BWW Review: THE PHANTOM OF OZ by Cindy Brown

BWW Review: THE PHANTOM OF OZ by Cindy Brown

BWW Review: THE PHANTOM OF OZ by Cindy Brown

The Miss Marple of Maricopa County is back! Cindy Brown's stage-struck sleuth Ivy Meadows is on the case of a brand new mystery that becomes highly personal when it involves her best friend, Candy Moon. This is Brown's fifth entry in the Ivy Meadows Mystery series, with actress / detective Ivy cast undercover in "Wizard: A Space OZpera," a problem-plagued touring musical on a Phoenix stop-over.

In the tradition of Brown's previous 'Ivyntures', the book is a clever mash-up of stage classics. This time THE WIZARD OF OZ meets THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, with a dash of THE WOMAN IN WHITE thrown in for ghostly good measure. Could there be more familiar stage tropes than these classics? WIZARD is currently represented on Broadway by WICKED, while PHANTOM has just entered its third decade on the Great White Way. Both are rooted in century old fantasy fiction, so it is fitting that Brown returns them to the page - with her own Phoenician flair, of course.

Half the fun of Brown's breezy narratives are the royalty-free musical mash-ups she creates. To investigate the disappearance of her BFF (and a series of unfortunate accidents that end in murder), Ivy gets herself cast as a space-age Glinda, who flies in on a bubble-shaped spaceship to save the galaxy.

"Oz was a green planet and Dorothy's house had been pulled into space through some tornado time warp. The Cowardly Lion looked like a Wookie, the Scarecrow had a sort of big-headed E.T. quality, the Tin Man was based on Marvin, the depressed robot from THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and the Darryl Hannah replicant character from BLADE RUNNER inspired the look for both the Wicked Witches. Glinda was costumed like one of the babes Captain Kirk was always kissing on the original STAR TREK, and the Wizard wasn't a cast member at all, just a projection."

The action of the mystery is set in and around a grand old theatre, which just happens to be haunted, of course. Naturally, the theatre's ornate chandelier is headed for a downward trajectory. There's even a labyrinth of spooky passageways in the bowels of the art deco theatre that are reminiscent of the dark desert caves that figured so prominently in Brown's last outing, IVY GET YOUR GUN.

Lest you think this is all pulpy fiction, the author has meticulously scoured Gaston Leroux's original PHANTOM novel for appropriately pithy chapter headings. Character names like Logan Gale, Eden Garland, Madison Leroux. and Arrestadt Giry, also tip their hat to Brown's literary inspirations. For the less literary-minded, there's a jab at TV's current reality show mania in the person of the self-obsessed and callously shallow Babette Firman.

For those fans who've followed Ivy's exploits, she's still getting tips from her private dick uncle, trying to find some quality time with her boyfriend, and navigating the emotionally complex relationship with her developmentally disabled brother. If you have yet to start reading the Ivy Meadows mysteries - what are you waiting for? Each book stands on its own so don't hesitate to start with whichever title sparks your theatrical imagination. Cindy Brown is the Agatha Christie of Broadway! The Broadway Trail in Phoenix, that is! (Take a left at Highway 60 then take Jacobs Crosscut one half mile to the junction and continue to the fork... bring a book! An Ivy Meadows Mystery, of course!)

Cindy Brown
Cindy Brown

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Michael T. Mooney Michael T. Mooney has devoted his life to the performing arts, having been involved as performer, writer, director, and administrator. Coming to Paper Mill Playhouse in 1994 from The Growing Stage Theatre in Netcong, New Jersey, he first served in the fundraising department and then became involved in the theatre's accessibility programming, eventually assuming full responsibility for the theatre's nationally recognized Access programs and services. In 2001, he was appointed Manager of Outreach and Access Programs, a position he designed himself. Mr. Mooney has led community drives for the Victims of 9-11, Jersey Cares, New Eyes for the Needy, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lainie's Angels, First Book NJ, Tsunami Relief, The American Red Cross, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In addition to his Access responsibilities, he also directed Paper Mill's Senior Players Workshop, managed the award-winning Adopt-a-School Project and has been both instructor and adjudicator for their STAR program. He is a founding member of LEAD and served on the board of directors for The Fund for the New Jersey Blind, The Audio-Description Coalition of America (ADC), The New Jersey Cultural Access Network, and The New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For five years, he studied directing and writing for theatre-in-the-round with England's Sir Alan Ayckbourn and has staged more than 60 productions of plays and musicals in Northern New Jersey, including the American premieres of four of Sir Alan's plays. Michael is the proud recipient of the 2008 New Jersey Governor's Award for Arts Education and the 2003 Ann Klein Advocate Award for his work with senior citizens and people with disabilities. Easter Seals New Jersey named him one of their "Miracle Workers" of 2008. He lives in Neptune, New Jersey, having also lived in Central Florida and London, England.