Israel Festival 2011: The Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz/Photo: Daniel Kaminsky

Fun, fun, fun at the Israel Festival shows for children! The Wizard of Oz, a musical based on the classic by Frank L. Baum, a co-production of the Beit Lessin Theatre and the Holon Mediatheque, adapted by Daniel Efrat and Gilad Kimhi, premiered yesterday at the Holon Mediatheque – to the delight of children and adults alike!

Director/choreographer Gilad Kimhi is a wizard – he brings a magic touch to every production and The Wizard of Oz is no exception. Working with the talented young ensemble of actors at Beit Lessin – the same great team as Midsummer Night’s Dream, Spring Awakening, The Angel, & Child’s Play – the songs and movement create the characters, bringing the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion,  and of course, Dorothy, vividly to life. This interpretation of the classic takes the story back to the essence of childhood – with a simplicity and playfulness that is reflected in the set and costumes as well as the performance.

As the play opens you see a wooden farmhouse with a jaunty weathervane on the roof, laundry hanging on a line and bales of straw piled up in a corner of the empty stage. The sound of a familiar melody, a dog’s bark, and the whistling wind takes you there. Dorothy is a bouncy redhead on a lonely Kansas farm, with only her dog Toto (appearing here as a stuffed animal) as a playmate and not much to do except jump off bales of hay (although it does look like fun). We know she’s not in Kansas anymore when muted earth tones of the opening scene are replaced by a bright line of rainbow tie-dye, a pair of legs in shiny red slippers peeks saucily out from under the broken farmhouse, and Toto comes (very cleverly) to life!

Somewhere between Kansas and Israel, the text is contemporary Hebrew with just a nuance of slang, yet preserves the universal quality of the story. The Munchkins are now “Chupchikim” – their performance is very witty and strikes just the right tone between creating an illusion and giving a knowing wink to the audience. Glinda is a fashionista in pink glitter and feathers, full of verve, while the Wicked Witch of the West is deliciously wicked, with just a hint of the dominatrix about her (after all, this is a show for children).

It’s a terrific show with a wonderful cast, beautiful set design, costumes, lighting & effects, and a great score of new songs – fun for children of all ages.
Performances at the Israel Festival:
June 5, 2011 at 17:00, Rebecca Crown Auditorium, Jerusalem Theatre
June 11, 2011 at 10:30 & 12:30 at the Holon Mediatheque
Tickets may be ordered online.

The Wizard of Oz, a musical based on the book by Frank L. Baum
A co-production of Beit Lessin Theatre and the Mediatheque
Direction and choreography: Gilad Kimhi
Adaptation: Daniel Efrat & Gilad Kimhi
Actors: Ilanit Gershon, Yedidya Vital, Dikla Hadar, Revital Zaltzman, Hila Zitun, Yaniv Levi, Hayke Malka, Oz Nissan, Yaakov Tamari.
Music: Amir Lekner, Songs: Daniel Efrat, Set: Eran Atzmon, Costumes: Ola Shavtzov, Lighting: Adi Shimroni, Voice Coach: Duki Atzmon.

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