'Wizard of Oz' flies anew at CTC

The Wizard of Oz at the Children's Theatre Company passes along like a pleasant dream. The familiar storyline doesn't provide many shocks for us old folks, who grew up watching the film every Easter in the days before VCRs, but there's still plenty of fun to be had with the bright, often sparkling material.

A lot of the pleasure come from the CTC cast, which features stalwarts Reed Sigmund as the Cowardly Lion and Dean Holt as the Scarecrow. Both play off their strengths throughout, from Holt's rubber-limbed physical comedy to Sigmund's ability to push a character further than you would think possible to wring as much humor out of the situation.

They're joined by Maeve Coleen Moynihan as Dorothy, who channels the young Judy Garland in the best possible way, remaining as fresh and innocent as the original character. The quartet is rounded out by Max Wojtanowicz as the Tin Man, the real "heart" of the story.

Peter Rothstein doesn't play any games with his direction, keeping the action on target, letting the balance of the cast (which also includes Gerald Drake as the Wizard, Janet Hanson as Aunt Em and Glenda, and Loki as Toto, who -- as you might expect -- steals the show) have their moments without ever outshining the stars.

The stops are pulled out occasionally to good effect, from the dark and scary corners of Oz (the Wizard's throne room or the Witch's castle) to the occasional fly-ins from Glenda. And the turntable yellow brick road, part of the design by Scott Bradley, was a particularly nice way to show the different spaces of this magical land.

It's easy to feel cynical about the story -- drawn heavily from the MGM film, right down to the songs -- especially after all of the decades, the parodies, and the Wicked phenomenon. Still, there is something so gentle and sweet about a young person learning that everything she always wanted was in her backyard, even if it took a shift from sepia to saturated color to find it.

The Wizard of Oz runs through January 8.

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