The Wizard of Oz at Indianapolis Civic Theatre, through Jan 3. 

Indianapolis Civic Theatre

Directed by Brent E. Marty

Driving to the Civic, I finally realized why theater is a holiday staple for some families. With late-night merrymaking and the flu in my recent past, I longed to sit in the dark for two hours and listen to my son's laughter, while doing nothing to earn it. Turns out, I was the one who was tickled: with Ryan Koharchik's conception of a grey Kansas farm and a yellow brick road; with Jean Engstrom's candy-colored munchkin costumes; and with children-munchkins performing so well that I forgot to be cynical about the ticket-selling possibilities of all those kids' relatives. The Civic's signature holiday production is visually inventive throughout and flies faster than winged monkeys (also played by children, so they are cute, instead of freakishly scary like the movie monkeys). With the leads, director Brent E. Marty goes for imitation rather than invention, getting very nearly the same delivery and accents as Hollywood's Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Lion, and witches. After Meg Duell's sweet "Over the Rainbow," most of the singing tugs on our memories more than it moves or thrills. The dancing is light and easy, with no Ray Bolger acrobatics. As the Cowardly Lion, however, Tommy Bullington reminded me just how much my brothers and I loved Bert Lahr's performance, watching it every year on television as kids. Now, that is a memory that moves and thrills. 923-4597; Through Jan. 3.

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