The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s The Wizard of Oz Shines

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite musical. It’s one of my favorite movies, actually. The songs are fun and memorable, there’s a fantastic mix of wickedness, humor and heart, and the story (though totally bizarre) is totally universal. So I was very excited when I learned The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati was bringing this musical to life in February… but the musical had a lot to live up to. But, unsurprisingly, The Children’s Theatre’s production of this beloved classic truly shined, and my kids and I sat totally memorized for the hour-long performance.


First of all, the design crew did an absolutely fantastic job on the set. Kansas was grey and brown and even dusty (?). I was very curious as to how the iconic tornado scene would be handled; this was accomplished through a combination of visual effects, actors whirling around stage as the wind, and Dorothy physically being lifted through the air. The stark difference between Kansas and Munchkinland is just as impressive as in the movie, with the latter boasting bright colors, fairy tale houses and, of course, the yellow brick road. Quick mentions of the luminescent Emerald City and haunted forest ought to be made; each setting in this play really took you there.

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My kids were delighted to learn that Toto was real, which brings me to the other actors in this show. Going up against a classic can be daunting, but these actors were amazing. Kalie Kaimann’s Dorothy was earnest and sympathetic, and she had a beautiful singing voice. The Scarecrow, played by Jay Goodlett, was gracefully clumsy, tumbling around the stage like a yogi or dancer. Deondra Kamau Means’s Cowardly Lion was absolutely hilarious and endearing, his whiny purr cracking my kids up. The Wizard was none other than Channel 12’s Bob Herzog, and he nailed it as both Professor Marvel and the Wizard. {You know the phrase ‘Don’t quit your day job’? Mr. Herzog totally could quit his job at Channel 12 and move to Hollywood.}

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But this show was more than its main performers, and this was epitomized by the Munchkinland sequence. This is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, and The Children’s Theatre truly did it justice. From the Lollipop Guild to the Lullaby League, to the Coroner to the Mayor, all of these characters really worked together to make Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland one of the most memorable scenes in the play. (Of course, both Witches were also spectacular, though Liz Tabbert Comstock was so convincing as the Wicked Witch of the West that my 6-year-old had to hide his eyes behind his program each time she appeared.)

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The Wizard of Oz is one of those special stories where you’re learning lessons without even realizing it. As the Cowardly Lion leads the charge to save Dorothy from the Witch, you see he already has the courage he seeks. The “brainless” Scarecrow uses reverse psychology to get the cranky apple trees to throw them their apples. And the Tin Man, as portrayed by James Jones, never questions whether or not he’s in on the plan to rescue Dorothy, or help her out with the Wizard — he possesses tremendous heart all along. This is something I never really picked up from the film, but that The Children’s Theatre actors did an amazing job in showing.

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The Wizard of Oz will be something your kids talk about long after the final curtain falls. It’s full of memorable characters, amazing songs and a number of important lessons. And having such a fantastic children’s threatre right here in Cincinnati, there really is “no place like home.”

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The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s The Wizard of Oz Shines has four more shows this weekend: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, 2 and 5 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 18 and 2 p.m. on Sun. Feb. 19. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here. The Children’s Theatre announced next season’s lineup, which, in addition to four Main Stage shows, includes a brand-new, two-show Showtime Stage series at the Red Bank Road facility!

Photo credit: Mikki Schaffner Photography.


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