Zilker Theatre’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is fun for parents and their munchkins

It’s hard to think of a movie musical more classic or family-friendly than 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie, based on writer L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” has proven so popular over the decades that it was adapted into a stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987.

Andrew Cannata, Hannah Roberts and Jordan Barron perform in “The Wizard of Oz,” the 59th annual Zilker summer musical presented by Zilker Theatre Productions. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The resulting show, with a book by John Kane (adapted from Baum as well as the screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf), music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and background music by Herbert Stothart, has since become a standard across the UK and the United States.

PHOTOS: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Zilker Hillside Theater

Zilker Theatre Productions’ latest free summer musical, running through Aug. 12 at the Zilker Hillside Theater, is a new production of this version of “The Wizard of Oz.” This is the 59th annual Zilker Summer Musical, and the most expensive show to date, with a great deal of that money clearly going toward creating the magic of Oz as experienced by naïve young Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl transported to the other-dimensional realm via a convenient tornado. Through liberal doses of both theatrical innovation and beautiful carpentry and design, director J. Robert Moore and scenic designer Paul Davis effectively evoke both the plainness of Kansas (pun intended) and the splendor of Oz.

Much like the movie it is based on, Bilker’s “The Wizard of Oz” is long on broad, entertaining character types and short on actual character development. However, the zany antics of Dorothy and her companions (the “brainless” Scarecrow, “heartless” Tin Man, and “courageless” Cowardly Lion) play well in the open-air atmosphere of the Zilker Hillside Theater, with its huge, all-ages audience.

The main cast of the show all give big, broad performances that would be over-the-top in a small theater, but work nicely in this context. Andrew Cannata, Jordan Barron and Kirk Kelso, as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, respectively, are vaudevillian in their physical comedy and banter, while Emily Perzan’s Wicked Witch delights more in being comedic than overtly scary.

MORE PHOTOS: The Zilker Summer Musical through the years

The production’s Dorothy, Hannah Roberts, is a star on the rise. She embodies the character’s youth and naivety in a charming, guileless manner, a complete turn-around from her delightfully dour portrayal of Wednesday Addams in last year’s Summer Stock Austin production of “The Addams Family.” She only manages to get upstaged by the exuberant full-cast numbers, which inventively feature children as the Munchkins of Oz performing the whimsical choreography of Adam Roberts (who is also the show’s musical director).

Zilker’s production of “The Wizard of Oz goes” beyond the show, itself, in order to create a full night of family entertainment. There are booths and amusements for kids to enjoy before the show, as well as refreshments that can be purchased both ahead of time and at intermission. Remember to bring a blanket and pillows along with some bug spray, and be sure to arrive early to pick out a good spot on the hillside.


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Listen up Austin: The cinematic sounds of Justin Sherburn

Alt classical, indie classical, hybrid classical  — Austin composer Justin Sherburn describes his style as ambient classical.

Sherburn’s had a long and varied career, playing with bands like indie folk Okkervil River and the Django Reinhardt-ish 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Theater scenesters know Sherburn for his award-winning scores to several Trouble Puppet Theatre shows, Tongue and Groove Theatre and Sky Candy.

Listen to Sherburn’s “Music for Puppets” free compilation CD.

Sherburn’s been burning it up lately.

This spring his valentine to Enchanted Rock — a piece for strings, piano, pedal-steel and live laptop effects with Leon Alesi’s poetic photographs of the Texas geological wonder screened large — proved so popular Sherburn and his Montopolis Ensemble had to stage an encore performance.

composer Justin Sherburn. Photo by Leon Alesi
Austin composer Justin Sherburn. Photo by Leon Alesi

This weekend, Sherburn and Montopolis are featured in “Loop Mass,” an immersive concert staged by Austin Museum of Digital Art that’ll have looping video by 50 artists projected onto onto a massive floor-to-ceiling, suspended sculpture. Audience members can roam during the show.

Sherburn will be featured Friday night. On his set list is music from “Enchanted Rock” and also selections from his score for the 1920s silent film masterpiece “Man With a Movie Camera.”

Info on “Loop Mass” here: www.amoda.org/events/loop-mass/

Listen up to three movements from “Enchanted Rock” and a long section of “Man With a Movie Camera.”




“Listen Up Austin” is an occasional blog series featuring Austin music makers.



Weekend arts pick: Peter Bay and the Fast Forward Austin Orchestra

Austin Symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Bay is stepping on to a different podium Saturday night.

Peter Bay conducting the Fast Forward Austin Orchestra.

On Saturday at 8 p.m. at the North Door, Bay will be conducting the U.S. premiere of Charlotte Bray’s “Caught in Treetops,” an ethereal piece for solo violin and chamber orchestra by the 30-something British composer.

Bay will lead the Fast Forward Austin Orchestra along with Sarah Silver, newly appointed assistant concertmaster for the San Antonio Symphony as the soloist.

The concert comes by way of Fast Forward Austin, busy new music presenters who have lately been growing their programming beyond the annual Fast Forward Festival.



Bray’s mercurial concerto is an homage to some of artistic influences including jazzmaster Sony Rollins and poets Dante Rossetti and Federico García Lorca.

Saturday’s also includes music by Sony Rollins performed by Austin’s Graeme Francis Quartet, along with readings of poetry by Lorca and Rossetti as well as performances of Lorca’s own yet rarely heard compositions.

Tickets are $10-$20.  www.fastforwardaustin.com


Austin composer Graham Reynolds nets $95,000 Creative Capital award

A chamber opera by Austin alt classical composer Graham Reynolds is one of 46 projects nation-wide that have been awarded a coveted Creative Capital Awards.

Graham Reynolds
Graham Reynolds

The awards give artists $50,000 in funding for a specific project as well as $45,000 worth of career development services provided by Creative Capital, an organization whose arts philanthropy is inspired by venture principals.

Reynolds won support for “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” an experimental chamber opera.

Winners were selected from a pool of 2,500  established and emerging artists.

Reynolds performs this Saturday, premiering his latest piece “In the Face of Trouble,” a four-part piece for solo piano and live processing that riffs off of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano in E Major.

Noted pianist Michelle Schumann will perform the Beethoven Sonata followed by Reynold’s piece which he wrote just for here.  Details here.

Michelle Schumann
Michelle Schumann