Over the rainbowBottom Highlights, Feature Story, Top Highlights Saturday, February 12th, 2011
‘The Wizard of Oz’ touches down in San Diego
Possibly the greatest family musical of all time, The Wizard Of Oz touches down in San Diego as Broadway San Diego brings this national treasure to the San Diego Civic Theatre, playing Feb. 15-20. Hold on to your ruby slippers, however, because this wizard has a few surprises hidden behind his curtain with updates and additions to his land of Oz.
This magical production, based on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s celebration of the 1939 MGM movie, follows Dorothy – and Toto, too – as she is swept over the rainbow to meet her friends the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. You can expect the same adventures in Munchkin Land, the Haunted Forest and the Emerald City.
Still, this is not your grandmother’s Kansas any more.
“It takes all the elements of the movie that everyone remembers and that everyone loves about it,” said Eric Mota, an opening gay actor in the national touring show. “Then there is a nice mix of a brighter, not necessarily contemporary, but a brighter element that appeals to the younger generation of today. The stage musical version has a lot more vibrant colors, lavish sets and crazy costumes.”
Mota says the current production mixes the classic elements of the MGM spectacle with a modern sense of style. The show even borrows a few cues from its sister show, Wicked.
“Wicked right now is huge and appeals to the younger audience,” Mota said. “They’ve pulled in some elements of Wicked and put it with the MGM classic to create this modern, exciting version of the show.”
If you are a BFF of Dorothy, then don’t fret just yet. The Wizard of Oz stage production still has everything you’ve come to love from the 1939 movie masterpiece.
“All the music is the same,” Mota confirmed, adding, “The only added song that is not in the movie is ‘The Jitterbug.’”
‘The Jitterbug’ is a colorful, somewhat hallucinogenic dance number in which Dorothy and friends are bitten by bugs that make them dance till they drop (allowing flying monkeys to carry them away). Hardcore Oz fans know ‘The Jitterbug’ song along with the appropriately paired jitterbug dance was filmed for the original motion picture, but was cut after early previews. All that survives of the sequence is the audio and some grainy footage shot at a rehearsal.
“‘The Jitterbug’ was actually cut from the movie because, back then, the jitterbug was a pretty risqué modern dance. Because it was a child’s movie, they took out ‘The Jitterbug,’” Mota said. “Also because they wanted to make the movie timeless, and putting in the jitterbug might have dated the movie.”
With a more modern and not so dated twist, ‘The Jitterbug’ is back in this show, and even plays an integral part. “‘The Jitterbug’ in our show is one of the largest dance numbers,” Mota said.
Mota, serving as the Dance Captain for the show, is on stage a lot. He plays many roles, including a munchkin, a citizen of Oz, and the devious Nikko, the captain of the Flying Monkeys. He has first- hand experience of how new technology, in the form of amazing special effects, can really wow today’s audience.
“The special effects are pretty amazing. I actually do fly as a monkey,” he said. “I get to fly in and capture Dorothy. We also fly the Wicked Witch and fly Glinda and her bubble. There are lots of pyro effects for the Witch’s entrances and exits. She throws fire at the scarecrow. Of course, the one that everyone waits for and always gets applause, the witch melts. It’s a really cool effect.”
With its updates, additions and high-tech special effects, the stage production of The Wizard of Oz maintains the same appeal as the Judy Garland classic. It draws audiences of all ages, all backgrounds, and all sexualities.
“It’s pretty gay, especially when the big song of the show is ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” Mota said, explaining why the story has a large LGBT following. “For us, the rainbow is something depicting all inclusive, and we are all different shades and different colors. Our culture is so beautiful, and we create such a great beautiful thing. All we want is to be accepted and loved under our umbrella that we create. Dorothy feels the same way about her life, and wanted to just be loved and accepted under her rainbow.”
To follow Dorothy over the rainbow, don’t miss this renewed Wizard of Oz. The stage musical plays Feb. 15-20 at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Ticket prices vary. Contact TicketMaster at ticketmaster.com or call the Civic Theatre Ticket Office at 619-570-1100.
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