Review Roundup: Repertory Philippines’ THE WIZARD OF OZ

By: Aug. 25, 2012
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Manila, Philippines, August 25, 2012 - Bookwriter, composer, and lyricist Jim Eiler and composer Jean Bargy's stage adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz," based on the classic children's book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, is Repertory Philippines Children's Theater's (RPCT)  20th anniversary offering, which has begun performances on Saturday, August 18, and will run for the next four months at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt One, Ayala Malls in Makati City. 

Directed by Joy Virata, "The Wizard of Oz" tells the story of a young Kansas farm girl Dorothy, who gets lost in the magical land of Oz. Along the way, she meets a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion that will help her on her journey.

Here are some review excerpts that the production, which stars Cara Barredo as Dorothy Gale, James Stacey as the Scarecrow, Hans Eckstein as the Tin Man, and Oliver Usison as the Lion, among others, has collected over the last week.

Vladimir Bunoan, True to its mission to enthrall kids, RPCT goes over the top with the visuals. In this case, the costumes of designer Raven Ong stand out -- from the candy-colored pastiche of the Munchkins, including a ball gown that hides the fact that the actors are seated on rolling chairs, to the detailed metallic designs of the Tin Man.

Matched by the busy lighting design of John Batalla, generously using concert-style  intelligent beams, as well as precise sound effects, the production certainly transports kids to the fantasy land that is Oz.

Virata also cast two gymnasts/dancers as the lead flying monkeys, who perform tumbling runs, b-boy poses and other acrobatic stunts to delight audiences.

The Wicked Witch - in green face makeup, no less -  makes her dramatic entrances riding a flying broomstick which descended from the top of the stage…

Still this is children's theater, as can be gleaned from the repetitive score and the use of audience participation to involve the children in the production. Apart from the usual call and response, they also played a game of charades, with the monkeys acting out the lead characters of the musical and having the audience guess who that is.

With productions as polished as "The Wizard of Oz," RPCT is sure to have many more successful seasons ahead.

Ramil Digal Gulle, What makes the RPCT production stand out is its return to the original spirit of the book, which was, after all, written for children. It's a far cry, for example, from the novel "Wicked" that is replete with adult themes and concerns (And by the way, "Wicked" was also turned into a musical in 2003).

Well, you can leave the politics, the gender issues, etc., behind when you watch Rep's The Wizard of Oz and enjoy the tale for what makes it well-loved and relevant, a hundred plus a dozen years after it was originally published:  a story about how friendship, courage, and kindness can triumph over evil…

The entire show is cleverly produced to awaken the child in all of us: the sets and costumes are all designed to evoke a storybook atmosphere, helping audience-members lose themselves in a world where they are able to re-capture the purity and innocence of childhood: two qualities that, sadly, many grown-ups lose, bit by bit, the older they get.

The show is simply great fun. The narrative is straight-forward and quick-paced and the songs have this light, bouncy feel that keeps in rhythm with the story. What makes the show truly come alive, however, are the actors themselves.

Even though the story is familiar, the actor's performances feel refreshingly new and the main protagonists-Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion-are endeared to us immediately. The Wicked Witch of the West, played by Pinky Marquez on the night I saw the play, was a delight to behold.

Rosalinda Orosa, The Philippine Star:  An incredibly huge assemblage of gifted performers, seasoned artistic and production staffers has worked in close, seamless collaboration to produce fascinating, enchanting entertainment for the young, not-so-young and the permanently young-at-heart…

Creating a magical, out-of-this-world illusion are the spectacular sets of Lex Marcos, the fantastic, swiftly changing surrealistic light effects of John Batalla and the fabulous, fanciful costumes designed by Raven Ong…

The brisk singing under the direction of Onyl Torres, the nimble dancing to the choreography of Jaime del Prado and Nathalie Everett - enhanced by the street dancing and acrobatics of the monkeys - Bobby Superales, Jim Ferrer (acrobat), Deo de la Cruz and Clark de la Riva (acrobat) - heighten audience rapture.

Photos by JR Sala


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