There’s a brand spanking new, think world premiere in the making of ‘Oz, A Wondrous New Musical’ sans ‘Over The Rainbow’ or ruby slippers’ at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. There is no ‘Over The Rainbow’ or Ruby Slippers. Artistic director Robert Smyth cautioned audience members not to pine since the original 1939 ‘Wizard’ movie is still available if anyone wants slippers and rainbows.
Fans of the movie The Wizard of Oz and the musical Wicked will find similarities in Jon Lorenz’s take and remake on the L. Frank Baum’s original 1900 American Folktale ‘The Wizard of Oz’ This adaptation is a little darker in tone, more fun to watch and even more thrilling to admire if old memories are put on the back burner. This ‘Oz’ is innovative, creative, novel and quite exciting to experience. It is a homegrown, right in our own back yard work that will need some trimming, tweaking and condensing but in every way, worth pursuing.
Over the years Lamb’s Players Theatre has had it’s shining moments producing star quality musicals. Les Miz, West Side Story, MiXtape, Guys and Dolls, Fiddler On The Roof, Music Man and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat come to mind. This is no easy fete since the stage at their Coronado home is rather small and cramped, however with creative staging and good use of isles and exit runways, manageable.
The panoramic and colorful visions one remembers from the film are replaced by Mike Buckley’s rustic looking, wooden framed outline of a farm house built on several levels with sliding panel doors and a ‘pit’ on the stage where the eight musicians, under the baton of musical director Patrick Marion can be seen. Moveable stairs slide in and out under a performing platform for convenience and the rest of the stage, the playing area especially, is clear for the well- coordinated choreography under the direction of Coleen Kollar Smith. Nathan Peirson’s lighting design kicks in with digital effects outlining a path of wooden planks on the floor as ‘the yellow brick road’ Dorothy and crew use on their journey to find the Wizard.
It is no surprise then to find associate artistic director Deborah Gilmour Smyth playing the Wicked Witch of the West. After all she was perfect as Madame Thénardier in their recent production of Les Miz, why would we expect anything less of her in Oz? She has that character nailed and then some; she’s also Aunt Em (“Seems a little more wind today’) and Tatty Poo. But make no mistake she soars as The Wicked Witch of the West in ‘Only Right”: “It’s only right witches rule, We are born with a magical tool, That we use to help those beneath us, With all the power bequeathed us”.
You can almost see where composer and musical director Jon Lorenz (music and lyrics) is headed with his new all -American score (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg wrote the music and Herbert Stothart the score for the movie) with music taken from Bluegrass Country to ragtime to blues to folk. Well then there is Fernando Vega the Latino Cowardly Lion (/My Great Sorrow’); “Please forgive me I was born this way, From the moment of my birth, My first second on earth, And each following day… When people like you come coming around- I roar they run…If you think this sounds pathetic -Well I concur -If elephants or tigers tried to frighten me I would soil my fir”. He is nothing less than laugh out loud funny side-stepping across the stage hoping to find some courage.
Great support also comes from James Royce Edwards’ as the somersaulting Scarecrow. The towering Woodsman or Nick Chopper, played by Bryan Barbarin is a powerhouse of a Tinman. John Rosen plays the Wizard with a bit of reserve but as Boq, his Irish accent comes from out of the blue.
Tattypoo, the Crows (dressed in tuxedo’s and top hats), the monkeys (dressed in some WWI pilot outfit with metal looking wings), the Munch Kins and Winkies all have a go at it. (“Free” and “Make it Right”). Even Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (Katie Snapper), gets a turn by helping Dorothy understand the power of her silver slippers. She shows up late and leads Dorothy on the pathway to “Home”.
Megan Carmitchel is Dorothy Gale personified without being a naïve Judy Garland type even thought she is dressed in her blue gingham dress with a white apron over it, pigtails and carries not Toto, but necessary trinkets for her survival in her little basket when she lands in West Munch. She’s on stage acting and singing (beautifully suited voice) from beginning to end taking us with her on her journey as she meets up with the usual cast of characters.
Carmitchel, a trooper to the end, took a little hit above the eye from Scarecrow’s scythe when he was about to make a clearance for them to get to Oz. She returned to finish the show a few minutes later with a crack about having a Band-Aid in her basket.
With Kerry Meads at the helm directing and a top notch ensemble (‘Emerald City Rag’) singing dancing and playing multiple roles, (Munch Kins, Emerald Citizens and Crows), Jeanne Reith’s eclectic costumes, Deborah Gilmour Smyth’s sound design with Nathan Pierson’s yellows and blues washing over the production, our hat’s go off to Lamb’s Players Theatre in general and Jon Lorenz in particular for giving the Emerald City its due.
From Lorenz: “Home is where your needed
Home is where your known
Where you work together to come into your own
And your heart sings that special song”.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Nov.22nd
Organization: Lamb’s Players Theatre
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $24.00