Wednesday, June 14, 2017

reviews - THE WIZARD OF OZ - Valley Youth Theatre

Kendra Richards, Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez
photo by Cliff Cesar
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through June 25th.

"The Wizard of Oz is the classic, moving tale of a young girl's journey to find herself and it also proves to be a perfect theatrical endeavor for a youth theatre company. With a great cast and excellent creative elements, Valley Youth Theatre's sumptuous production results in a family-friendly crowd-pleasing hit....VYT's production pulls out all of the stops, with large set pieces, colorful and imaginative costumes and a cast who deliver superb performances of these iconic characters. Under Bobb Cooper's skilled direction, his teenage leads all achieve excellent performances that hint at but never truly mimic their famous film counterpoints. Kendra Richards delivers a perfect portrayal of Dorothy. From pensive and unsure to headstrong and optimistic, Richards hits all the right wide-ranging emotional notes that Dorothy experiences on her journey to Oz. ...As the three men Dorothy meets on the road to meet the Wizard, Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez all deliver excellent performances. ...Alexis Harris has the right balance of menace and evil as the Wicked Witch of the West, yet includes just a hint of humor to not be too scary for any small children in the audience. As Glinda, Tiana Marks is regal and effervescent with a beautiful singing voice while Ethan Maxwell is both conniving and charming as the mysterious Wizard. Musical director Mark Fearey achieves a lovely sound from the large cast and orchestra. While the show features a slightly abridged ending that doesn't quite take us all the way back to Dorothy's Kansas bedroom, which is my only quibble, Cooper does add in a simply stunning version of "Over the Rainbow" sung by all of Dorothy's Kansas farm friends that is a showstopper in both its simplicity and its ability to be incredibly moving and filled with emotion. ..Karol Cooper's non-stop, jaw-dropping parade of imaginative, colorful and creative costumes are very impressive. ...Choreographer Nathalie Velasquez provides some fun and fancy steps that are well danced by the cast. With a highly talented cast and bright and colorful creative elements that help effectively create the fairy-tale, dreamlike world of Oz and the many colorful characters who live there, VYT's The Wizard of Oz is incredibly entertaining and a delicious treat for children of all ages. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...The theatrical magic of this undeniably fun and even exciting VYT production is illustrated in the whole Munchinkinland sequence. With color, the exemplary costumes of the Munchkins that echo the look of the film, and the energetic way this youthful supporting cast inject life into their miniature characters (look for The Lullaby League and The Lollipop Guild) plus their rousing, crowd-pleasing rendition of Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead, the show has already won you over....Asher Sheppard’s Tin Man...manages to convey a sense of heart and vulnerability, and that’s not easy when doing it through the considerable layers of metal makeup he has to endure, plus he has a great speaking voice. Jared Barbee’s Scarecrow is immensely likable the moment we meet him, while Steven Enriquez’s Cowardly Lion nicely captures that vaudeville essence that made the original Lion, Bert Lahr, and his distinct comical vocal delivery so popular. Kendra Richards’ Dorothy is exactly as you would want; plainspoken and take-charge, looking resplendent in her blue and white gingham dress, the character’s trademark look. ...There are also two other memorable leads that make an impression due to director Cooper’s eye for good casting. Tiana Marks...is a wonderful Glinda. Tiana’s appearance..makes for an even more eye-catching sorceress than the movie’s original, Billie Burke....Alexis Harris’ principle villain, the Wicked Witch of the West...yanks the show from under Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. ...with her maniacal laugh and the evil way she revels in the delight of causing Dorothy misery, Alexis becomes the center of the production. You can’t help but take to her every time she enters...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"I can't be sure when Valley Youth Theatre's THE WIZARD OF OZ had me securely in its grips. It was either the uplifting choral rendition (voices of teen angels!) of Somewhere Over the Rainbow when I felt transported into the church of BoBB Cooper, the company's visionary artistic director. Or, it was when twenty-four adorable and energized 8-12 year old Munchkins commanded the stage. (Oh, for an encore by such darling acts as the Lollipop Guild (Quinn Heim, Cody Rooney, and Elliot Thompson) and the Lullaby League (Bali Bare, Vivian Nichols, and Molly Prefling)!...the audience and I reveled as Dorothy (Kendra Richards of full and lustrous voice) and her steadfast companions, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion (played with grand éclat by Jared Barbee, Asher Sheppard, and Steven Enriquez) skipped along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City....let me sing the praises for the following singular performances: Tiana Marks (Glinda), Alexis Harris (the Wicked Witch), Sam Brown (the Emerald City's gatekeeper), and Ethan Maxwell (the Wizard). Glory, what personality, definition of character, and stage presence they bring to their roles!... when they're on stage, finally alone in the limelight, they're performing like pros ~ a testament to Cooper's watchful guidance and instruction. There is no doubt in this reviewer's mind that among these thespians are some future stars who will join the ranks of VYT's distinguished alumni. (Take note, Emma Stone!)...Here's a show perfectly suited for the entire family and guaranteed to fix a permanent smile on their faces." Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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