Photo by Ralph Granich

If you are looking for something to do with your children this weekend – or you enjoy musicals – check out The Wizard of Oz at the Julia Morgan Theater on College Avenue in Berkeley.

This energetic production from Berkeley Playhouse combines terrific music and scenes with extraordinary costumes and some fantastic special effects. The production by Jon Tracy reinforces Berkeley Playhouse’s reputation for giving a fresh spin to familiar plays.

A surprise favorite in the show is Maggie, the dog who plays Toto. Dorothy holds her almost the entire show, and the dog appears perfectly content to be the center of the attention. Kids seem to really like watching a live animal. She was so popular during the Saturday afternoon post-play “meet and greets” that the producers had to take her off the stage.

Sending Dorothy home

The voices and performances of the lead actors are wonderful as well. The ensemble members transform seamlessly from playing Munchkins to flying monkeys to inhabitants of the Emerald Citizens.

Ensemble doing the Jitterbug

Berkeley Playhouse has installed new lighting and sound in the historic theater which brings a welcome intimacy to the show.

The Wizard of Oz runs through Dec 6 and there are matinees and evening performances this next two weekends.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...