OGDEN, Utah, Aug. 19, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Ziegfeld Theater is back with its latest innovative production, this time injecting new life into the musical classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”
You might think squeezing an epic and magical story onto a modest-sized stage would be enough of a challenge, but the Zig has added another layer.
As it did with “Newsies” in 2020, this production is fully signed in American Sign Language for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in all performances, and the cast includes three Deaf actors, who sign as companion actors speak lines or sing lyrics.
It’s another successful attempt to be inclusive, both to actors and audiences. The signing did not distract, and adds another layer of physical expressiveness and commitment to the characters.
The Deaf actors include Janelle Nielsen as Aunt Em/Glinda, who signed and acted her roles in a fashion beautiful and poetic to watch, with full expression of all emotions. Actress Hanna Wetzker spoke the lines, and seemed to be just another part of Aunt Em/Glinda, who just happened to be standing nearby.
Briton Auman played the Scarecrow/Hunk, voiced by Samuel Young. The two had great timing together, and Young’s singing voice, like Wetzker’s, was strong and expressive.
The third Deaf actor played one of two traveling professors, who also both played the Wizard of Oz. A. Bret Cummens plays the signing roles, with Ziegfeld favorite Tim Behunin supplying the vocals as both act their roles.
Taylor Haslem plays a strong and scary Wicked Witch/Mrs. Gulch, and Peyton Lozano plays an ever-present and consistently great Dorothy Gale.
In fact, all the actors are fun to watch, from the smallest munchkin to the cowardly lion (Layne Willden) and the sentimental “heartless” Tin Man (Robby Gledhill).
And the vibrant, whimsical costumes, by designer Stephanie Colyar, are as strong as any character, adding color and the occasional magical transformation. Projections add context to the mobile set pieces.
And there’s one especially moving goodbye, played in full silences, that will touch your heart.
Adding yet another layer of fun were a few tiny gaffes, like the life-of-its own lion’s tail knocking the hat off a dancer on an opening weekend night, and the deer-in-the-headlights stare of “Toto,” who needed to be dragged by the leash through small portions of the choreography.
This production of “The Wizard of Oz” far exceeds all expectations, and offers a night of colorful fun, with everyone invited to join.
“The Wizard of Oz” plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at the Ziegfeld Theater, 3934 S. Washington Blvd., Ogden. On Saturdays, there’s also a 2 p.m. matinee. For ticket information or more details, visit the theater’s website.