Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis, brings out classic The Wizard of Oz for its beginning summer fare, playing through July 15. Based on the series of books by L. Frank Baum, the story of a little Kansas farm girl transported to a colorful place, one that is "(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow." The tale was made famous by the 1939 MGM film starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Burt Lahr, Margaret Hamilton and Frank Morgan.
With several strongly talented crowd favorites in the cast, this live production is sure to be a hit with the family sector as well as anyone looking for a bit of nostalgia. Main character, Dorothy Gale, portrayed by Lisa Bark, joins her trio of friends played by Jeff Stockberger (Tin Man), Doug King (Scarecrow) and Jayson Elliott (Cowardly Lion). Eddie Curry steps onstage to play both the Wizard of Oz and Professor Marvel. Lynne Perkins portrays the Wicked Witch and Miss Gultch
If the show seems to run a little long, it could be the inclusion of the fun "The Jitterbug" dance scene cut from the award-winning movie version.
Two performers step into the Gotta Go Spotlight by standing out with the energy and enthusiasm brought to their roles.
Curry, whose version of Professor Marvel was a little quiet and sedate, delighted the audience with his animated style as the Wizard. Portraying the phony wizard with just the right amount of vulnerability and sweetness, Curry creates a very likable character.
Elliott practically roars upon the stage with his over-the-top Cowardly Lion role. Solos "If I Only Had the Nerve" and "King of the Forest" are easily the best vocal performances of the evening showcasing Elliott's powerful singing ability. A treat for those who are just now learning of his talent for the first time, fans and critics alike who believe one can never get enough of Elliot's multi facted range. Whether in Oklahoma, Smoke on the Mountain series or Always...Patsy Cline, he consistently turns in top notch performances. Elliott's unbridled enthusiasm set the standard in Oz which the others, surprisingly, didn't match until the second act.
I will say there is a confused disappointment for me with Stockberger and King. Both are well known for their talent which leaves this critic scratching her head as to their laid back performances in the first half of the program. The lack of enthusiasm is perplexing. It certainly isn't as if we are not all aware of the fabulous ability each has on the stage.
Particularly with Stockberger whose dramatic and zany sides are both much loved by audiences; who is able to say so much with just a glance or twitch - the expectation was high. A man made out of tin who's moves are limited should be custom made for Stockberger. Fortunately the energy level was somewhat recovered in the second half. I would certainly enjoy knowing that all retrieved all of their normal zest for the remainder of the scheduled performances.
* Special Note & Spoiler Alert * There are several situations occurring throughout the performance which inspires me to mention the best seats for this show are those nearest the aisles. In particular, seats: R34-35; R44-40; L35/45; and along the aisle of L10/20/30 and A9/19.
Bottom Line: Jayson Elliott is absolute perfection and thoroughly delightful as the Cowardly Lion making Beef and Boards' The Wizard of Oz a MUST-SEE.