(Victorville) – Frank Baum’s classic tale of Dorothy, Toto, the Munchkins, and the Wicked Witch of the West comes to the local stage as The Wizard of Oz opens at the High Desert Center for the Arts this weekend for a 3 week run.
The story starts at the Kansas farmhouse where Dorothy (played by Rebecca Parra) and her dog Toto (yes, a real live dog on stage!) are living with her aunt and uncle. Trouble starts to brew when Toto is ordered to be taken off for biting the mean old neighbor Miss Almira Gultch. Dorothy intends run off with Toto to keep him from a terrible fate.
But even before they can run away, a tornado picks up Dorothy and Toto and sets them down on the road to the magical land of Oz, where ruby slippers, strange creatures and great adventures await.
Along the yellow brick road, Dorothy makes new friends in Scarecrow (Patrick Summers), the Tin Man (Michael Nevarez) and the Cowardly Lion (David Mancha). All three join her on the road to the Emerald City, where they hope the Wizard (Burton Hamrick) will provide what they lack – a brain for Scarecrow, a heart for Tin Man and courage for the Lion – and then get Dorothy and Toto back to Kansas.
I was able to see a dress rehearsal before all of the finishing touches were added. I can’t wait to see the show now that it is ready for the curtain to go up!
Parra as Dorothy brings an endearing, Judy Garland-like sweetness to her role. She talks, sighs, exclaims, even ‘gasps’ just like Garland’s legendary film character. Parra must have watched and studied the original film over and over again. But she brings her own touch to the part, and her vocals are truly memorable.
Summers seems born for the part of the Scarecrow. His tall lanky figure and real sense of humor perfectly portray that “aw-shucks” enthusiasm needed for the role. Nevarez nicely emphasizes the Tin Man’s tenderness. Mancha’s Cowardly Lion is so well done as he goes from whimpering sacredly cat to courageous adventure leader.
Tammy Austin portrays the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t know how long she practiced that high pitched laugh, but her make-up, her costume, and her on stage presence had me kind of cowering in my seat. Job well done!
I have to say I was pleasantly delighted to see that the production crew actually decided to have a real dog for the part of Toto. She was well behaved and not at all distracting.
How could I NOT mention the Munchkins? Those DARLING little residents of Munchkinland filled the theater with their strong voices and adorable dancing when they sang “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”. You can’t help but smile.
There’s something for everybody here: watch for the swaying Trees; they’re a hoot!
The Wizard of Oz is a large undertaking for the Creative Arts Theater production team, with a large cast, a set that changes quite a bit throughout the show, and special affects including a flying monkey, a tornado, snow, falling poppies, a larger than life wizard and, most important, a witch that melts away – this team had a lot to do to bring this show together. I would say they achieved that goal.
Creative Arts Theater presents The Wizard of Oz, weekends through May 20th, at the High Desert Center for the Arts: located on the corner of 8th and “C” Streets in Old Town Victorville.
Showtimes are 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday, 2:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Call 760-963-3236 for tickets and more information.
To view a picture montage click here