atombash.com abhors clichés like “tour de force” when describing performances. But then again, when it comes to reporting on that which was turned in by Brent Marty in “Miss Gulch Returns!” at Theatre on the Square, it seems entirely fitting, and well deserved.
This reviewer, who saw the show Saturday, came late to the party for the one-man musical comedy that opened Oct. 23, but is thankful not to have missed Marty’s revival of the show he did previously in 2000, 2002 and 2003.
“Miss Gulch Returns!”, which premiered in 1983, was written and originally performed by Fred Barton. He was also co/creator/arranger/performer/pianist in the original company of the long-running revue “Forbidden Broadway.”
The script for “Miss Gulch Returns!” alludes to the character of the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” the 1939 MGM classic film. The musical parodies the character of Almira Gulch (portrayed by Margaret Hamilton). It follows the premise that Almira was an actress rather than a character portrayed by an actor and that she appeared in “Oz” as herself. The setting for Barton’s musical is a second-rate cabaret where Almira is a performer.
Marty is director of music and education for Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre and a performer at other local theatres. Like Barton, he is multi-talented and demonstrated that he has the acting, singing, dancing and music skills to pull off a role that demands inexhaustible energy on the part of the performer in this particular show.
Accompanied by pianist Deb Ward, Marty also showed off his better-than-average timing and comic skills too as he mugged, pranced about Kip Shawger’s “Oz” memorabilia-covered set, and danced to Tina Mollis’ choreography. All the while he made the most of Barton’s hilarious and clever one-liners and sarcastic dialogue as dispensed by the misunderstood, underappreciated Gulch, forever stereotyped as a bitter spinster who tells her side of the story to a world that more readily identifies with Judy Garland.
Barton’s songs, with their complex rhyme schemes reminiscent of Cole Porter’s, were expertly interpreted by Marty, who shone in “I’m A Bitch,” “Born on a Bike,” “Everyone Worth Taking Has Been Taken” and “Pour Me A Man.” Showing his acting chops, Marty conveyed pathos as Gulch sadly sung several ballad while perched on the top of the upright piano.
As mentioned previously, this writer came very close to missing Marty’s triumph. But if you missed seeing “Miss Gulch Returns!,” directed by Zack Neiditch, during its regular run, you may still have an opportunity to catch it. Due to popular demand, TOTS has added one more performance Friday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. At press time there were 40 tickets remaining for the show held at TOTS 65-seat cabaret theater.
For tickets and information about “Miss Gulch Returns!” call the TOTS Box Office at (317) 685-8687 or visit tots.org.