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''The Wizard of Oz'' on ice

”The Wizard of Oz” on ice — The characters hit the ice for a new adaptation of the classic American film

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The wind began to switch, the house to pitch, and, oh, what happened then was rich: Dorothy sharpened her blades, did a figure eight, and skated down the Yellow Brick Road with Toto slipping and sliding behind her.

Kenneth Feld, the producer responsible for putting ice skates on practically every Disney character, has combined brains, heart, and courage to stage The Wizard of Oz on Ice, a new $9 million production. ”There are so few properties that have the endurance of The Wizard of Oz,” Feld says. ”Everyone has specific moments of the film that stand out in their minds, and we’ve tried to remain true to them while contemporizing the production a bit.”

Those modern touches include 53 characters voiced by musical virtuoso Bobby McFerrin (who originally balked at the lengthy 140-page script and agreed to do it only after his three children convinced him), flying monkeys, and special effects such as a motorized farmhouse that takes off during the twister. The production even manages to reproduce the 1939 film’s classic transformation from black-and-white Kansas to the dazzling colors of Munchkinland through skillfully designed sets and lights.

At last month’s premiere in St. Louis’ Kiel Center, the closest suitable arena to Kansas, the audience of 11,000 included a couple of blue-gingham-clad little girls in the first row, who exuded Dorothy down to their ruby slippers. Meanwhile, spectators with aisle seats bravely welcomed the Cowardly Lion onto their laps.

With 80 cities scheduled on the two-year domestic tour (not to mention 32 countries after that), no need to travel somewhere over the rainbow to see Oz on Ice — there’s a good chance the Yellow Brick Road will be winding its way to your hometown.