Highly Recommended ***** It is not often that I miss an opening night, but last night I attended another previous engagement, missing the opening at The Victory Gardens of “Woz: A Rock Cabaret”! luckily, I was able to get there tonight bringing my proof Editor and his wife. What a special night for all four of us! You may ask, “What is Woz: A Rock Cabaret” ? Inspired by the beloved film, “The Wizard of Oz” which also was the inspiration of “The Wiz” ( the all African-American version of the story), “Woz: a Rock Cabaret” is an exciting 85 minutes of magic on the stage!
These Ozians (if there is such a word) follow their yellow brick road to different musical numbers that have been selected to fit the characters, as they portray them. The “rock” tunes they have selected from the 80’s and 90’s are all songs that 90% of the audience knew, but as Casey said on the way home, in this version, with this talented cast, we heard every word. Wow! That was a pleasant surprise. Created by Kimberly Lawson, who takes on her dream role of Dorothy and Will Rogers (not THE Will Rogers, but nonetheless, a brilliant and creative person) and directed by Scott Gryder, this is a simple story-telling musical piece that could easily become a tourist attraction on its own merit. Just think about the little show, “Million Dollar Quartet” and one can see the amazing potential for a wise investor (or group). Pay attention!
The nine cast members come onto a bare stage along with their three musicians, Nick Sula at the keyboards (he is also the musical director), Nick Davio on guitar and bass and Nick Bonaccio on drums (he is also referred to as Toto, the drummer, for theatrical purposes). Strange isn’t it, they are all named NICK!!! How is that for coincidence! Ms Lawson then begins her story. Please note: one might expect a great deal of music from the film, but all you get is some (and I mean a tinge) of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” just to get you into the mood.
Just as in the original, we have some wind and then she is in OZ, where she has killed the Wicked Witch and meets Glinda, the Good Witch (Clara D’Onofrio is even better than Billie Burke- one cannot help falling in love with her sweetness and rich personality, and what a voice!) and some Munchkins, David Lipschultz and Sarah Wurz, who are hysterical as these little guys as well as the Winkies, and Lipschultz as the puppeteer for the Wizard. These two performers truly prove the fact that the ensemble members can make or break a show- they do all of their roles to sheer perfection, allowing all the pieces to fit perfectly! I digress.
On her path to Oz to meet the Wizard, Dorothy meets the scarecrow (adorably portrayed by Kevin Webb, who appears to own every scene he steals from the other cast members) and then the Tin Man (Hunky James Nedrud, who has the walk of a rusty tin robot down to a science) and along the way, the Cowardly Lion (Edward Fraim who truly takes the role created by Bert Lahr to a new level- WOW!). Don’t forget, between each meeting, the travelers to Oz run into the “other” Wicked Witch (Heather Currie is dynamite and has a voice and laugh that will make you pay close attention). In fact, all of the talent in this show is wonderful and from what I am told local, EXCEPT, in the case of The Wizard. In this production, they had the good fortune to have Andre De Shields (known for playing The Wiz in the aforementioned “The Wiz”). He is in town to perform at the same theater in August, three performances only in “Confessions of a P.I.M.P.” contact the Victory Gardens theater at 773-871-3000 to become a member of this audience for only $25. While Mr. De Shields does a great job in this role and truly shows off his vocal abilities, if this show can find a home in Chicago, I am sure they will have to find someone else to play this role. We have the talent in this town for sure!
I am sorry to say that there is just ONE more performance of this show- Sunday, July 17th at 2 p.m.
Tickets $40 at http://www.victorygardens.orgor call 773-871-3000 or just show up.
This show is one to change your schedule for, but I will keep in touch with them as to when it will return and where. This is definitely a show that should call Chicago home and be available as a tourist attraction for years to come. The talent of the creators is amazingly proven by the talent they have assembled to play the roles. Songs like “Moving Right Down”, “Back Away” and “Here I Go Again” are just a sample of the great tunes that are comfort songs for most of the audience. There are many more. In fact, it’s like driving with your favorite “oldies but goodies” station on, only with live singers singing and playing to you while telling you a story that you already know- there is no place like home, and right now, this marvelous piece is doing just that looking for their home!
The Victory Gardens (Biograph) is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue (just North of Fullerton)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Woz: A Rock Cabaret”