I accepted the assignment to write a review from a dress rehearsal of “The Wizard Oz” by Aloha Performing Arts Company with trepidation. Joyce, my younger sister and only sibling, passed away too many years ago from brain-devouring cancer that stole her intellect before taking her life.
“The Wizard of Oz” was her favorite musical by far and one of mine; right up there with “West Side Story.” When family and friends gathered to celebrate her life I put a tape of the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland in a VHS player and set it to run continuously.
The classic musical’s signature song “Over the Rainbow” still brings tears to my eyes; just can’t help it. And, of course, no one will ever sing the song like Garland.
But Robin Baker, who performs the character of Dorothy, sings the song her way and does so admirably. Her voice is vibrant and clear and easily carries to the rear seats of the Aloha Theatre.
I suspect Baker has viewed the movie several times because there are glimmers of Garland in her mannerisms, whether acting or singing.
Dressed in blue gingham she totes Toto through many of the scenes with her supporting cast. Aptly playing the part of Zeke/Cowardly Lion in a low, resonating voice is Kelly Drake. Bower Ressler strides and sings his way through the play as Hickory/Tin Man and Bryan Riley adds a strong voice to songs as Hunk/Scarecrow.
Together they meet the challenges found on the yellow brick road from three apple trees with an attitude to sleep-inducing poppies to a wicked witch and flying monkeys to the Wizard himself. The Munchkins, played by elementary-school-age children, are indeed carefree and full of song. Residents of Oz include the Lullabye League, Lollipop Guild and beauty shop operators who groom Dorothy and companions before they meet the Wizard.
Armed with a truly witch-like cackle and a broom, Janice Blaber takes on the task of pedaling a bike as Miss Gultch and melting into the floor as the Wicked Witch of the West. She delivers humorous lines, and she has several, with good timing and verve but could come across as a bit more wicked.
Blaber is new to the Aloha Theatre stage or any stage. She brought her two daughters to audition, was asked to read and selected by director Jerry Tracy to fill a feature role. Tracy is directing a performance of the “Wizard of Oz” for the second time at Aloha Theatre. He became enamored with L. Frank Baum’s book after misbehaving and trying to run away from home when he was a “pre-teen.” His punishment was not allowing him to speak or interact with his three siblings.
“I read it seven times, back to back,” he said. “Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion took the place of my brother and sisters. My favorite part was where the travelers get sidetracked in the poppy field and the flesh and blood members have their consciousness altered. What can I say, I am a child of the ’60s.”
Filling out the cast of major characters are Melissa Atwood (Auntie Em/Glinda) and Tim Bruno (Uncle Henry/Oz Guard). Ricky Delorey II is excellent as Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz. Nick Wong is Munchkin Mayor, Taylin Mandaguit is Munchkin Barrister and Keaton Riley is Munchkin Coroner.
One scene I found particularly entertaining and funny involved the aforementioned apple trees with an attitude. Dorothy and the Scarecrow find the Tin Man behind three apple trees performed by Tiffinay Kutsunai, Sarah Bellatti and Nora Frank. The girls come across as cheeky and irreverent and its evident they enjoy their roles.
The players perform in colorful, cleverly designed costumes and their props are simple but effective, as are the sets.
All in all, “The Wizard of Oz” performed by members of APAC with the help of volunteers is entertaining and sure to be a hit with those who love the musical.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Joyce and Judy sitting together on the other side of that rainbow with big smiles on their face as Dorothy says: “There’s no place like home.”
And maybe they would reply that regardless of the skill or talent of the actors: “There’s no place like community theater.” After all, isn’t that is where most stars are born?