As long as we’re talking about Judy Garland, why a musical retelling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with all new songs? True, Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown did it 40 years ago with The Wiz, and that worked out pretty well. Lamb’s Players Theatre may not have a Wiz on its hands with Jon Lorenz’s Oz, but theatergoers should keep an open mind. This world-premiere take on L. Frank Baum’s classic tale of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man (here, the Woodsman) and the Cowardly Lion unfolds to a more contemporary score that mines a variety of genres. There’s no “Over the Rainbow” in the ho-hum collection of songs, but there is a Latino Lion (Fernando Vega), a mountainous Woodsman (Bryan Barbarin) and a Wicked Witch of the West (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) who’s more drama queen than wicked. The first act needs far more action – does each character need his own song? But the special effects and the happy commotion pick up in Act 2. Most welcome of all, at the end it turns out the whole thing was NOT a dream.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat