THEATER REVIEW: "Oz: A Wondrous New Musical"

It’s a pretty spiffy technological cyclone that plucks Dorothy out of Kansas and plunks her down in East Munch, near Fiddlesticks. This time around, she comes without Toto but with a distinct Kansas twang.

Frank L. Baum spent several years in Coronado while writing the beloved “Wizard Of Oz” series (that’s why Coronado is called the Emerald City). So it seems fitting that Coronado-based Lamb’s Players Theatre should give the world a brand new musical version of Dorothy’s adventures in the Emerald City.

Jon Lorenz, the theater’s resident composer extraordinaire, does the honors in the sprightly if a bit rocky “Oz: A Wondrous New Musical,” playing through Nov. 22 at the Coronado theater.

Baum once said that he wanted Dorothy’s story to be “the quintessential American fairy tale,” so Lorenz uses American musical styles like country, bluegrass, ragtime and folk to mostly good effect. Some songs are too long (the Woodsman’s “Hollow” comes to mind) and the emphasis is on music rather than magic, so the drama gets stiffed a bit.

But the irresistible story of the girl who wanted to escape the “gray” of her existence is well served by a terrific cast headed by Megan Carmitchel’s adorable Dorothy, whose innocence and irrepressible curiosity get her into some scrapes but afford undeniable adventure.

Carmitchel is more than ably assisted by Bryan Barbarin’s creaky (Tin) Woodsman (here called Nick Chopper), James Royce Edwards’ wisecracking Scarecrow and Fernando Vega’s salsa-inflected Lion.

Deborah Gilmour Smyth lets that terrific voice (if not her body) fly as the Wicked Witch of the West, and John Rosen amuses as the Wizard who asserts in “Humbug”that “Sometimes to make one happy you just give them what they think they want.”

Mike Buckley’s set well defines the Kansas plains, but is less effective in portraying the blinding brightness of the Emerald City. Jeanne Reith’s costumes mostly serve nicely, though I did think the flying monkeys looked more like grease monkeys with folding wings. Blake McCarty’s projection design is excellent, as is Nathan Pierson’s lighting design.

“Oz” needs a little work, but another version of this great story is always welcome.

And that Crow trio! What a hoot.

The details

“Oz: A Wondrous New Musical” plays through November 22, 2015 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado.

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm; Saturday at 4 pm

Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.