It’s been nearly 60 years since ruby slippers, the yellow-brick road and Munchkin Land became part of our collective consciousness thanks to the film version ofThe Wizard of Oz.
But, the movie’s status as a cultural icon makes it a challenge to surprise audiences when transplanting the familiar tale to the stage.
“We wanted to find a way to bring the magic of the story to life in a different fashion,” says director Marc Robin.
This month, Carousel Dinner Theatre will transform its stage into the Emerald City with a never-before-seen approach to The Wizard of Oz that will use puppetry to put a fresh spin on the story.
After seeing the success of using puppetry to bring a fantasy world to life in The Lion King, the creative team behind Carousel’s production ofThe Wizard of Ozdecided to do the same.
The puppets are not marionettes or hand puppets, they are representational, explains artistic director Sean Cercone. “[The puppets] give an idea, a sense and a feel of what the character is.”
The actors use every limb to control the puppets, which become extensions of their bodies, Cercone says.
For example, the actors who play the 10-foot-tall flying monkeys use their bodies to control the movement of the heads, wings and legs, which are anchored by velocity stilts — contraptions that spring the actors forward to give the illusion of flight.
Instead of just watching Dorothy encounter these beasts, the audience will encounter them too as they descend from every corner of the house.
“Environmental [theater] makes you a part of [the show],” says Robin, comparing the production to the immersive experience of a 3-D movie.
The audience can also mingle with the parade of characters as they enter and exit and weave through dinner tables.
“[The show] is not different for difference’s sake,” says Cercone. “But to get you reinvested and reenergized about the story.”
The Wizard of Oz runs Aug. 27 through Nov. 1. For more information and ticket prices, call (330) 724-9855, or visit carouseldinnertheatre.com.