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Even after a century, hit musical
is still flying high over the rainbow

"The Wizard of Oz"
Chicago Theatre
Chicago, IL
April 30, 2009
The Wizard of Oz

Story by Andy Argyrakis
Publicity Photo

Picking a definitive musical movie is a tricky task considering America's lengthy film lineage, but "The Wizard of Oz" is surely towards the front of the pack. For starters, it helped springboard the youthful Judy Garland into an international icon and has since been shown on television so many times that it's been immortalized by multiple generations. Add in ongoing rumors that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is a perfect soundtrack match, plus its prequel play "Wicked" becoming a recent Broadway blockbuster, and attention remains at an all time high for this pop culture phenomenon.

In fact, the stage version of the show is currently in residency at the classy Chicago Theatre via the Royal Shakespeare Company's updated adaptation of the 1939 MGM classic (originally culled from L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"). Though it could easily become tired on tour given that lengthy time frame of public prominence, this version gives the show a current facelift thanks to impressive production akin to a rock n' roll extravaganza.

Dreams of flying somewhere "Over the Rainbow" by young school girl Dorothy Gale leap into full reality when she's transported to the Land of Oz. And just like the movie, there are plenty of larger than life characters along the yellow brick road, including the hairy Scarecrow, the shiny Tin Man, the bearded Cowardly Lion and the nasty Wicked Witch of the West.

Besides vibrant, lifelike costumes, each scene is framed with state of the art lighting, smoke and special effects, including a swirling funnel cloud, flying witches and grand choreography (all remarkable affairs given the theatre setting). All the while, it's an endless sing-a-long from start to finish thanks to one of the most famous soundtracks in music history, carried by a more than competent cast.

Familiar crests include "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," "Follow The Yellow Brick Road," "We're Off to See the Wizard" and "If I Only Had a Brain," all of which are backed by one of the best Broadway-styled bands in the business. Of course no rendering of "The Wizard of Oz" would be complete without the resplendent "Over the Rainbow," and as its final reprise wound down the show, it was apparent this current production continues in the institution's high flying tradition.

"The Wizard of Oz" appears at various times through Sunday, May 3 at the Chicago Theatre. For additional details, visit or

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