Follow the yellow brick road to potential.
Potential, potential, potential – that’s what’s there in René J.F. Piazza’s The Wizard of Oz – The Dorothy Gale Story at the Actor’s Theatre of New Orleans (ATNO).
Piazza, who wrote and directed the two-act twist to the Wizard of Oz traditional tale, presents a production with ingredients for success down the road. The opening night performance at this small, intimate theatre was a little slow, a little late in starting and there were more than a few examples of actors’ stepping over each other lines. With improved delivery and better timing, however, you’re looking at a production worth seeing more than once. If you’re a fan of the Oz books, plays, music, and movies, keep an open mind and don’t miss this show. You will love the comedy and the treasured lines. The puns are too, too much (that’s good), the occasional slapstick routines are fairly decent, and the repetition of certain lines is enough to be funny, not overbearing.
The Dorothy Gale Story is what it is – a re-telling of the classic Wizard of Oz (movie version, of course) with a contemporary perspective. The first act kind of, sort of, pretty much follows the story everyone knows. The second act offers a refreshing look at what might have happened to Dorothy after she returns to Kansas. Imagine the “trial of the century” as Dorothy defends her adventures in Oz.
The first act is funny, and funnier in certain scenes. Sure, it’s trite when the Tin Man says “I don’t have the heart to tell you,” but Oz fans will appreciate the pun. Be sure to look for a tribute to OreosTM; it may be my favorite scene and certainly the favorite of those sitting around me. Then again, did you ever wonder what would happen if the Andrews Sisters had a part in the Wizard of Oz? Watch for that scene, too, you’ll want to boogie with the rest of audience to the Sister’s “Bugle Boy” tune.
While the second act is not as amusing as the first, it is an entertaining stretch with maybe just a little too many reminders of courtroom television and movie dramas. The scene to watch for here is a visit by Annie (yes the Warbucks, girl), played by Maria Christina Bucalan, especially as she addresses attorney Stella Meller.
By the way, the transition to intermission is fun and nostalgic, too.
Utilizing a movie screen to embellish the recurring references to the Wizard of Oz movie and set the scene, the multi-talented crew brings multi-media to a small stage in an effective, amusing fashion.
Sound effects and special effects are also in the very good category. It’s a good thing the Red Hat Society women in attendance on opening night removed their hats. Dorothy’s whirling journey to the Emerald City comes with a windy audience experience. Kids will love it!
Stacy Taliancich’s costumes are excellent. Even though I wanted to pin down Annie’s collar, which annoyingly stuck up on one side, I was impressed with other outfits, particularly the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow costumes.
Anysia Manthos as Dorothy gives a credible performance in the title role, with a tongue-in-cheek interpretation that works well with Piazza’s script. Manthos seems the most comfortable on stage with Margeaux Fanning as Stella Meller and Viki Lovelace as Glinda and the Bailiff close seconds. I’d like to see the show after several more performances to see how other cast members shape up with repeated deliveries.
The Wizard of Oz – The Dorothy Gale Story is billed as a family show. Yes, it is. I can’t imagine why anyone of any age wouldn’t find at least three or four – or more – laughs in this production. The more familiar you are with the traditional movie, however, the more you will enjoy it.
Back Row Facts:
Length of Play: two hours and 10 minutes.
Language and Lewd Factor – none, isn’t that refreshing?
Family fitness - a true all-in-the family show. Little kids should sit close to the front (unless they are the scary-easy type) so they can see all the action.
It’s a puzzlement! Why did the crew wait until the end of intermission to set the stage for the second act? An opening night snafu?