I have a theory about Oz. It's an American fairy tale. It doesn't take place in a galaxy far, far away, there are no Kings, nor did it happen hundreds of years ago.
Dorothy was a girl from Kansas and we've all seen a tornado pick up a house on television. In that sense, it's almost believable, and my theory is that Americans like that.
Frank L. Baum was an odd duck (don't go googling him too much or you may not like what you find). He was a sickly child with a vast imagination, followed by a series of failed business ventures - an Oz themed amusement park being one - with the exception of his Oz books.
Catch Chino LaForge as the Lion, Chris Kepler as Scarecrow, Marissa Godinez as Dorothy and Ricky Jones as the Tin Man as Maui OnStage presents “The Wizard of Oz,” opening Friday at the Historic Iao Theater.
JACK GRACE photo
Now, Oz is about to go viral.
For starters, there's the upcoming Disney 3-D fantasy adventure "Oz: the Great and Powerful," which is slated for release in 2013 and stars James Franco and Mila Kunis. Then there's an animated "Dorothy of Oz," with music by Bryan Adams and featuring the voices of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Akroyd, Kelsey Grammar, Jim Belushi, Patrick Stewart and Bernadette Peters. But Universal Pictures' film "Wicked" is expected to trump them all. As if that wasn't enough, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Wizard of Oz," featuring new music by Webber and Tim Rice, and starring Michael Crawford, has been running in London for the past year and is expected to hit Broadway sometime in 2013.
Puns aside, the original 1939 film version was a perfect storm, and included music by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, the most prestigious movie studio with the most money to spend, a snafu which resulted in casting Judy Garland because Shirley Temple was unavailable. It also happened to be the exact year that color film technology was perfected. "The Wizard of Oz," wasn't even the biggest MGM hit of 1939, but because this was before television and DVDs, the studio re-released "Oz" to a new generation of children every five years or so until the late 1960s.
In the early '70s, "Oz" made its television debut on CBS, and I was one of those kids that saw it then for the very first time. To this day, I can remember how I felt. Awe is overused, but not in this case.
Perhaps billions of children have been awed by Judy Garland and "Oz," but the most magical thing about the merry old land is watching a five year old see it for the very first time. Maui OnStage will be making that happen all over again on Friday.
But how does one do the tale justice without the jaw-dropping special effects? Apparently, director Alexis Dascoulias has an ace up her sleeve in the form of technical director Greg Mitchell from the University of Washington, who has been brought in to make monkeys fly, witches melt and drop a tornado down on the Historic Iao Theater.
"The challenge with 'The Wizard of Oz,' of course, is that everyone has a fantastic memory associated with it and with watching the MGM film," said Dascoulias. "So here on Maui, we wanted to bring a few surprises to the show. I can't tell you what they are, though, because then they wouldn't be surprises."
She adds that one of those challenges is working with 21 adults, 13 children (the Munchkins) and a little dog, too.
"I am honored to be working with the wonderful talents of Marissa (Godinez), Ricky (Jones), Chris (Kepler), Chino (LaForge), and so many others, as well as Erin Kowalick, who has choreographed the show. It's great to have the adult cast members come in and see how great the Munchkins are doing and say things like 'Wow, I better get my game on or these kids are going to show me up.' . . . I have loved the opportunity to watch the younger performers meet and interact with the adult performers. They all learn from each other, which is a huge life lesson.
* Maui OnStage takes you over the rainbow this Thanksgiving weekend. Join Dorothy (Marissa Godinez), the Scarecrow (Chris Kepler), the Tin Man (Ricky Jones), the Lion (Chino LaForge), plus a pint-sized dog on their adventure to see "The Wizard of Oz." Directed by Alexis Dascoulias, choreographed by Erin Kowalick and under the musical direction of Steven Dascoulias. Runs Nov. 23 though Dec. 9, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. There will be a special family discount night at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the Historic Iao Theater; reserved seating available, $15 to $28. For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.
Also this weekend
Can't get enough Oz? Don't miss the opportunity to see the Broadway hit "Wicked" live in Honolulu. Written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, and based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, this adaptation opens in Honolulu tonight for a limited eight-week touring engagement and runs through Jan. 16. The Oahu production will have eight performances each week at the Blasdell Concert Hall, Tuesdays through Sundays. Ticket prices range from $52 to $176, with military discounts available. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (808) 593-2468 or visit www.magicspace.net/wicked.
ProArts presents "Smokey Joe's Cafe," featuring the hits of Lieber and Stoller, from Dec. 7 through 23 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. The revue features some of the most beloved songs in American history including "On Broadway," "Kansas City," "There Goes My Baby," "Love Potion #9," "Hound Dog," "Stand By Me" and many others.
Directed and choreographed by Aly Cardinalli and starring Felicia Chernicki, Kate Comstock, Katerina B. Dominguez, Justin House, Julie Kawamura, Trevor Natividad, Coren Paschoal-Yamauchi and Cardinalli.
Reserved seats are $20 for adults; or $15 on kama'aina discount nights (with valid Hawaii identification) on Dec. 8, 13 and 20. For reservations or more information, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartspacific.com.
This holiday season, Maui audiences are in for a sweet treat when Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents "Nutcracker Sweets," a delightful, family-friendly adaptation of the treasured holiday classic featuring 150
MAPA dancers and alumni. Whether you are introducing a child to the magic of this story for the first time or honoring an annual tradition of seeing the beloved ballet for the umpteenth time, stunning costumes and beautiful choreography set to the timeless Tchaikovsky score will dazzle audiences of all ages.
A perfect holiday gift for the whole family, "Nutcracker Sweets" plays one day only, Saturday, Dec. 8, in the MACC's Castle Theater. Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for children (plus applicable fees). For reservations, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org. For more information about MAPA, call 244-8760 or visit www.mauiacademy.org
Gabriel Iglesias returns to the MACC's Castle Theater on Dec. 13 with "Aloha Fluffy 2012." Iglesias has been described as unbelievably witty, electrifying and a talented performer who consistently delivers a hilarious comedy experience. General admission is $41, plus applicable fees. To purchase tickets, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
Two nights later on Dec. 15,
Rita Rudner returns to the MACC's McCoy Theater. Voted "Best Comedian" by the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the past decade, Rudner has become one of the most beloved Las Vegas performers in the tradition of Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers and Don Rickles.
Tickets are $35 and $65, plus applicable fees. To purchase tickets, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
There's still one last chance to audition for MAPA's "Man of La Mancha," at noon on Nov. 24 at Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. MAPA Executive and Artistic Director David C. Johnston will direct the show, with musical direction by Marti Kluth. Rehearsals will begin in this month with weekend performances from Feb. 1 through 24. Actors should prepare a short monologue and 32 bars of a song, providing your own sheet music in your key. An accompanist will be provided. To schedule a ten-minute audition slot, contact MAPA Production Coordinator Tina Kailiponi at tina@mauiacademy.
com or call 244-8760, ext. 224.