Because her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em,
from L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, are about to lose their Kansas
farm, their niece Dorothy arranges with her friend Ozma, the Princess of
Oz, for the three of them to move permanently to the fairyland. Dorothy
is played with great charm in by FreeFall newcomer Elisabeth Corley. The
beautiful Ozma is fourteen-year-old Tara Grubbs.
But all is not well in fairyland. In
FreeFall Stage’s musical adaptation of Baum’s The Emerald City of Oz.
the evil Roquat, queen of the Nomes, has hatched a plot to invade
Oz. Played with delicious villainy by FreeFall founder Deedee Eldridge,
she conspires with the disgruntled General Guph to displace Ozma and
take over Oz for herself. Guph is played with a grubby, senile
viciousness by Paul Greisen.
Guph sets out to recruit allies,
enlisting first the Chief of the Whimsies (who wear boxes to disguise
the smallness of their heads). Performed by Mark Fejta, the Chief sings
with a strong, attractive voice, even with a box on his head. Guph then
moves on to the Growleywogs, a vicious tribe headed by Laura Escobedo as
the Grand Galipoot, who readily agrees to help in the plot, secretly
planning to subdue the Nomes as well.
Guph’s final recruits are the
mysterious Phanfasms, a race of creatures that take the shapes of wild
animals. Their leader, The First and Foremost, appears as a large bear.
Acted by Keith Johnson, who also appears as the Wizard, he has one of
the most musical voices in the cast (and a great growl as well). Before
agreeing to join the conspiracy, he requires Guph to sing his proposal,
and with rhyming lines.
Ozma, meanwhile, has become aware of
the plot against her. A local ally, Bellina the Hen (Gabrielle Rocco),
offers to supply eggs as weapons. Ozma enlists Dorothy’s aid to visit
several potential allies, including Professor Wogglebug (the amusing
Mallory Brodeur), who administers education through the use of various
pills. Dorothy also visits Bunnybury, whose Queen, Taryn Colburn,
appears to be unhappy as Queen Bunny. Mark Fejta again displays his
great voice as Bunnybury’s Keeper of the Wicket
With such weak allies, Oz seems
doomed. Dorothy, Ozma, and their team turn at last to two old friends,
the Tin Woodman (Steve Watson) and the Scarecrow, performed with great
style by Richard Sims. Of course the Scarecrow, he’s the one with the
brains, comes up with the plan to defeat the invaders. If you want to
know what Scarecrow’s plan is, you must see the show (or read the book).
One character I have failed to
mention is Glinda the Good, who pops up from time to time during the
story. Sung by Emma Eldridge, the best female singer in the cast, she
sometimes overshadows Dorothy and Ozma, but she brightens up the show
whenever she appears.
What most delighted me about The
Emerald City of Oz is that it is totally the creation of local talent.
FreeFall Stage Executive Director Deanne Eldridge adapted Baum’s book
for the stage, and the score and the character-perfect songs were
written by Davis native Laura Wardrip. A singer and actor as well, Laura
is making her debut as composer, lyricist, and arranger. Eldridge and
Wardrip have combined talents with an excellent cast to offer an
entertainment for young and old alike.