Once again, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora has found a way to turn an often told story into a fresh, eye-popping production.
In this case, the Paramount takes on a beloved classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” After providing audiences with good cheer last Christmas with her joyful production of “Elf The Musical,” director/choreographer Amber Mak works her magic with “The Wizard of Oz.”
Mak puts her stamp on the tale of Dorothy Gale, who longs to escape the Kansas farm where she lives with her aunt, uncle and dog Toto. As it so happens, Mak is a Kansas native and has performed in eight productions of “The Wizard of Oz,” which helps suit her to helm the production.
Paramount Theatre regulars might recognize some familiar faces in the cast. Carl Draper, terrific as the Tinman, has starred in multiple Paramount shows, and Kyle Adams brought sweet, wide-eyed enthusiasm to the lead role of Buddy in last year’s “Elf The Musical.” Adams brings that same charm to his new part as the Scarecrow, along with superb dance moves that defy the human body. His comedic timing is spot on.
It also is to the credit and versatility of actor Paul-Jordan Jansen that after winning a Jeff Award in 2017 for his menacing take as the demon barber in Paramount’s “Sweeney Todd,” he can win over the audience as the lovable, Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
The production, powered by superb voices and acting, is full of impressive performances, including Elizabeth Stenholt, enchanting as Dorothy. The audience sees her character develop as she learns more about herself and her strengths on both sides of the rainbow.
Kudos also go to the Paramount for wanting to use an actual dog in the production rather than a prop. Actually, two rescue dogs share the role – Nessa and Nigel. As a dog owner myself, I know how things can go wrong when you ask your canine to do something. But during the opening night performance, Toto’s role was filled admirably.
A 14-piece orchestra played the rich score live, and skilled puppeteers added menacing flying monkeys and other creatures to the visual feast.
Stunning scenery is the hallmark of any Paramount production, and is the case here. The show also contains its share of special effects that will leave audience members in wonder, from the whirling tornado’s fury to the Wicked Witch of the West melting in front of one’s eyes.
The Paramount’s version of “The Wizard of Oz” is a perfect way for families to celebrate the holiday season.
If you go
WHAT: “The Wizard of Oz”
WHEN: Most Wednesdays through Sundays until Jan. 6
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., downtown Aurora
COST: $36 to $69
INFO: 630-896-6666, paramountaurora.com