BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Producer's Club

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Producer's ClubTucked away in the heart of New York City's theater district - known as Broadway (although only those with 500 seats or more can officially be called Broadway theaters) -- are many off- and off-off-Broadway gems like the Producer's Club which make theater accessible and affordable to thespians and audiences alike. At the Producer's Club on July 28, 2018, AlphaNYC Theater Company presented the beloved children's classic The Wizard of Oz. It tells the indelible tale of farm girl Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto who travel to Oz via tornado. The show is directed by Elizabeth Aquino and the story is adapted by award-winning playwright Kathryn Schultz Miller. Based on L. Frank Baum's popular book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), which spawned 13 sequels, MGM's 1939 film The Wizard of Oz became one of the greatest and most iconic films of all time, an enduring part of our cultural history. Its sublime star Judy Garland, forever associated with it, remains equally an icon. With its simple but profound theme of longing for faraway worlds "over the rainbow" and finding that those searches for our heart's desire ultimately lead home, The Wizard of Oz is a universal and timeless story.

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Producer's Club

The simple backdrop depicts cornfields and a yellow brick road, including emerald green curtains. Perhaps one interpretation of the tale's subtext would be about surviving through imagination and dreams. It reminds us that even in Oz, Dorothy travels through farmlands similar to her native Kansas, except they are suffused with color. (The book opens, in fact, with describing the gray and joyless plains that Dorothy inhabits, noting that Toto was not gray and made Dorothy laugh, saving her from becoming as gray as her surroundings.) But on a literal level, the friendly and fanciful characters and spunky "child" heroine speak for themselves. The story is condensed into an economical 30 minutes to engage young audiences. Schultz Miller makes some imaginative tweaks, while maintaining all the signature elements of the plot (including famous lines from the film). It is an all-female cast with each actor bringing something distinctive and original to her role, aided by the script's engaging, child-friendly wit.

Throughout the show narrator Veronica Murphy is perched in a corner of the stage and holding a book, lending an apt story-time atmosphere. Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto are whisked away to the Land of Oz by a tornado where they meet a Scarecrow (without a brain), a Lion (without courage) and a Tinman or, rather, Tinwoman (without a heart). The trio of misfits join Dorothy in her journey down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where they each hope the Great Wizard of Oz will give them the qualities they lack. In Dorothy's case, she wants to go home. But when they finally reach Oz, the Wizard tells them they must kill the Wicked Witch of the West first before their wishes are granted.

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Producer's Club

Hannah Rahe Goodman as Dorothy gets her spirit - a combination of sweetness ("I, the meek") and sass when pushed. When the Wizard boasts, "I remember everything because I am so great and wise," Dorothy says, "You've already told us that. It's not polite to repeat yourself." Karen Goldfarb, with great comedic presence, plays four different characters, including Auntie Em and one of the Wicked Witch's monkeys. She uses a broad and lively delivery that is perfect for children and makes the adults laugh as well. Jayla P. Corbin delights as Toto and truly brings to mind an inquisitive, little dog; it is Toto, not the humans, who unmask the Wizard, after all. The dog remains a vital character, making frequent, little "ruff ruffs!" When she meets the Scarecrow, she paws him curiously until the Scarecrow cries, "Seriously?" She also nabs a bag of potato chips an audience member allegedly left behind. Sarah Middough, playing both Glinda, the Good Witch, and the Wicked Witch of the West, is utterly sensational. Schulz Miller has reimagined the Wicked Witch as one-eyed, which makes a wonderful visual like a squinting pirate, and Middough uses great physical flourish and vocals deliciously recalling Margaret Hamilton's unforgettable film witch. ("They don't call me wicked for nothing," she pipes at one point.) The cast is rounded out by Ambrealys as the Scarecrow, Catherine E. Seraceno as the Cowardly Lion, Stacy DeGolier as the Tinwoman and Niki Rose Woods as both the Gatekeeper and the Wizard. They are all delightful and play beautifully to the kids in the audience, being both engaging and relatable.

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at The Producer's Club

At the end of the show, children in the audience are invited to come onstage and take photos with their favorite characters. One little girl didn't want to leave the stage.

AlphaNYC's Wizard of Oz offers a little bit of magic on a shoestring and a way to introduce children to beloved classics. It also enables families to go to the theater without breaking the bank. Best of all, it's fun for all ages and frequently made me laugh out loud. (When the Scarecrow finally gets her brain, she crows, "I before E except after C" to prove it.)

THE WIZARD OF OZ played at the Producer's Club on July 28, 2018 at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 1pm. The Producer's Club is located at 358 West 44th Street in New York City.

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From This Author Donna Marie Nowak

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