Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz – Book, Words and Music by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo


By Joe Straw

“Those horrid things they call men, whether black or white, seem to me the lowest of all created beasts.” – Miss Chim – The Woggle-Bug Book by L. Frank Baum

My daughter and I, needing a diversion after church, decided to go to the Santa Monica Playhouse to find a live theatrical presentation.

The Santa Monica Playhouse, located near the 3rd Street Promenade, has three or four theatres and there is always something for everyone, adults and children alike, so I suggested we go and see a happening. Life imitates theatre, or the other way around, but this time she was in agreement, and there was no grousing.

When we got there, we discovered a children’s show and being fans of the Wizard of Oz we settled on “Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz” by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo, directed by Chris DeCarlo with Serena Dolinsky.

I’m not sure what that means: “directed by Chris DeCarlo with Serena Dolinsky.”  Did Serena direct it or have a hand in directing it?  Why doesn’t it say directed by Chris DeCarlo and Serena Dolinsky for the love of God?

(Credits can sometimes be a painstaking endeavor with someone always getting the short shift.)   

The play takes place in 1905 on a small farm in Kanasa (This is the name as it appears in the program and I’m not sure if this is a typo.) and on the road to Oz.

Uncle Henry (Aaron Burns) has lost the farm, once again, or is about to lose it, because there is no water; no rain, not a drop, and the crops are dying. And it is up to an energetic Dorothy Gale (Kate Burleigh Huerta), from Kanasa, to go back to Oz and save the drought stricken farm.

(Funny that it has a theme we can all identify here in California at this given moment, given our drought situation.)

This Dorothy is a little long in the tooth….

(Hold on a minute Toto, this is a children’s show. Don’t belittle the actors.)

(Later we find that she is indeed supposed to be older, she is an adult now. But still wearing the same dress?  How does that happen?)

Look, I’m a little fed up saving the crops, the chickens, the horses and the farm.  I’m an adult now and have little to show for it, except this run down farm, a geezer for an uncle, and also, my biological clock is ticking and there is not a man on the horizon!

But now, given the drought situation, Dorothy is on a mission to go back to Oz where it all happened and try to bring water to the desolate landscape. An electrical storm (somehow) throws her back into the land of, well on the road to Oz, and some rather peculiar misfits.

The consortium of characters, a mix-up of Oz characters from various L. Frank Baum books, will either help her or hinder her.  And isn’t that always the case.

And then she meets Shaggy Man. A man, shaggy.

Not even a healthy lookin’ man.  Why can’t I have a normal boyfriend?  Someone who sees me for me? Likes me for me.  That sounds ridiculously redundant, anyway.

The love magnet does not play an important role here where love is concerned.  (We definitely need more love in this production.)  

Shaggy Man (Aaron Burns), covered in tattered cloth, is a single man who, unattached and available, appears as dry as a bone.  His threadbare clothes have seen little water.  His worn clothes, in need of a good washing, are now in just shreds, tatty, and clipped. And all pieces are hanging on by the strangest of strands. It’s a bit peculiar, but he looks awfully like Uncle Henry.  Still,  he promises to help her on her quest. And the only thing he has is a jeweled crown to give to Dorothy, to protect her? Or, bring the rain? One is not sure.

Polychrome (Megan Combes) helps out in her fashion as well as a mixed up Queen Ann (Lauren Holiday).  H.R. Wogglebug (Casey Maher) is also along for the ride as well as Ping (Mary Ann Pianka) who has very long fingers with very little to touch.

Queen Coo-ee-oh (Adya Mohanty) presented a fine figure and has a very lovely voice.

This show is for children, very small at that.  It is a diversion and a good one for very small children.

But, saying that, this show needs clarity and mostly clarity of objectives because in the end no one gets anything and that’s not something you want in any show, including a children’s show. And what this show needs is a perspective so that the kids are glued to their seats in rapt attention.

But what does this all mean?

Well, the characters need somewhere to go, each fighting for their own piece of the pie. For example, and for comparison, the Scarecrow needs a brain, Tin Man needs a heart, the Cowardly Lion needs the courage, and Dorothy needs to find her way back home.

But in this version of “Dorothy…” Shaggy Man needs what?  He is a character whose philosophy of life is love, love, love, and he also has a strange repugnance to material possessions. One saw little of that in Aaron Burns interpretation.  

One is not sure what Polychrome needs, or how she goes about getting it. She is a fairly who dances to keep warm, and uses her magic to help, but little of this is seen in this rendition.  Her father left her at the end of the rainbow stuck on earth. But given that, how does she use this to help Dorothy on her journey?   

H. R. Wogglebug (Casey Maher) is a bug.  Wogglebug wears colorful clothes, and has a rather distasteful view of anything human, and is looking for what? And, how does she get it. And how does she help Dorothy on her journey?

And what in the world could Queen Coo-ee-oh (Adya Mohanty) be wanting? 

And what about the girl with the long fingers Ping (Mary Ann Pianka) who is under some kind of evil spell but manages to get out?  What in the heck does she want? 

And what has all of this got to do with rain in Kanasa?

That said, there are some very lovely voices in this show Kate Burleigh Huerta has got a wonderful voice as does Adya Mohanty, well beyond her young years, beautiful and earthly. They are well worth the price of admission.

But the key to making this show work to greater satisfaction is for the actors to define the relationships and to creatively strengthen their objectives, guided by the directors “Chris DeCarlo with Serena Dolinksy”.  

The road, in this production, was not hard to travel, and the conflict was not that great. Still, my 11 year old enjoyed herself and got a great deal from watching the production.

Other members of the cast that did not perform the day I was there are as follows:

Molly Gillman – Auntie Em/Patches/Ozma
Rachel Galper – Queen Coo-ee-oh
Cydne Moore – Swing for everybody
Gray Silbert – Uncle Henry, Shaggy Man

The songs by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo are lovely.

Ashley Hayes did an incredible job as Costume Design.  George J. Vennes III was the Technical Director.  James Cooper was responsible for the Lighting and Set Design.  The Attic Room was responsible for the Graphic and Sound Design (I’m sure there are names responsible for that work.) Sandra Zeitzew is the Public Relation Director.  

This show will be running through Halloween 2015.

Santa Monica Playhouse® 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
p: 310.394.9779; e:
a 501(c) (3) non-profit educational corporation

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