‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Performing Arts Center is a hit

The Tin Man (Brad Austin), The Lion (Jesse Seward), Dorothy (Darby Patterson), and the Wizard of Oz (John Ortman) are astounded as the Scarecrow (Rykerr Maynard) finds confidence in his brain. — Photo by Meg Higgins

The Island Theatre Workshop (ITW) production of “The Wizard of Oz,” at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Performing Arts Center, is an ambitious two-hour musical that has more than its share of heart, courage and brains — a large share of homegrown talent. Based on the story by Frank L. Baum, the production closely follows the 1939 classic film featuring Judy Garland.

Director Kevin Ryan, with help from assistant director Lee Fierro, marshals the capabilities of the Performing Arts Center and a cast of dozens to present a show that entertains all ages, or at least six and up. The six-year-old sitting next to this reviewer often said either, “I like this part,” or “that’s scary!” as she either laughed or grabbed my arm and tucked her head into my chest.

Mr. Ryan uses lights, designed by Nolan Kennedy, a large wall projection, innovative sets, elaborate costuming, and even a fly-over to take the audience on a trip from Kansas to the wonder world of Oz. Musical director Peter Boak accompanies the show on the piano with Brian Weiland playing drums and providing sound effects.

The cast is headed by Darby Patterson of West Tisbury, as Dorothy, whose magnificent voice is as polished as Judy Garland’s in the movie original. The MVRHS sophomore, with her constant companion Toto played by the real canine Diamond, travel the yellow brick road picking up a crew of misfits who agree to find the Wizard who might help them with their problems.

The Scarecrow is played by the talented Rykerr Maynard, whose lithe body and wonderful voice come to life when Dorothy removes him from his post. He needs a brain, he thinks.

The rusty, old, tin man played by Brad Austin slowly creaks his way to search for the heart he thinks he lacks, and Jesse Seward’s moving and funny lion, whose shyness he mistakes for a lack of courage, is one of the funniest performances seen on the Vineyard in a while.

John Ortman plays the wily or not-so-wily old wizard and the bumbling Professor Marvel. Theater pro Clark Maffitt and folksinger Corinne deLangavant are Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. The cast includes an army of Munchkins and an army, the Winkie Guard. When the Munchkins took the stage, my companion said, “I really like this part.”

The really scary Wicked Witch is played by the hugely talented Felicity Russell, and her counterpart, the good witch Glinda, is played by the enchanting Katie Feeks, who appears to float over the high school stage she performed on during her time as a student at the MVRHS 10 years ago.

It is a fun show, done well. When my partner, my granddaughter, was asked what her favorite part was, her answer was, “I like when Dorothy found her way home.”

The Performing Arts Center is a large space to fill. This ITW production not only fills the space with light, sound, and fun but makes it seem like they have found a good home.

Island Theatre Workshop’s production of “The Wizard of Oz: The Musical,” August 29–31 at 7:30 pm, with a special matinee show at 2 pm on September 1, at the M.V. Regional High School Performing Arts Center, Oak Bluffs. $20; $12 for children under 12, available at the door, or online at itwmv.org. For more information, call 508-737-8550.