Sasquatch Productions adroitly manages pros with community players
Every hat I own is off to Sasquatch Productions for pulling off yet another big musical in association with Parker Arts. This time, the directorial team of Kelly McAllister and August Stoten have outdone themselves with a bang-up production of The Wizard of Oz that successfully combines local acting talent with a big ol’ cast of kids from grammar to high school.
It’s a challenging show to mount, with a ton of scene changes and musical numbers and a cast of 33. Add in a real dog (a very well-behaved Boomer as Toto), a bunch of dance numbers, a lot of video projection and copious amounts of fog and you’ve got the recipe for a great show — but without room for a lot of error.
The show has a solid foundation with the actors playing the core quartet: Antigone Biddle as Dorothy, Ben Hilzer as the Lion, Adam Kinney as Tin Man and Chase Conlin as Scarecrow. Biddle, a Conifer High School grad who went on to earn a degree from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, is an ideal Dorothy who looks very much the part and possesses a lovely singing voice.
Last seen at PACE in the Sasquatch/Parker Arts production of Matilda the Musical, Ben Hilzer has a breakout, scene-stealing performance as the cowardly lion. Channeling Bert Lahr in the original 1939 film, Hilzer pumps up the Bowery Boys pugilism while adding a wide range of curious, hilarious vocalisms that made him a crowd favorite.
Kinney and Conlin are solid as Tin Man and Scarecrow, and as the foursome comes together and sets off down the Yellow Brick Road, they’re joined by a well-directed cast of other adult and child actors and dancers in a full-blown family-friendly musical that shouldn’t be missed.
It was interesting to see a lot of what might have been built sets supplanted by large projections on the upstage wall. I thought it looked pretty cool, and it allowed some otherwise impossible things for a live show to be shown — like a tornado. There’s also pretty inventive use of dancers to fill in some of the effects as well as provide short interstitial moments. The large-cast choreography is handled by Tracy Doty, who did a nice job getting everyone in line to create some memorable numbers. Kudos also go out to costume designer Jessie Page as well as Seth Alison for lighting design and Megan O’Connor with a lot of great hair and makeup.
I brought my two granddaughters along for this one, curious to see how a 7- and 9-year-old would weather a three-hour production that has its scary moments. They both fell in love with Dorothy and Toto and didn’t seem to mind the length of the show or even the scary witch (Caitlin Hilzer) and creepy flying monkeys. (That said, I’d be wary of bringing kids under 5.)
The only downside is in the public safety realm. After getting used to having to mask and show vaccine proof at most shows I’ve been to lately, it was shocking to see almost the entire crowd packed into the PACE center without either. I guess that’s Douglas County for you, but just know that if you attend this one, you’re not in Denver anymore.