Review: 'Wizard of Oz' at Barn Theatre Captures the Inner Child Within Us All

The road to The Barn Theatre in Augusta is paved with yellow bricks for a reprise of The Wizard of Oz, a faithful musical adaptation of the beloved 1939 MGM film last produced at the theater in 2006. 

In short, it’s everything any fan of the story and film might want and nothing they wouldn’t.

Wonderful singing and dancing, brilliant archetypal characters sprung to life, colorful, creative costumes, and just the right amount of wizardry to make monkeys and witches fly as well as a convincing mystical Oz and a treacherous tornado touch down make this live experience a delight for adults and children alike.

And there’s Toto, too—who no doubt receives a standing ovation every night—the dog actor named Emma who behaves beautifully though also nearly licks Dorothy’s face off (to her credit she never let on that she minded).

It’s the story (written by L. Frank Baum in 1900) and the music by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg we all know so well from the film, though The Barn makes it their own with uniquely masterful performances. Gabrielle Bieder is a sweet Dorothy. Her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is beautiful,  she manages Toto expertly, emotes terrifically with her face, and looks every bit the part in her ruby red slippers and pig tails.

Max Ilan is an adorable Cowardly Lion, Trace Burchart an excellent Tin Man, and Aaron Czarnecki a fantastically embodied Scarecrow who also captures a pleasing brainlessness. These three characters as Dorothy’s sidekicks are very much the heart of this show, and their performances are marvelous.

As are everyone else’s. From Penelope Alex’s wonderfully Wicked Witch of the West to John Jay Espino’s revelatory Wizard of Oz to Melina Walko’s lovely Glinda to Luke Ragotzy’s remarkable Nikko the flying monkey, every character comes alive with amusing little surprises, many of which are supported by technical elements such as hair and wigs by Garrylee McCormick, often clever technicolor costumes by Karsen Green and Thomas J. Bernard, props by Steven Lee Burright and James B. Knox, spot-on sound design by David Lawrence McDonald and Troy Benton, lights by Tracy V. Joe, and phenomenal projections by Brett Burradell.

The many munchkins are each unique thanks to their quirky, provocative performances, candy-colored costumes, and festive choreography by Melissa Cotton Hunter (which also runs the gamut from the Charleston to fouetté turns).

There’s some element of spectacle here, of course, but under Brendan Ragotzy’s excellent direction, the heart and soul of this fantastical allegory and its dazzling characters are what drive this production. And Musical Director Matt Shabala and his 8-piece band make magic with the way it all sounds.

The entire production captures the imagination of the inner child within each of us. With only a few performances left, this is the family summer musical hot ticket well worth pursuing.

Wizard of Oz
Barn Theatre
Aug. 1-13

Dorothy Wizard 1