The House Theatre is currently performing one of its past productions, The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz, Phillip Klapperich’s 2005 spin on L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz. First produced by House Theatre of Chicago in their third season, Klappernich’s The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is a darker version of the original, magnifying the story’s undercurrents while keeping the integrity of the Baum’s story intact. Modern touches are also added throughout the show that bring Dorothy and friends to present day.
Most of us know the story of Dorothy, a teenage girl from Kansas who is magically transported from her family’s farm house (thanks to a massive tornado) to the enchanting and vividly colorful world of Oz, a magical place where almost anything can happen. Klapperich’s version gives us a whole new perspective on the classic.
Contemporary Dorothy (played by the talented Kara Davidson), armed with a cell phone and toting her beloved dog Toto, (animated by Joey Steakley, who truly makes the stuffed animal come to life) both land in the whimsical land of Oz (specifically Munchkinland) when a severe storm carries the two by means of the beforementioned powerful twister. Upon landing, we soon find out that Dorothy’s house ends up crushing the wicked witch. Dorothy is greeted and admired by the locals (Munchkins, played by Elana Elyce, Ben Hartej, Carlos Olmedo, and Tina Munoz Pandya) and The Good Witch Glinda (Amanda de la Guardia). Everyone wants their new hero to stay, after all, she killed the wicked witch. But Dorothy longs to get back home to her family in Kansas. The deceased witch however, had a sis who is very nasty and is out to get Dorothy to reclaim her sister’s magic boots that are now clinging to Dorothy’s feet. And so, Dorothy is given directions on how to the grand Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz, who will hopefully help her get back home. While searching for the great wizard, Dorothy befriends our favorite characters from the classic: The Scarecrow (enchanting Christina Maryland Perkins), Tin Woodsman (Jeremy Sonkin), and Cowardly Lion (lively Michael E. Smith).
But it’s not as easy as simply meeting the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, now called the “Witch Slayer” thanks to the Munchkins, is asked by the Wizard to kill the wicked witch in exchange for passage home.
The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is beautifully directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley and is very well cast. Kara Davidson transcends expectation as Dorothy while AnJi White is absolutely mesmerizing as The Wicked Witch of the West. White moves with grace, speaks with conviction and injects just the right amount of wicked into the wicked witch.
The show is delightful non-stop entertainment featuring live music, giant animated puppets, monsters and even flying monkeys soaring through the air, OH MY! Creative, energetic and colorful, it’s mostly joyful, occasionally dark and even sad, but always entertaining.
The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz is being performed at Chopin Theatre through May 7th. The performance schedule is Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. and Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. Preview tickets (evenings March 17 – March 26, no performance March 25) are $15 and regular run tickets range from $25 – $45. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.TheHouseTheatre.com.
*This show is not recommended for children under ten.
Every time I think the talented cast of players and directors performing at Marriott Theatre’s intimate theatre in the round have done the very best they can, they top themselves again.
This production of the deliciously classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a spunky, intelligent teacher who is recruited from England to teach the children of an arrogant but struggling King of Siam directed with precision and compassion by Nick Bowles was hands down the finest, most soaring yet intimate production of “The King and I” that I have seen in years.
Heidi Kettenring as the show’s star in Anna has more than a fine singing voice for the piece. Kettenring infuses the character with humor, strength, compassion and a feminist fury which reaches its peak of expression in the hilarious and still modern song, “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”
to remind you of your royalty,
I find a most disgusting exhibition.
I wouldn't ask a Siamese cat
to demonstrate his loyalty
by taking this ridiculous position
how would you like it if you were a man
playing the part of a toad.
Crawling around on your elbows and knees.
Eating the dust of the road!...”
New York actor Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, does a wonderful, sexy and layered performance as the King, never falling into predictable caricature. Guillarte is a little bit younger than the King is normally played and it makes perfect sense that his character is both falling in love with the educated and mature teacher Anna and also confused by his growing sense of bewilderment at her grasp of political situations that improve the destiny of his own family and finally, his entire Kingdom.
The romantic and sexual chemistry between Kettenring and Guillarte is absolutely dynamite and had the entire audience breathlessly watching each explosive scene between this talented pair.
There is a very funny, yet revealing scene where the King is insisting that Anna’s head never be higher than his own. The King asks Anna to take dictation for an important letter to a visiting dignitary and sits down on the floor. When Anna finally sits down on the floor, the King moves to recline on one elbow and so forth till they are both completely reclining on the floor. Although, it is really a nonsensical demonstration of his manly power, Kettenring and Guillarte manage to make it a funny and sexy “shades of gray” type dance between two people who are each unaware they are falling in love with the other.
I am happy to see that almost all of the roles for the children and wives and concubines of Siam were filled by actors with a variety of different ethnicities. The children in this production are completely delightful to watch from beginning to end. Matthew Uzarraga, who plays the boy who would be King, does a fantastic job bringing his little tyrannical boy to life and when at the end of the show he pronounces that “excessive bowing to the King like a toad” is now forbidden, you really believe this child has learned something major from his now beloved teacher and friend Anna.
Kristen Choi as Lady Thiang knocks it out of the park with her stunning rendition of “Something Wonderful” and Joseph Anthony Foranda is a wise, organic presence. Shirtless like the King, he pulls off the role with quiet sensuality and power as the aging prime minister to the King Kralahome.
Nancy Missimi went all out with the costumes in this piece and I most enjoyed her costumes on the wives, children and concubines of the King. Their dance numbers were wonderfully choreographed by Tommy Rapley and together with Ms. Missimi’s costumes and Tom Ryan's royally glowing set design, the dance numbers reminded me of barefoot dancing flowers, like multicolored orchids and floating water lilies come to life onstage.
I get totally spoiled when seeing a well performed Rodgers and Hammerstein musical because the lyrics for every song are so unique and memorable. “We Kiss in a Shadow” was beautifully sung by Megan Masako Haley as the King’s unwilling young captive, Tuptim, who is in love with another.
“To kiss in the sunlight
and say to the sky:
"Behold and believe what you see!
Behold how my lover loves me!"
And Devin Law as Lun Tha , Tuptim’s secret lover, also performed the classic “I Have Dreamed” to perfection.
“I have dreamed that your arms are lovely
I have dreamed what a joy you'll be
I have dreamed every word you whisper
When you're close, close to me
how you look in the glow of evening
I have dreamed and enjoyed the view
In these dreams, I've loved you so
That by now I think, I know
what it's like to be loved by you
I will love being loved by you”
I can’t speak highly enough about how all of the elements in this production came together to create such an educational, yet romantic, touching and funny evening of pure theatrical delight, including the fantastic, organic choreography by Tommy Rapley and Ryan T. Nelson’s exquisitely detailed musical direction.
Take your children and your grandparents, or even your first date to ‘The King and I” at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire with confidence that you will all equally enjoy a magical night of classic entertainment performed at peak quality for modern times.
For more show information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.