Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cape Cod Times Review, July 12, 2008

'Oz' delivers wicked good fun

July 12, 2008 6:00 AM

HYANNIS — Got Munchkins? Get them to Oz.

Temporarily (and this is very handy), it's located on West Main Street, in the Barnstable High School auditorium, where the Barnstable Summer Family Theater is reprising the school drama club's wildly popular production of "The Wizard of Oz."

Let's get to the external smasheroo stuff first: This production looks mahvelous, from the elaborate sets (muted-tone cornfields in Kansas, a surreal Munchkinland) to the astonishing handmade costumes (there could not be a yard of primary-color cloth left on the Cape).

Kudos go to set designers John Sullivan (the director), Ethan Brown and Vanessa Varjian and costume queen Karen Mannal, but one can only imagine the army of artists, carpenters and seamstresses required to pull this off.

The special effects (led by Chris Houghton and Chad Goddard) are astonishing and, even in a story we know well, capable of a surprise or two. Suffice it to say that people, witches and houses appear and disappear in satisfying and often amusing ways.

But beneath all the colorful moving parts is a huge cast of talented young people who populate poppy fields (adorable tykes in flower costumes), the electric Emerald City, Munchkinland, creepy forests and the even creepier castle of the Wicked Witch. There are enough townspeople and flying monkeys and forest inhabitants to fill a Hollywood sound stage, and, under Sullivan's direction, they are not background set pieces: They are integral parts of the play. They're terrific.

And they support an equally talented and enthusiastic main cast.

As Dorothy, Kelly Mosher is pitch-perfect, both in lovely voice and in her ability to make us worry about her fate, even though most of us have seen Judy Garland do the same about 1.4 million times. Ethan Brown delivers the most choreographed performance as the forever-flopping Scarecrow, and Shane Harris' Tin Man is suitably sweet. Your heart breaks for the sans-heart woodsman. Of course, Matt Kohler, as the Cowardly Lion, has the juiciest role, and he does not disappoint, conjuring up Bert Lahr in a way that drew gales of laughter from Thursday night's audience.

Arielle Catania gives her Wicked Witch the kind of cackling and menace that has scared generations of children, and Devon Gruenstern provides the opposite — glittery goodness — for Glinda, who makes big-time entrances. (Although almost everything in this production is big-time.)

A shout-out for Joey Bearse, who, once Dorothy lands in Oz, takes over the role of Toto from a real dog. He may not have any actual lines, but he has to scamper around like crazy on that stage (and beyond), and he never lets up.

...let me note here that the dialogue from the 1939 movie, courtesy of screenwriters Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, comes shining through. You forget how apt lines like "Some people without a brain do an awful lot of talking" were then — and are now.

And the songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, from the achingly poignant "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the hilariously goofball "If I Were King of the Forest," are paid well-justified homage by this delightful cast, aided by some fine local musicians in the orchestra.

Of course, we all have L. Frank Baum to thank for the original book. His wickedly good idea has endured quite nicely through the years.

on stage

What: "The Wizard of Oz"

Performed by: Barnstable High School Drama Club
Presented by: Barnstable Summer Family Theater
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
Where: Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center, 744 W. Main St., Hyannis
Tickets: $10
Reservations: 508-771-6246

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