"The Wizard of Oz on Ice" is, simply, an Oz-some experience.
It takes a rink as broad as the Kansas flatlands to hold all the colorful, visual trappings of Kenneth Feld's new $9 million production. And it's all there - everything from happy Munchkins and proudly marching Winkieland Guards to swirling tornados, dancing Jitterbugs, witches (one sweet, two wicked) and that beloved foursome - tender-hearted Dorothy Gale, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.Full of splashy, Technicolor hued costuming, expert skating and terrific special effects, "The Wizard of Oz" has made a smooth, almost seamless, transition from book to film to ice. Like the gliding skaters, it just flows along.
All the memorable songs (plus one that was clipped out of the film) are here. The emphasis in this production is on big, colorful scenes and letting the music, not dialogue, carry the story along on its journey from the Midwest to the magical world of Oz.
The Yellow Brick Road belongs right up there with Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway and other legendary "road trips" for memories and sure-fire excitement.
Maybe the skaters don't get spotlighted quite as much as if they were involved in "competition" events or like they do in those "Olympics skaters" spectacles, but there are still a number of sensational routines in "Wizard of Oz," allowing audiences of all ages to enjoy the show on several levels.
Kids will be enthralled by the magic of the story itself, while those who appreciate professional skating will see plenty of talent.
Many, but not all, of the show's featured performers have credentials in various national and international competitions.
Former U.S. gold medalist Jeri Campbell, who portrays Dorothy, may be dressed up to look like a Kansas adolescent, but she can leap and twirl her way around the rink with the best of them.
Mark Richard Farrington, from Bradford, Yorkshire, England, belies the Cowardly Lion's alleged fears when - caught up in the excitement of reaching his goal, he stuns the crowd with his comedic repertoire of jumps, flips and somersaults. Cowardly? No way!
Former Ukrainian pairs champion Andrei Kirov, playing the Scarecrow, proves that he certainly has the brains - and the brawn - for maneuvers that are both athletic and graceful.
And a Canadian who progressed from ice hockey to figure skating as a young boy, Brent Frank, isn't nearly as creaky and stiff as the Tin Woodsman would have you believe. He, too, has a masterful sense of comedy timing.
When Toto, who's as sure-footed on the ice as any four-footed critter I've ever seen, isn't stealing scenes - the nasty Wicked Witch of the West is. She's played by Nancy Barber, whose cackling is really the taped voice of multi-talented Bobby McFerrin. But I have a hunch that Barber, who seems to be having a real kick, is getting the last laugh. She does most of her figure eights aboard her high-flying broomstick, thanks to another wizard - production designer Mark Fisher.
Russian pairs skaters Olga Neizvestnaya-Hunter and Serguei Zaitsev are dazzling as the Crystal Pair, celebrating Good Witch Glinda's rescue of Dorothy and her friends in the deadly field of poisonous poppies, and also as the fleet-footed Jitterbug Pair.
Frank Krenz's costumes, LeRoy Bennett's lighting and Robin Cousins' creative choreography, supervised and brought together by director Jerry Bilik, add up to a production that's sure to remain in children's (and adults') memories for years to come.
My neighbor boy, 19-month-old Jess Firmage, was totally entranced by the entire show. He didn't fidget. He didn't budge. He just sat on his dad's lap, glued to every move.
It's that kind of show.