The Real Live Wizard
Powerful cast overcomes technical glitches to produce magical fun at the Outdoor Forest.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Photo: What, Me Worry? Glinda the Good Witch (Connie Erickson) gives hope to a stranded Dorothy (Kelly Lucido) in The Wizard of Oz.
Attending Pacific Repertory Theatre''s production of The Wizard of Oz at the Outdoor Forest Theater is more akin to attending a festival than a theatrical performance. On opening night, songs like "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and "We''re Off to See the Wizard" were more sing-alongs than performances. Most of the audience chanted "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" with Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tinman. It is this sense of communal experience, of sharing a well-loved tale with friends and new acquaintances, of introducing children to the magic, that makes the current production such a treat.
The performances of the principals go a long way towards maintaining the audience''s goodwill and high spirits. Kelly Lucido looks perfect as Dorothy and sings a lovely, if passionless, "Over the Rainbow." It is tough to compete with Judy Garland in any decade, but Lucido provides the glue of wholesomeness and dogged determination that holds the quartet of adventurers together. She is blessed with a Toto (quite honestly the bane of many productions) who is comfortable to remain draped across the arm of one cast member or another.
Costumed traditionally, the Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Wicked Witch and Glinda each manage to find just the right mixture of homage to the film''s famous quintet and originality in their own take on things. The most is made of Betsy Andrade''s strong presence as the Witch with the insertion of the cute song "Nobody Loves a Wicked Witch." As Glinda, Connie Erickson thankfully tones down Billie Burke''s warble, but keeps her sense of all-is-right-with-the-world goodness and humor. Erickson''s wonderful, powerful voice is ideally suited to Glinda''s songs.
John Daniel as the Scarecrow adopts Ray Bolger''s dialect, but strengthens his legs, allowing for more forward progress and less straw-legged tumbling. He is a loose-limbed and entertaining dancer. His rendition of "If I Only Had a Brain" set the tone for his truly charming performance. As the Tinman, Keith Wolhart also proved charming. He does a lovely job with his signature song and the story of how he became a tin man is told with a perfect blend of surprise, innocence and sorrow.
As the Cowardly Lion, J.T. Holmstrom is a standout. He is an enormous presence on stage, constantly alive and alert. Contemporary culture interpolations into classics like Oz can often be nothing more than cheap attempts at easy laughs, but Holmstrom manages to limit his to the witty and appropriate.
The only real disappointment of the evening was not the fault of the performers. The three-piece orchestra, though extremely competent, sounded thin and inadequate for the size of the Forest Theater and of the cast, and the electronic orchestrations were nothing short of cheesy.
Technically, the production had an amateur feel. From body microphones that cut out at pivotal moments (during the Lion''s terrific "King of the Forest"--a lesser actor than Holmstrom would have been stymied), to technicians failing to turn off actors'' wireless mics (one of the cruelest things a sound operator can do to an actor is to leave her mic live during an offstage costume change), to flying the Wicked Witch in one chorus early and leaving her dangling in full view of the audience (talk about feeling powerless) the show was technically not ready for primetime. One can only hope that a theater the caliber of Pac Rep will make every effort to polish these glitches as the run progresses.
The Wizard of Oz continues at Carmel''s Outdoor Forest Theater through Sept. 21. 622-0100.