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Dobama Theatre’s ‘The Land of Oz’ is just plain family fun with a purpose




L. (Lyman) Frank Baum is well known as the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” which was made into the beloved classic movie. What most people do not realize is that Baum was a prolific writer. In all there are 14 novels in the Oz series alone. He also wrote 41 other novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems and some estimated 42 scripts.


Dobama Theatre has taken Baum’s second book and through the imagination of playwright George Brant (Book and Lyrics), Nathan Motta (Music and Directing) and Gregory Daniels (Choreography) brought pure theater magic to the stage.


The show is set years after the departure from Oz of the original Wizard and Dorthy as we are introduced to young Tip (Jordyn Freetage) by Glinda the Good Witch (Lana Sugarman). Tip has been raised by yet another evil witch, Mombi (Sarah Blubaugh, swing for opening weekend). The lad is forbidden to have any friends and does not feel comfortable in his skin. Tip is also the victim of frequent abuse and ridicule by Mombi. Out of this loneliness, Tip steals a pumpkin, some firewood and clothing from Mombi and constructs a friend whom he names Jack (Eric Fancher). Mombi happens upon Jack and decides to try an experiment with the “Powder of Life” that she had just purchased from a fellow wizard. Sprinkling it on the still wooden frame and evoking a chant the inanimate form comes to life. Mombi tries to grab the two of them but Tip manages to blind her with another potion from her bag and escapes with Jack as well as the bag of potions.


The two adventurers head out on the road south to the Emerald City in hopes of meeting the Scarecrow (Fabio Polanco) who is the current king in the land of Oz. On the way, Tip is separated from Jack and is found by General Jinjur (Neely Gevaart) who is head of a female teenage army intent on unseating the Scarecrow as ruler. The Scarecrow and Jack meet as Kit arrives with the opposing army close behind. The three escape through a magical door. Soon they are joined by the Tin Man (Jason Eno), the Woggle Bug (Trey Gilpin) and the Cowardly Lion (Dar’Jon Bentley). Together they plan to retake the Scarecrow’s throne.


This new imagining of Baum’s second book is from the efforts of celebrated playwright George Brant with music by Dobama Artistic Director, Nathan Motta (who also directed the production) and is a world premier.


At first blush this show looks a bit scary, but fear not for it is extremely family friendly. Even the oddest of characters, Pumpkin Headed Jack, is friendly and caring. The show is chock full of life lessons on inclusion, acceptance, the value of friendship, working together and trust. In post show family discussions it will open up many conversations between parents and children concerning these various themes.


The cast is exemplary and works extremely well together. The music and choreography is superb as cast members sing and dance their way into your hearts. T. Paul Lowrey’s moving video projections gives an added dimension to the scenes. Richard Ingraham’s sound design sees that not a single word is dropped. Especially of note is the costuming and make-up of Tesia Dugan Benson that delights the eye. The show features a live orchestra with music direction by Matthew Dolan.


It should be noted that the show runs two hours with a fifteen minute intermission so might not be suited for the very young. Mature seven or eight year old's and older are a better match for viewing this show.


If you are looking for something different for the family to share together this holiday season, this is the show that you cannot miss. Good music, good dancing, good costumes and good acting combine together in a wonderful moral tale of inclusion and friendship (lessons that young and old could benefit from). Tickets are selling fast so buy yours right away, and remember, “There’s No Place Like Home.”


“The Land Of Oz” will be on stage at the Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio through December 31. 2022. For tickets and more information go to https://www.dobama.org/ or call (216) 932-3396.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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