Review by Nicholas Linnehan
August 23, 2013
Almost a year ago, I was invited to attend Haberdasher’s production of an adapted form of “The Wizard of Oz”. (See review below). In that review. I expressed my hopes that they would continue working on this piece. I was happy when I was invited back to see their much improved adaptation, now entitled, “The Wonderful Remix of Oz”. Haberdasher has obviously listened to the feedback from last year, as this production is further down the proverbial “Yellow Brick Road,” than the previous one. As a result it lands closer to the promises that the auspicious “Emerald City” offers.
It was pleasant to see some of the former cast mates return. Jeff Foley, is still every bit as captivating as the Scarecrow. He falls, stumbles, and trips around the stage so believably that we almost worry for the actor’s safety. But Foley quickly assures us that all is well and continues to impress. Taylor Zito returns to the cast as well, but not as the witch. Zito plays several ensemble characters, most notably the gate keeper. She has come a long way since last year. She is delightful to watch and plays each role convincingly. Also returning is Jennifer Michaels. Michaels was in the ensemble last year, but plays a much stronger Dorothy than her predecessor did. Michaels plays Dorothy as a strong, smart girl and we fall in love with her.
Speaking of love, there are some surprising love stories that unfold. (And no Im not going to give it away). The new cast mates are great additions. Pamela Karp is bewitching as The Wicked Witch of the West(side). She is enchantingly evil and provides high energy on stage. I was astonished to discover that Karp is less than five feet tall. But to her credit and clever costuming, we fear her and never become aware of her height. Alex Coehlo and Lindsay Arber bring the Tin Man and the Lion to life and make them the loveable friends that everyone wants to have. I could have watched them at infinitum.
While the script is much improved, I still felt like playwrights Jeanette Jaquish and Hollie Klem were still struggling to find the balance between the traditional story and their new adaptation. We are told that Dorothy lands in Luna-Land and is definitely in New York City, But shortly after that, we never hear about New York City and I was left wondering where in NYC is the “yellow brick road”. Ultimately, I was unclear as to where “Oz” really was. I would encourage them to clarify and make it more specific where the play takes place.
Yet, with clever choreography by Joseph Harris and Quincy Ellis and outstanding costumes, once again, by Katie Grammes, this remix is a pleasure to watch. I commend Haberdasher for working, obviously very hard, on this piece and making it stronger than their original production. As a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz”, I salute you and thank you for bringing this ageless classic back.
nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
June 16, 2012
It’s always risky to do an adaptation of a great classic. The Wizard of Oz, is certainly one of them. So I was nervously excited to see Haberdasher Theatre’s new take on this iconic work. Although uneven in its effectiveness, Haberdasher’s version adds some great twists to the story that work well.
At rise we see Auntie Em, played convincingly by Christen Madrazo, scrubbing the floors as a Brooklyn single aunt raising her “exasperating niece.” Her accent is strong and we buy into it right away. So we are off to a good start. As in the movie Dorothy lands in Oz (Noho in this version), where she must avoid being killed by the Wicked Witch. Much of what happens follows the original story.
When they depart from the original version, they find the most success. In this adaptation, we gain insight into the “flying monkeys,” depicted as dumb creatures who just escaped from a bad episode of the Jersey Shore. In a great twist, we learn about the hilarious workers who live in the Emerald City. The ensemble, comprised of Melody Cheng, Joseph Dale Harris, Jennifer Michaels, and Nick Panagakos, fill out these positions with great fun and wit. They also do an amazing job transforming themselves into many different roles to move the story along.
Perhaps the most believable are Jeff Foley as the Scarecrow and Nicole J. Lippey as the Lion. I fell in love with these two characters. They captured the hearts and souls in their portrayals of these legendary roles. Yet, I could not help but wish that the Tin Man, played by Brian Ogston, did the same. Ogston seemed lost on stage and not quite sure what to do next, This slowed down the play considerably and detracted from the storytelling. Dorothy, played by Tami Soligan, is fine, although she seemed to lose energy as the show went on. Overall, there seemed to be an aimless quality to the work, which made it seem kind of random, almost like too much improvising was happening. There were times when the play felt laborious from the lack of energy and urgency.
Yet, the connections between most of the cast are palpable. You can really see how close knit they have become. I could not help but tear up when Dorothy says goodbye to her new-found friends. And I simply must mention the incredible costumes designed by Katie Grammes. I could not get over how well executed they were. They undoubtedly helped create the world of the play as one of fantasy and wonder.
As it is now, this adaptation has many loose threads. It seems like Jeanette Jaquish and Hollie Elizabeth Klem, who adapted this piece, are torn between paying homage to the original movie and their own vision for this work. I would encourage them to follow their instincts and not worry about departing from the classic story. There were moments of really interesting insight that left me titillated, but were then lost. Perhaps, they, like Dorothy, should follow their own “yellow brick road” and tell their version of this tale. When they honor their impulse they are right on the money. I hope they will keep going because there is something definitely here.