Beef & Boards’ ‘Wizard of Oz’ delightfully powerful and unique

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o The Tin Man (Jeff Stockberger), center, tells his story to the Scarecrow (Doug King), left, and Dorothy (Lisa Bark), right.

“The Wizard of Oz” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is a charming mix of the familiar and the fresh. I bet you will hum “We’re Off to See the Wizard” on your way in and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on your way out, but in between, I bet you will laugh with delight at the unique lyrics, jokes, dances and more that make this stage version of the classic book and movie a treasure in its own right.

o Dorothy (Lisa Bark) holds Toto as she is instructed by Glinda (Trisha Shepherd) to repeat “There’s No Place like Home.”

The show is also a charming mix of theatrical special effects and invitations to pretend. You have to imagine the Yellow Brick Road, for example, but it is easy because the actors playing Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion (Lisa Bark, Doug King, Jeff Stockberger and Jayson Elliott, respectively) can so clearly see it in their minds’ eyes. It is also easy to believe that a storm swept Dorothy away to Oz because Lisa Bark and the tornado dancers evoke the strong winds so clearly in their movements (choreographed by Ron Morgan) and costumes (designed by Jill Kelly.) On the other hand, Glinda the Good Witch (Trisha Shepherd) actually does glide gracefully down from the sky and the cackling Wicked Witch (Lynne Perkins) always appears in an actual billow of smoke.

The classic messages of “There’s no place like home” and “All you have is all you need” are as powerful as ever, but I also received new food for thought about the importance of friendship in this story. Dorothy and her dog, Toto, (played adorably and splendidly by live dog Gracie Curry) have such great chemistry together on stage that you really believe they are inseparable best friends and that the girl believed the dog was her only friend before she met the others in Oz.  The chemistry between Dorothy and her three new friends is attractive, too. You truly believe that they love and would do anything for each other by the time they reach the end of their road together.

I wanted more tap dancing from the Tin Man, and I wondered why the ultimately jovial Wizard (portrayed by director Eddie Curry) didn’t appear first in Dorothy’s waking life as Professor Marvel, but these are merely quibbles. I loved this show and would confidently bring my whole family to see it.

“The Wizard of Oz” is running now through July 15 at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre (9301 N. Michigan Rd., Indianapolis). Tickets range from $37 to $60, feature a full buffet and include a $10 discount for children. For more information, please visit beefandboards.com.

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