Category Archive for: ‘Greg & Suzanne Angeo’

“Wizard of Oz” at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Members, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Photos courtesy of 6th Street Playhouse

Katie Kelley Stowe, Toto

Katie Kelley Stowe, Toto

An Unmagical “Wizard”

What’s the “Wizard of Oz” without the tornado, the yellow brick road or the dazzling scenery? The “Wizard of Oz” currently being presented at 6th Street Playhouse to kick off its 10th Anniversary and 2015-2016 season.

The original musical extravaganza premiered on Broadway in 1903 with book by Frank L Baum and music by Paul Tietjens, based upon Baum’s 1900 fantasy novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The spectacular 1939 film by MGM had all-new music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg, and became a glowing Technicolor icon of popular culture. The version at 6th Street is from the 1987 adaptation for the Royal Shakespeare Company by John Kane, based on the 1939 film. It had a successful run and has since gone on to be one of the most produced shows in the country, especially by community theatre groups.

For the 6th Street production, fledgling director Benjamin Stowe tried the novel approach of making key male characters all female: lady farmhands Hunk, Hickory and Zeke turn up in Oz as the lady Scarecrow, the lady Tin Man and the lady Cowardly Lion. The effect is interesting, but does nothing to refresh the story.

The always enjoyable Larry Williams does triple duty as Uncle Henry, Professor Marvel and the Wizard. He is truly in his element, doing his madcap best. Also fun to watch are the charmingly frisky Saskia Baur (Hunk/Scarecrow) and Dana Nelson-Isaacs (Zeke/Cowardly Lion). Kim Williams as the Tin Man looks downright uncomfortable at times, maybe because of the stiff costume.

Starr Hergenrather offers a too-sedate Miss Gulch that needs some energy behind her nastiness; her Wicked Witch was livelier, but that could have been inspired by the makeup and costume, which are suitably scary. Katie Kelley Stowe as Dorothy is adequate in the role and is a decent singer, but like much of the production, seems to fall short.

Starr Hergenrather

Starr Hergenrather

The multi-purpose set is confusing and bleak-looking. The backdrop for much of the first act is a dark, wrinkled fabric that may be intended to represent a stormy sky, but just looks shabby. There were no effects of the approaching storm – no wind, no tornado, just a few flashes of light onstage for lightning. When Dorothy lands in Oz, there is no yellow brick road. None. The very tall Munchkins sing about it, all right, but you have to imagine it’s there. The music is recorded, instead of the usual live orchestra, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The dance numbers seem under-rehearsed and are surprisingly ordinary from someone with choreographer Areyla Faeron Moss-Maguire’s impressive background. There are some good lighting effects, but for the most part, it doesn’t have enough dramatic shifts, even when important transitions in the story occur. Lighting director Steven Piechocki could have made use of 6th Street’s cyclorama to project images and motion with light, but it was nowhere to be seen.

The overall production lacks imagination and looks as if not enough thought was given to the special effects. For one performance on the opening weekend, some of the (non) flying monkeys were missing their wings. The movement of Professor Marvel’s gondola (no balloon, just gondola, partially hidden by a curtain), is supposed to show him taking off. Instead it was an awkward sideways slide offstage. Even shows in the early 1900s had better tricks of stagecraft, and with much less technology at their disposal.

Dorothy’s canine companion Toto went oddly AWOL for a good deal of the show, but thankfully he reappeared in the second act. Besides Williams, this little pooch was the most convincing performer onstage.

Was “The Wizard of Oz” too big for 6th Street? Perhaps this time. They should try it again.

Kim Williams, Katie Kelley Stowe, Larry Williams, Saskia   Baur, Dana Nelson-Isaacs

Kim Williams, Katie Kelley Stowe, Larry Williams, Saskia Baur, Dana Nelson-Isaacs


When: Now through September 20, 2015

8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Sundays, and Saturdays September 12 and 19

Tickets: $15 to $37

Location: GK Hardt Theater at 6th Street Playhouse

52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA


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