The Repertory Philippines Children’s Theater production of The Wizard of Oz is a sure winner for young audiences, as well as grown-ups who want to re-live the magic of being caught up in a delightful, fantastic tale. The show, which runs at Onstage in Greenbelt One in Ayala Center, Makati, from August 18 to December 16, 2012, is the Prince Street Players’ version with music by Jeanne Bargy and Jim Elier (he also wrote the libretto and the lyrics).
Ever since the original L. Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, the story has been re-told many times in different genres: as film (the 1939 classic starring Judy Garland); as a musical several times over—notably the soulful, African-American version The Wiz, the Tony Award-winning musical that opened in 1975; and even as a 1995 novel, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, which tells the story from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. Even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber made his own version which was staged in 2011.
What makes the RPCT production stand out is its return to the original spirit of the book, which was, after all, written for children. It’s a far cry, for example, from the novel Wicked that is replete with adult themes and concerns (And by the way, Wicked was also turned into a musical in 2003).
Well, you can leave the politics, the gender issues, etc., behind when you watch Rep’s The Wizard of Oz and enjoy the tale for what makes it well-loved and relevant, a hundred plus a dozen years after it was originally published: a story about how friendship, courage, and kindness can triumph over evil.
Those who know the story will find the plot familiar enough: Kansas farm girl Dorothy and her entire house get swept up by a tornado, which drops her, house and all, onto Munchkin Land. It so happens, however, that the house comes crashing down on the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins are happy, of course, because the WWE had been ruling over them like a real jerk.
Today, most unfortunately, the descendants of the Munchkins of Oz are now fodder for kids and adults who want a quick, sugary snack. Jason Perlow of Tech Broiler even proclaimed them as ideal to snack on while Tweeting:
I used to think it was one of my paranoid ideas—haha, you mean the Munchkins were somehow cursed to an existence of becoming a delicious, addictively sweet cause of child-and-adult obesity? How preposterous!
Then I found this on blogger Brian Biggs’ website, mrbiggs.com:
Dorothy, of course, meets Glinda, the Good Witch of the South who, for some reason, decides to steal the dead WWE’s shoes and then gives them to Dorothy. Way to go, “good” witch—I mean, who does this sort of thing? Stealing a dead woman’s shoes and giving it to a little girl?
Take note, it’s the shoes of a woman that the little girl herself (accidentally) killed. Isn’t Dorothy going to need years of therapy when she hits middle-age and all the traumatic memories of death and stealing come back to haunt her?
Anyway, we also know that, later in the story, the Wicked Witch of the West—WWE’s sister—seeks to avenge her sibling’s homicide and comes after the shoes. It’s all about those shoes! The entire adventure would not have happened if not for those shoes!
We know that the WWW would not have been so angry if—despite her sister’s death—Glinda and Dorothy had given the shoes back.
“Oh dearies, I know the whole house-falling-on-my-sister thing was an accident. Thank you so much for giving her shoes to me. It’s all I have in the world left to remember her,” we can imagine WWW telling them.
But of course, what happens is that Glinda and Dorothy take the shoes and it causes a whole lot of trouble that ends with WWW melting to oblivion: after Dorothy and the Scarecrow throw a cauldron of water on her. See? Another death on account of those shoes; and more cause for Dorothy’s psychotherapy, later on.
The original novel’s author, L. Frank Baum, may have been known as a dreamer since childhood and was fond of spinning whimsical tales for his own kids—but the guy knew that one does not come between a woman and her favorite shoes: there’ll be hell to pay, otherwise.
Fortunately, the RPCT production now showing at Onstage is nowhere near as sordidly told as in the paragraphs you just read. I would blame my reading of that “Wicked” novel for coloring my appreciation of the story of the Wizard of Oz.
Happily, The Wizard of Oz as presented by Repertory Philippines’ Children’s Theater sticks to the original, wholesome and hopeful tale.
The entire show is cleverly produced to awaken the child in all of us: the sets and costumes are all designed to evoke a storybook atmosphere, helping audience-members lose themselves in a world where they are able to re-capture the purity and innocence of childhood: two qualities that, sadly, many grown-ups lose, bit by bit, the older they get.
The show is simply great fun. The narrative is straight-forward and quick-paced and the songs have this light, bouncy feel that keeps in rhythm with the story. What makes the show truly come alive, however, are the actors themselves.
Even though the story is familiar, the actor’s performances feel refreshingly new and the main protagonists—Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion—are endeared to us immediately. The WWW, played by Pinky Marquez on the night I saw the play, was a delight to behold.
The Wizard of Oz is presented by Repertory Philippines Children’s Theater as part of their 20th anniversary celebration. If you’re looking for a show that will be good for your kids to watch, then don’t miss this production.
The musical is directed by Rep stalwart and RPCT founder Joy Virata. The cast is composed of Cara Barredo and Giannina Ocampo as Dorothy; Liesl Batucan and Kyla Rivera as Glinda the Good Witch; Pinky Marquez and Rem Zamora as the Wicked Witch of the West; James Stacey and Arnel Carrion as the Scarecrow; Hans Eckstein and Nic Campos as the Tin Man; Oliver Usison and Mano Domingo as the Lion; Nathalie Everett and Ayam Barredo as Aunt Em; Rem Zamora and Chino Veguillas as Uncle Henry; Bobby Superales, Jim Ferrer, Deo dela Cruz and Clark dela Riva as the acrobats and Monkeys.
Schools, civic groups and corporate sponsors who wish to book shows may make their reservations. For more details about the production, call (632)571.6926; (632)571.4941 or e-mail email@example.com or log on to www.repertory.ph. Tickets are also available through Ticketworld (call 632-891.9999 or go to www.ticketworld.com.ph.