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August 22, 2014

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‘The Wizard of Oz’ kicks off North American tour with eight-show run at Smith Center

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Danielle Wade as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

It’s time again to follow the yellow brick road, go somewhere over the rainbow and celebrate Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of the all-time classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The musical opens for a run of eight spectacular shows at Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, kicking off a North American tour.

The Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion and of course Dorothy and Toto will all be onstage to journey to the magical land of Oz to meet the Wizard in this fantastic musical treat for the family. Along the way are witches and munchkins! Lord Webber, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, collaborated with longtime partner Tim Rice to add six songs to the original score.

What amazing longevity this tale has had since its 1939 movie birth. I wasn’t even born back then, and I’m pretty old now! Here’s a YouTube video of a very young Judy Garland playing Dorothy and singing “Somewhere (Over the Rainbow)” in that seven-decade-old movie.

It was almost a year ago that the blue-and-white gingham dress she wore for the film brought in $480,000 at a Beverly Hills auction, so “The Wizard of Oz” memories are very valuable.

The children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 went on to inspire 16 books on the subject of good and bad witches — including the wildly popular Tony Award-winning “Wicked” — in the land of Oz (the British shorthand for ounces of gold). Its first stage incarnation was in Chicago in 1902 before its 1903 debut Broadway production.

The show arriving in Las Vegas has just wrapped an eight-month run in Toronto, where Toronto Sun theater critic John Coulbourn waxed: “From the very opening scenes, an audience gets swept up in a tornado of musical-theater cliches that hits them like a flying house.”

And Toronto Star theater critic Richard Ouzounian added, “The ensemble is full of attractive and talented young people, Danielle Wade (20 years old from Ontario) is a sweet and natural Dorothy singing with emotion, acting with honesty and giving it all she’s got.”

However, he did warn: “When it comes to musicals, the British like them the way they like their high teas — long and sweet, with the crusts cut off each sandwich and clotted cream on all the pastries.”

Danielle won a “Canada’s Got Talent” show with Lord Webber as one of the judges to win the title role for the musical’s Canadian run and now opens here to launch the North American tour.

I’ll give you another British verdict of the brightly colored show here on Wednesday.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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