by Terrance Mc Arthur
A young girl sings about bluebirds flying over the rainbow, and you know there’s a twister just around the corner. The Wizard of Oz has landed at the Reedley Opera House for the River City Theatre Company, and it’s a smooth landing for everyone but the Wicked Witch of the East (By the way, kudos to director Joseph Ham for staging a ruby slipper transfer worthy of a David Copperfield magic special.).
If you know the movie, this adaptation is very close, including the grumpy apple trees, Professor Marvel, the flying monkeys, a live Toto on a leash, the hired hands on the farm that become Dorothy’s special friends in Oz, and “Yo-ee-o! Yo-o-o-o-O!” The Jitterbugs aren’t there (They didn’t make the final cut of the movie, either…only on the Special Features disc), but there IS a song for the Wicked Witch of the West.
Alyssa Martin is a sweet and lovely Dorothy, with a crisp voice that reminds me of Billie Burke (Glinda in the MGM film). She is interested in each character she meets, carrying us along on her journey of discovery. Jacob Alvarado, her Scarecrow, is cuddly, bubbly, and amazed by every thought he has, full of excitement, reminiscent of Ross the Intern from the Jay Leno Tonight Show.
Tidy Gill is every inch a Wicked Witch, screeching, cackling, and sweeping across the stage. Charlton Hughes is shiny and stalwart as the Tin Man. Sierra Hoff looks homespun and careworn as Auntie Em, ethereal as Glinda the Good Witch, and she seems to have stolen Lawrence Welk’s bubble machine. Caesar Torres gets to be worried as Uncle Henry and wacky as the Guard at the gates of the Emerald City. Larry Ham makes a lively Professor Marvel, and is alternately blustery and avuncular as the Wizard.
Tommie Theo Hill jumped from playing the circus owner in the Selma production of Big Fish into Oz’s Lion costume without a breath to spare, and he is grand, largely channeling the style of Bert Lahr, with double takes galore.
Dominic Grijalva is the projection effects king of the Valley, creating a laser-enhanced head of Oz the Great and Powerful in this production.
Because of the short time for changing costumes and makeup, Gill does not play Miss Gulch, the mean old lady that the film turns into the Wicked Witch of the West; Bethany Houghton takes on that role, and serves as an apple tree and a member of the Lullaby League. She is snooty, snarky, and swan-like, depending on the part. David Heinrichs and Isaiah Bueno are unrecognizable as a pair of Scarecrow-teasing crows, gathering laughs and corn… and corny laughs. Special mention must be made of the four-legged Sir Henry George Windsor Bingley, who is a Toto for the ages.
This show is a miracle, put together in short time when a chosen show was removed from availability after auditions had been held. Joseph Ham and Co. did amazing work to stage this show. It’s a bright, fun-filled treat for the holiday season, so grab the nearest twister or balloon to get yourself to Oz and Reedley, 1729 10th St. Call 559-638-6500 or go to www.reedleyrivercitytheatre.org for information and to purchase tickets. The show closes on December 18.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.