Wizard of Oz – California Theatre

Okay.

So this is probably mostly my fault. I spent the last month basically binge-watching every single version of The Wizard of Oz that I could find. Hubby and I have been reading children’s classics together, one a month, and watching associated movies. Oz was the biggest so far. Not that it was a longer book, just that the volume of film adaptations was so huge. From the Judy Garland version (love!) to The Wiz (What did I just watch​?) to versions featuring cartoon characters, vegetables, and puppets. Oh, my!

That being said, I was quite excited when the tickets to this show arrived in the mail. Hubby and I usually end up seeing a live show at least once a year, and this looked to be a good one​.

I love this venue, and have seen many wonderful shows and symphonies here from the time I was in high school, more than twenty years ago. The shows are usually professionally done and wonderful to view. Plus, it’s​ a GORGEOUS theater! And it’s Oz! How could it go wrong?

See why I was excited?

It was a fairly full theater, which was nice to see. The staff was friendly and welcoming, and they gave us a little playbill to keep us entertained while we waited for the show to start.

I don’t read about the actors usually, but stuff like that fascinates the hubby, so it’s great for him. He also tries to see behind the scenes at Disneyland, so, yeah. He’s odd. Still, oddness aside, things were going fine. Until we saw the set. And it all went downhill from there.

The sets were high school theater quality. Simple cutouts painted to look like a building, for the most part. I could live with that. But I was not okay with them using a giant screen for the background. A screen on to which was projected really bad CG images. The chickens were CG. The twister was CG. Oz was CG. The flying monkeys were CG. Bad CG. Again, high school level work. And when the monkeys flew around the screen in utter silence​, it was really bad.

Okay. So the sets were bad. But what about the script? Surely you can’t go wrong there? Sadly, it turns out that they can. It was virtually identical to the Judy Garland movie, but with some very strange additions. For example, the Lion continually made Lion King references and lion-hearted jokes, even going so far as to sing a phrase from a few famous songs. They turned him into the comic relief character, and it was completely out of sync with the rest of the movie. You want to do a parody? Then do one. But if you want to use a classic script, then please stick to it.

So the script was iffy. How about the acting? Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. Community theater level, which is a step above high school. If only the characters could have remembered whose turn it was to deliver lines, that would have helped. The talking over each other and the awkward pauses that followed were distracting. I did enjoy the way the production  handled Toto. He was a pupper controlled by an on-site puppeteer who emoted whatever Toto was supposed to be feeling. It was like watching a dog’s thoughts come to life. This could have been confusing, I suppose, but it was handled so well that it wasn’t at all. Kudos to the puppeteer. Also on the bright side, the singing was spot-on, and everyone, from leads to chorus, did well.

On a similar note, I want to recognize one very, VERY, good thing about this show. It had a live orchestra playing the score. I can’t tell you how much better this made the play, but it really was the number one most redeeming quality. Live music makes a bigger difference than most people realize, and I’m thrilled that the production didn’t choose to use canned music.

So let’s see…I’ve talked about the sets, the script, the acting, and the music. What’s left? Oh, yes. The costumes. *sigh* Overall, they were​ fine, standard fare. The scene where Dorothy got the Ruby slippers was accomplished very well and I was pleased that her dress went from gray to blue when she showed up in Oz. (It didn’t change back, and she was still wearing the ruby slippers when she came back to Kansas, but I’m going to let that go…) Other costumes were fine.

Except one.

And this costume is the reason I asked for a refund.

You see, I can handle a mediocre show. I can even handle a bad one. But I can’t handle one that is indecent. And this one was.

The Tin Man. Oh. My. Goodness. There’s no easy way to say this. He had on the typical costume as we’ve all seen in movies before. Metal tube over the torso and metal coverings over the legs, arms and head. Silver fabric everywhere else. The problem is, the fabric covering his groin was thin and strtchy and conformed to the shape of what was underneath. And what was underneath was not hidden under a cup or padding or anything to disguise the shape. Instead, you could see the size and shape of the reproductive organs and even tell that the actor had not been surgically altered, if you know what I mean. It was awkward, embarrassing, and caused tittering and a whole lot more among the audience. Some of the conversations I overheard between kids and parents after the show proved that hubby and I were not the only people disturbed by this. And hearing a mother trying to explain why the male anatomy looks different based on whether they’ve had surgery was uncomfortable for everyone. Nothing like an evening out with your son, right?

So there you have it. My review. The good, the bad, and the “Oh, please look at your cast from audience level before you finalize the costumes!” It’s a great venue, and they were super quick about responding to my complaint​, so I’ll go back…but I don’t think I’ll ever see that.particular show again!

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