Editor’s Note: Steve Nash is on vacation this week, and former Bulletin staff writer Candace Cooksey Fulton offered a submission.
I didn’t steal Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. Come to find out, I didn’t need them. I knew what we had all known all along.
There is no place like home.
Or maybe, more wonderful than the “no place” designation, is that there is “some place” like home. That’s where I was Sunday, “back home” for just a visit, comfortably seated in the Dorothy McIntosh Fine Arts Center enjoying — no loving — the Lyric Performing Arts Company’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
And I am here to say, now, the show is a must-see, a homecoming of sorts for everyone, no matter where they are or from which side of the rainbow their roots are planted. It’s an easy show to enjoy. We laugh because the lines are funny, nod our heads because we know they’re true.
I have seen every LPAC musical since the company’s premiere of “Cinderella” in 2003 and loved them every one. LPAC productions are always superb, amazingly sophisticated in every aspect — the talented actors’ performances, their incredible costumes, the marvelous orchestra and ingenious set design.
Each year we say, “This is the best one yet,” though there is little to no point in making a comparison. Each play has stood on its own.
Except … The “Wizard of Oz” doesn’t really stand. It sings. It dazzles. It delights. It surprises. Because? (“Because, because, because, because, because of the wonderful things it does.” Sorry. That’s what happens. You get caught up.)
Seriously now. Because we’ve all seen Judy Garland hundreds of times on television following the yellow brick road and because this is Brownwood, Texas, (some place like home) we “tsk, tsk” that it could be so good.
But LPAC’s “Wizard of Oz” is that good — and better. Melting wicked witch? Check. A real “fake” smoke-and-mirrors Oz? Yes sir, you got it. The home place in the cyclone? An ingenious stage maneuver that will — well maybe not literally — blow you away.
Meredith Underwood’s Dorothy gets us over the rainbow and back, but of course with the dynamic support of her friends, Matthew McNiece as the cowardly lion; Ben Sword, the “brainless” scarecrow; and James Hamilton, the heart-seeking tinman, the trip is all the more enjoyable.
Torri Lynn Choate is too believable as the irascible Miss Gultch, and though her counterpart, the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Shannon Lee, is new to the LPAC stage, you’re going to hope for our and LPAC’s sake we will see her again. Oh, what the hay, they’re all fun to watch: Miranda Marsh as Glinda the Good Witch; Caitlyn Tidwell as Auntie Em; and Jared Russell as the Emerald City guard. How about the science teacher himself, Keith Taylor, as Professor Marvel and the Wizard?
Special in this year’s production is what’s been so great in 10 years of LPAC productions — the supporting cast. The lollipop and lull-a-bye kids are sweet and dreamy, the Munchkins too cute, the crows too clever (with such pleasing harmony, I might add). The flying monkeys are almost too “for real.” And the Winkies? The Winkies are just too “ho-hee-ho” to describe.
This year — possibly for the last time — the show is staged at the Dorothy McIntosh Fine Arts Center at Brownwood High School. LPAC promises we are that close to having the productions staged in the original Lyric in downtown Brownwood. By next summer the restorations could be complete. For now, there are no complaints about the wonderful theater available with its fantastic acoustics, comfortable seating and “cool” air conditioning.
The second and final run of the show begins at 7:30 this evening and continues with 7:30 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday. Matinees are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased for $15 online at BrownwoodLyricTheatre.com, or during regular business hours at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, 600 E. Depot St., as well as at the door.
When I moved from Brownwood to San Angelo last November and connected Helen Crews, who also formerly and for years called Brownwood “home,” I explained — OK insisted — we should return in July for whatever LPAC staged as its musical. Until we were there, watching the play, I don’t think Helen understood my insistence.
“A wonderful show,” she declared. Well worth the nearly 200-mile round trip and the price of admission, we promise. If you’re already here, however, you’re denying yourself a genuine pleasure if you don’t find a way to go and see the Wizard, “the wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Candace Cooksey Fulton was for 10 years a staff writer and columnist for the Brownwood Bulletin. She is currently a freelance writer living in San Angelo.