Review: WIZARD OF OZ at Downtown Cabaret Theatre

For young audiences, through May 21, 2023.

Review: The Goodspeed's GYPSY is a Real Good Time!

On Saturday, April 22, 2023, at 2:30, I had the pleasure of seeing what is arguably the absolute best younger audiences production I have ever seen at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, WIZARD OF OZ! Phill Hill has created a phenomenal masterpiece in his adaptation of the classic story by L. Frank Baum in a brilliant and entertaining manner, loaded with great music from the 1980s!

Director Andrea Pane, choreographer Cory Murphy, and musical director Aron Smith combine their talents to help bring out the best in this first-rate cast. The stage chemistry between the performers is tight, as they radiate positive energy that reaches the entire audience.

The set is very colorful upon arriving at Oz. Set designer David McQuillen Robertson combines his talents with light designer Axel Hammerman to create a very vibrant and welcoming set on stage. I caution those with sensory issues that there are some blinking light effects, but for all other audience members, those effects tremendously enhance the production! Effects like the twister projected on the backstage wall work brilliantly!

As someone who has always enjoyed watching highly talented actress Ashley DePascale perform, this role of Dorothy is my favorite of her roles ever! This role is perfectly suited for her and showcases her in a way that truly lets all her talents shine. She is not hidden under a wig or face paint. She is not playing a comedic sidekick role. Rather, she is out there openly starring and excelling as the central protagonist. There was authenticity and sincerity to her performance, enhanced by her powerful singing voice.

Karen Hanley is double cast as Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West. This performance, particularly as the Wicked Witch of the West was also my favorite performance I have ever seen from Karen Hanley. She really sold the role both in her mannerisms and voice, both speaking and singing.

Speaking of greatest performances ever, Jason Parry provided my favorite that I have ever seen from him, too! He was masterful as a character named Patches. This character is essentially a combination of the Mad Hatter, caterpillar, and White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. His costume is similar to the Mad Hatter. His dialogue references the caterpillar, but more specifically the anxiety of the chronic time crunch of the White Rabbit. Jason Parry does a spot-on Ed Wynn voice, when delivering lines. His movements on stage make him appear as if he is on roller skates, which works perfectly for this role. This character, although very Alice in Wonderland in nature is also incorporated into the WIZARD OF OZ story as the mayor of Muchkinland, the gate keeper of Emerald City, and the man behind the curtain. Jason Parry commands everyone's attention when on stage, both as Patches, and in an additional role of one of the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys.

Carly Jurman was totally awesome as the Scarecrow! While it is a change to the traditional story to have a female scarecrow, Carly Jurman so excels in this role that I would not have wanted to see it in any other way! I think, I think I know, at least I think I think I know that this was my favorite role I have ever seen her in, too!

While I have not seen Cory Murphy in too many roles before, I would definitely like to see him, again, as he was spectacular as the Lion! His movements and mannerisms when he first came on stage were spot-on as the lion! He was very convincing, but in an entertaining way, not one that would likely scare any of the children in the audience, as none of them seemed to be scared, yet all entertained! Yes, it is my favorite role I have seen him in, too!

Andrea Pane yet again brings his A game to the show, this time playing the Tin Man, which is my favorite role I have seen him in, since his role in Goldilocks. He is excellent at conveying all the different emotions, even behind the costume. A highlight is him threatening the witch by setting up to use the crane technique. His ability to stand still like a statue when required is an often underrated talent that deserves far more credit!

The musical choices were some of the finest ever! Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Journey, Survivor, Huey Lewis, the Talking Heads, Michael Sambello, and a Tiffany arrangement of a Tommy James & the Shondells song were all wonderfully performed by this cast whose acting, singing, and dancing are first-rate!

Kudos to costume designer Christina Beam all around for designing costumes that allowed all six cast members to excel in their respective roles!

As traditional with the shows geared towards younger audiences, the fourth wall gets broken as the characters seek responses from the children. It is particularly amusing when children in the audience break the wall in the opposite direction with amusing comments shouted back to the cast members.

I highly recommend WIZARD OF OZ, which is scheduled to continue to run at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, through May 21, 2023. For times and tickets, please go to Click Here.


Westport Country Playhouse Participates In CONNECTICUT OPEN HOUSE DAY, June 10

Westport Country Playhouse will participate in “Connecticut Open House Day” on Saturday, June 10, from 1 to 4 p.m., offering an admission-free, fun atmosphere with self-guided backstage tours, set model and costume displays, kids' activities, music, food trucks, and beer tastings. In addition, the Playhouse box office will be open during the open house for special, day-of/in person-only single ticket discounts.

Jennifer Kiger Concludes Run at Yale Repertory Theatre; Chantal Rodriguez Appointed Associate Artistic Director

Yale Repertory Theatre has announced that Jennifer Kiger, Associate Artistic Director at Yale Rep and Director of New Play Programs, is stepping down from these roles effective June 30, 2023. She will continue to serve on the Playwriting faculty at David Geffen School of Drama.   

Playhouse on Park Will Host Panel Discussion “WORDS” AND HOW THEY GET THAT WAY!

Three of the country’s top lexicographers are coming to Playhouse on Park in West Hartford for a FREE panel discussion on Friday, June 9th, 2023. “WORDS” AND HOW THEY GET THAT WAY is in conjunction with the World Premiere of WEBSTER’S BITCH by Jacqueline Bircher, a play about vulgar words and the people who define them.

Palace Theater To Host Second COFFEE HOUSE - SUMMER VIBES 11: FIND YOUR VOICE This July

On July 14th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm, the Palace Theater will present our second Coffee House, Summer Vibes II: Find Your Voice, an open mic night for local artists in the Waterbury region.


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