffman and Adam Rosenthal).
Depinet and Rhoton have created a fantastic and resourceful framework for the many different locals of this musical in the simple use of barn slats. The scene transformations are seamless and imaginatively produced in conjunction with stellar digital projections by Kevan Loney.
The Wicked Witch of the West (Caron Buinis) is a funnier version of the famous cinematic villainess. As she wisecracks her way through threats of death and doom, Buinis is clearly in her element and the famous melting moment does not disappoint (even if the water throwing upstaged itself).
The ensemble of Munchkins, Jitterbugs (a catchy number cut from the famed film) and Citizens of Oz support an outstanding cast of leading characters while carefully crafted puppets by Jesse Mooney-Bullock provide an extra element of artistry to an already eye-catching production.
And a big shout-out to the Paramount production staff for going out of the way to be child-friendly! With activity books, booster seats and an outwardly friendly and outgoing auditorium staff—children are welcomed at every turn into the venue—making it easy to have a most enjoyable theatrical experience!
Grab your tickets and get on your way to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz this holiday season! A fabulous evening in Oz is waiting for you at the Paramount Theatre.
Paramount Theatre presents “The Wizard of Oz” through January 6 at 23 East Galena Boulevard Aurora. More information and tickets are available here. Photos by Liz Lauren.