Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 36
Season of the WizFollow the yellow brick road to PCPA's 49th season premiere production of The Wizard of Oz
BY JOE PAYNE
PCPA Theaterfest’s production of the classic American fantasy tale The Wizard of Oz ensnares and excites with talent and technical wizardry sure to cast a spell of delight on any age. Truly starting the 2012-2013 season with a bang, the production showcases the raw talent powering every facet of PCPA. The production is showing through Dec. 26, making it a holiday treat waiting to be enjoyed.
Opening night started with an introduction by PCPA’s artistic director, Mark Booher, which included a heartfelt dedication of the season to Patricia Boyd, who passed away in July. She was a local piano teacher and PCPA supporter and fan her entire life. Oddly enough, she was also my childhood piano teacher, and a true teacher of art and skill. Her consummate support of the arts, Booher explained, was and still is a guiding force for PCPA—and now the theater company’s 49th season.
As for the play itself, it opens with a recognizable rural Kansas backdrop, and we’re introduced to our heroine Dorothy Gale, portrayed by student actress Britney Simpson, who infuses the role with youthful energy and contemporary flair. Following at Dorothy’s heels is her dog Toto, our first introduction to some of the stunning puppetry used in the production. Played by Tony Kupsick, clad only in black overalls and shirt (to match the fur), Toto is complete with wagging tail, puppy dog eyes, and rambunctious energy.
We make our way to the familiar Kansas farmhouse to meet the rest of the cast. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, played by Leo Cortez and Kitty Balay, respectively, seem too engrossed with farm life to give too much attention to Dorothy. Their three prankster farmhands Zeke, Hickory, and Hunk are a lot to look after, each with his own quirk. These gentlemen will, of course, be joining us later as the Cowardly Lion (Erik Stein), the Tin Woodman (Andrew Philpot), and the Scarecrow (Quinn Mattfeld).
Miss Gultch shows up with a sheriff’s order for Toto’s head. Played by the wickedly talented Elizabeth Stuart, Miss Gultch is not as terrifying on her bike as she will be later on her broomstick when we meet the Wicked Witch of the West. After Toto’s escape, Dorothy is forced to flee for her canine’s life, which brings her to the encampment of Professor Marvel, played by Peter S. Hadres, who will later be the Wizard of Oz himself. The “real world” magician extraordinaire divines images of Aunt Em collapsing in his crystal ball, and Dorothy rushes home as a tornado begins to build.
This is when the whole thing comes apart, literally. Appearing in overalls and muted shirts, talented PCPA student actors make up most of the amorphous set that makes The Wizard of Oz a truly magical experience. They become the scene as the twister takes hold. The farm house breaks to pieces and spins circles around the stage as Dorothy is lifted by the cyclone into a surreal transition. After her return to consciousness and introduction to Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, played by a dazzling Karin Hendricks, we get to meet the munchkins. Each is a totally unique and wonderfully rendered handmade puppet that can bounce, dance, and sing with the help of the “invisible” overall-wearing friends.
The puppets were all created by Emily DeCola of Puppet Kitchen in New York. The attention to detail that went in to each puppet is truly astounding. Some puppets include several separate articulations, and the skill and technicality on display here truly takes this production soaring.
As the story moves along, a real sense of momentum builds. “Everybody comes and goes so fast around here,” says Dorothy. The brilliant pacing keeps the play exciting, dramatic, and—above all—hilarious. Stein’s Cowardly Lion cemented my belief that Stein may be one of the funniest people on the planet. His very close second would be Mattfeld as the Scarecrow, who delivers laughs scripted or improvised. But both of these giants of laughter are in close competition with the full-metal-jacket skill of Philpot as the Tin Man.
This production of The Wizard of Oz features the classic story by L. Frank Baum and the quintessential music and lyrics of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. But the tale was adapted by John Kane and features background music by Herbert Stothart and orchestration by Larry Wilcox. The score definitely gives the play a more contemporary feel than the 1950s version, while still staying true to the fun of the film. The play is ideal for all ages and includes a few matinee performances for children 3 and older on Nov. 24, and Dec. 8, 24, and 26. For all other productions, attendees should be at least 5 years old.
Arts Editor Joe Payne has a horse of a different color. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.