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07.22.09

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Phaedra

Photograph by Jana Marcus
Charming Company: Dorothy (Monique Hafen), Scarecrow (Andrew Ceglio), Lion (Jared Washington) and the Tin Man (Andrew Roubal) make their way toward the Emerald City in Cabrillo Stage's production of 'The Wizard of Oz.'

The Wonderful 'Wizard of Oz'

Cabrillo Stage's spirited take on the beloved classic includes nods to the 1939 film.

By Traci Hukill


THERE'S something faintly embarrassing about most musicals that doesn't afflict The Wizard of Oz. Maybe it's the kitschy quality of those lines seared into the public consciousness-- "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!"--or maybe it's the Dark Side of the Moon theory, which holds that if you watch the movie on mute while blasting Pink Floyd's classic 1973 album, the two will sync up in remarkable ways, especially if you've followed the unwritten first rule and taken a couple of bong hits first. In any case, the usual wholesome naiveté doesn't apply to this fantastical story of self-discovery, song and dance numbers though there may be.

Which makes it all the easier to give a full-throated recommendation to Cabrillo Stage's exuberant production of this musical. Trevor Little, making his directorial debut after choreographing 2007's Little Shop of Horrors, has masterminded a spirited production with rollicking dance numbers, playful special effects (he makes ample use of harnesses and wires to simulate the swirling flight of the witches) and great sets and costumes, notably the Tree (which also features some of the company's best singers). Little pays tribute to the 1939 MGM film: Technicolor crimson streaks the evening sky, and during the tornado scene the cow is blown across the stage, a wink to the audience that prompted delighted laughter on opening night.

There are departures, too. The two Dorothys rotate each weekend, and Rosanna Arquette lookalike Monique Hafen, who had the role last week, plays it modern and a little knowing, with enough good-natured coltishness to capture Dorothy's cornfed inexperience. Ashley Little, the other Dorothy (and Mary Magdalene in last year's Jesus Christ Superstar), is said to be more classic; her brief but memorable performance as the head Winkie suggests a more complex Dorothy this weekend. Santa Cruz comic Karin Babbitt turns in a performance as the Wicked Witch that's more nasty than evil, wielding her incredibly cool broom with great style and a very bad attitude. The flying monkeys are skillfully rendered as creepy old hominids in top hats and bat-winged morning coats.

The four leads have great chemistry. As Scarecrow, Andrew Ceglio is goofy, loose-limbed and charismatic. Andrew Roubal as the Tin Man is a sweet-natured dancing machine, and Jared Washington plays the Cowardly Lion to good galumphing comic effect. Nobody chews the scenery here; it's an ensemble effort, and it works.

Ensemble efforts are a strength of this production. While none really qualified as a show-stopper, the big dance numbers were exciting, confidence-inspiring affairs that let the audience relax and enjoy the show without having to fear any gaffes or missteps.

If there's one quibble I have, and it's in the job description to have one, it's that the vocals were a bit uneven--in many of the chorus numbers a few trained voices stood out from the other singers, belying the difficulty of finding true triple threats. Overall, though, it was a fully entertaining evening, and that's what it's all about.


THE WIZARD OF OZ plays through Aug. 16 at the Cabrillo Theater, 6800 Soquel Dr., Aptos. Tickets are $20-$31 at 831.479.6154 or www.cabrillostage.com.


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