Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

The Wizard of Oz
Quintessence Theatre Group
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's review of On the Exhale

Andrew Betz, Jered McLenigan, Doug Hara,
Susannah Hughes, and Leigha Kato

Photo by Linda Johnson
Quintessence Theatre Group's fantastic production of The Wizard of Oz wholeheartedly embraces both the gleeful spirit and subversive nature of the beloved classic. Director Lee Cortopassi utilizes clever stagecraft, boundless imagination, and a talented ensemble to breathe fresh life into the story of Dorothy's unlikely journey. There are some staging issues, but this genuinely exuberant and delightfully bizarre experience is sure to delight young people as much as their grown ups.

The stage adaptation by John Kane draws heavily on both the L. Frank Baum novel and the iconic MGM film. Young Dorothy and her faithful dog Toto live on a farm with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. When Dorothy is harangued by her canine-hating neighbor and ignored by the adults in her life, she decides to run away. Thanks to an unexpected cyclone Dorothy goes a bit farther than she expected and ends up in the magical land of Oz. To get back home she must follow the yellow brick road, enlist the help of some new friends, and find the Wizard.

Leigha Kato brings a sweet voice and youthful bravado to the role of Dorothy. Doug Hara is charming as the Tin Man and Andrew Betz makes a delightfully goofy Scarecrow. Jered McLenigan is risible as the Cowardly Lion, landing jokes that made the entire audience roar at the performance I attended, and sending others deftly over the heads of the younger set. Other standouts include John Basiulis (Uncle Henry has never been so hilariously mordant), Leah Gabriel (channeling a 1970s rock star vibe as Glinda), Michael Liebhauser (ridiculously funny as several munchkins, the guard, and a very energetic monkey), and Susannah Hughes as Dorothy's little dog Toto.

Adrienne Maitland's playful and snappy choreography is loads of fun. Maitland pays homage to all of the classic movie moments while making excellent use of the three-sided stage. The rest of the blocking is less successful because the cast spends far too much time with their backs to the audience. Kelly Myers' inventive costume designs are tremendous. Creative set and lighting designs by Brian Sidney Bembridge create the perfect atmosphere for this deliciously quirky production.

Truly a treat for dreamers of all ages, this journey to Oz is the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

The Wizard of Oz runs through December 29, 2019, at Quintessence Theatre Group, Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave., Mt. Airy, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, visit or call 215-987-4450.

Leigha Kato: Dorothy Gale
Andrew Betz: The Scarecrow
Doug Hara: The Tinman
Jered McLenigan: The Lion
E. Ashley Izard: The Wicked Witch of the West
Leah Gabriel: Glinda
John Basiulis: Wizard
Susannah Hughes: Toto
Jessica Money: The Winkie General/Ensemble
Michael Liebhauser: The Guard/Ensemble
Chloe Mollis-McBride: The Cyclone/Ensemble

Lee Cortopassi: Director
Tom Fosnocht: Music Director
Adrienne Maitland: Choreographer
Brian Sidney Bembridge:Set and Lighting Design
Kelly Myers: Costume Design
Alex Burns: Sound Design