Family Affairs

We're off to see The Wizard of Oz

larhonda steeleCourtesy

Everybody’s seen the movie. Many of us have read the book(s), seen Wicked and The Wiz, maybe even caught a high school production. So why see The Wizard of Oz onstage?

The Shedd’s production, running Sept. 14-30, uses the Royal Shakespeare Festival’s extremely faithful 1987 stage adaptation — not of L. Frank Baum’s beloved 1900 book, but of the even more widely beloved 1939 film. (Baum actually did his own very popular Broadway adaptation, which bumped Toto the dog for Imogene the cow.)

Which means you get Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen’s immortal Oscar-winning songs, including the one voted by wise people as the greatest ever, “Over the Rainbow,” with its restored final verse. There’s even a bonus track, “The Jitterbug,” a dance number cut from the film, although it’s been available for years on DVD and YouTube.

These are the reasons to bring the family and see this American classic in a different incarnation, even if nothing can match the special effects and magical perfection of the original.

The Shedd’s production features Kenady Conforth as Dorothy; Tom Wilson, Dylan Stasack and Miriam Major as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion; Janet Whitlow as the Wicked Witch of the West; and Sophia James, Matt Leach and Phil Dempsey as Glenda, The Emerald City Guard and The Wizard. Pay no attention to The Shedd’s veteran team behind the curtain: director Richard Jessup, music director Robert Ashens and choreographer Caitlin Christopher.

A few more shows merit attention even during this end-of-summer rush to cram in a few last outdoor experiences before the rains return. Several boast family connections.

On Friday, Sept. 14, one of Oregon’s finest and most broadly appealing composers, Paul Safar, joins fellow pianist Ben Farrell, sublime singer Nancy Wood (who happens to be Safar’s spouse and artistic collaborator) and superb saxophonist Tom Bergeron in pop songs, jazz and some of Safar’s latest originals at Tsunami Books.

As Dorothy notes, there’s no place like home, and this between-seasons stretch is a good time to check out some of our stalwart music venues that sometimes get overshadowed by major productions and big name touring artists.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, The Jazz Station hosts the irresistible, award-winning Portland blues chanteuse LaRhonda Steele, one of the Northwest’s most electrifying blues and R&B singers, whose band includes her husband, Mark, on keyboards.

That same afternoon at downtown’s Atrium building, you can hear the early music specialists in Música Eugenia sing and play (on lute and guitar) Renaissance music from England, including works by the William Byrd and the Bard of Bummerdom, John Dowland, who was emo centuries before Weezer. ■