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THEATER REVIEW: “The Wizard of Oz” is a particularly fine production

A star is born amid the runaway balloons, dancing Jitterbugs and flying characters in Broadway San Diego’s “The Wizard Of Oz,” playing through the weekend at Civic Theatre.

Nigel West directs.

Newcomer Kate Bristol plays the pinafore-clad Dorothy with the assurance of an old pro and pipes at least as good as the revered Judy Garland, though this is the recent college grad’s professional debut. With her looks, convincing ease of delivery and enviably controlled vibrato, she should have a fine career ahead of her.

You remember the story: Dorothy and her dog Toto are whisked out of Kansas by a tornado and deposited in Munchkinland, where they will meet a strange talking scarecrow (Andrew Haserlat), a cowardly lion (Jesse Coleman) and a rusty Tinman (Beau Hutchings).

Dorothy wants to get back home to Aunt Em (Sarah Amandes, who also plays the good witch Glinda) and Uncle Henry (Ryan Wagner). The other three major characters have requests, too: Scarecrow wants a brain, Tinman a heart and Lion some courage.

Together they will take the well-known Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard of Oz (Robert John Biedermann), to discover that not only does he have no magic, but that everything they need was inside them all the time.

This Royal Shakespeare Company version adheres more closely to the 1939 classic film’s story line than other stage versions, and offers terrific technical wizardry, particularly in the tornado scene and with the flying characters.

This is a particularly strong cast. Bristol’s cohorts along the Road (Haserlat, Coleman and Hutchings) are charming in their respective roles. The Lion’s “If I Were King Of The Forest” sparkles and brings a smile with lines like this from lyricist Yip Harburg: “Though my tail would lash/ I would show compash/For every underling!”

Pat Sibley plays two ornery characters to the hilt: Miss Gulch, back in Kansas, and the Wicked Witch of the West, the latter with a spine-chilling cackle.

Kudos also to choreographer Leigh Constantine, whose dances range from the youthfully athletic “Jitterbug” to the elegantly stately “Poppies” number, costumed beautifully by Tim McQuillen-Wright and Jimm Halliday.

Twelve local kids from *J Company acquit themselves well as Munchkins.

You can’t get much better family entertainment than “The Wizard Of Oz,” and this is particularly fine production.

But hurry. It closes Sunday.

The details

"The Wizard of Oz" plays through Feb. 20 at San Diego Civic Theatre, Third and B Street, 1100 Third Ave.

Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 1 and 6 p.m.

For tickets, call (619) 570-1100, Ticketmaster (800) 982-2787 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.