SANDY — The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a beloved classic of children’s literature, and has been since it was first published in 1900. It has been adapted to the stage, movies, books, comics, and television over 100 times, some more faithful to the original than others, and some highly controversial. Salty Dinner Theater has opened their third production with a delightful adaptation from David Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson has created a funny, laugh-filled version of the classic tale of Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. This version has a slightly grittier Dorothy and is slightly more true to the novel than the Technicolor extravaganza most people are familiar with. The evening begins with L. Frank Baum introducing the story and characters as the story progresses. We meet all the usual characters, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Beyond that we get a few slightly different versions of the characters we know from the movie, and some that were cut out from the film adaptation.
The evening hits all the familiar points in the story, with some great audience participation thrown in for good measure. Tonia Sayer as Dorothy truly carries the evening delivering a fantastically original twist on the young girl from Kansas. Jeremy Hall’s Cowardly Lion is easily the most masculine interpretation you are likely to find, which I found to be a refreshing change. Alan Smith provides frequent laughs as the erudite Scarecrow, and Bryce Hess’s Tin Woodsman is quite charming. The humor comes quick and frequently among the main quartet. Jeremy Jonsson does well with the somewhat thankless role of L. Frank Baum. As the narrator, he provides the missing details to fill out the story. The Witches, both good and bad, are portrayed by Jamie Taylor, who delivers an over-the-top Wicked Witch of the West. Ryon Paskins is quite a scene stealer in the roles of the Wizard, the Mouse Queen, and the Copyright Police.
Director Alisha Hall has created some amazingly original visuals for a dinner theater venue. The first appearance of the Wizard is, in a word, brilliant! I won’t give it away, but it has to be seen to be believed. And Dorothy’s farewell from her friends before she returns to Kansas is quite a fun twist. The action is kept moving by Stage Manager Sircy Maggio, who coordinates the breaks in the show with the serving of the food, which makes for a very smooth transition.
I also need to note the fantastic costumes. The quasi-gothic touches to the traditional Dorothy costume were a great touch. The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion costumes were equally well done, and with the addition of some skillful makeup work completed the look and really brought the characters to life. I don’t know who did costuming and makeup, whether it was the work of one individual or a group effort, but it really captured the tone of this slightly tweaked adaptation.
As is typical in Salty Dinner Theater productions the breaks are partially filled with musical numbers by members of the cast. The music was charming and, with the exception of a few fumbled key changes, very capably performed by Jamie Taylor and Bryce Hess. There is a list of several songs on the tables and guests are asked to call out their choices for the singers to perform. On Saturday, several suggestions called out by the audience were ignored and there seemed to be certain numbers that the MC was waiting to hear called out. It’s a minor complaint, but it seems it would have been more efficient to just announce what songs would be sung. Salty Dinner Theater has carved out a fine niche for themselves in the theater landscape and in the dinner theater sector in particular. In less than a year they seem to have generated quite a following. And good family entertainment is always welcome.