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January 14, 2009 > Theater Review: StarStruck is off to see the wizard

Theater Review: StarStruck is off to see the wizard

By Janet Grant

These days, if you follow the yellow brick road you will find yourself at Ohlone College Jackson Theatre for another fun-filled musical feast for the entire family. The stage version of the film classic The "Wizard of Oz" opened StarStruck Theatre's 2009 season to an enthusiastic and appreciative sold-out house.

Great productions are usually bound together with the effort of many people. This was certainly more than evident with the large cast of over 60 of the Bay Area's most talented young performers under the inspired direction of Lori Stokes. The 20-piece full orchestra conducted expertly by Nancy Godfrey kept the audience enthralled with the familiar music of the MGM motion pictures score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Also featured was the Mission San Jose High School Chorale led by Jeff Oliviera.

Jeanne Batacan-Harper and Becky Peretti once again set the stage with amazing choreography. From Munchkins to Poppies to the citizens of the Emerald City, the numbers were dazzling. The Jitterbugs in the eerie enchanted forest were especially jazzy, raucous, and toe-tapping fun.

The wonderful set design by Stephen C. Wathen and costume design by Vicki Boomer were inspired from the MGM movie. But somehow the forest seemed scarier and the costumes seemed much more colorful than what I remember from the movie.

And once again StarStruck pulled out all the stops with the unique aerial choreography and state of the art equipment of ZFZ Flying Inc. whose special effects wizardry conjured up such fancy as flying monkeys and an airborne Wicked Witch of the West.

The ensemble performers and dancers were incredible, proving once again that StarStruck Theatre is the very best in youth performance. The young Munchkins, Poppies, and Dancing Hearts among others, though absolutely darling, performed like seasoned pros.

Dorothy, played by Callie Garrett was pure of heart and her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was simple and lovely. StarStruck veteran James Jones was a wonderful and very flexible Scarecrow. He almost made you feel as though he were really made of straw. Drew Williams' Tin Woodsman was heartfelt and ever charming. And Connor Stokes as the Cowardly Lion was gallant and full of pathos.

Very believable as the Wizard, Trevor Meyer came across as everyman's uncle - kindly and full of practical wisdom. Glinda the Good Witch of the North played by Devon Simpson seemed just like the Good Witch of memory. And she always showed up when Dorothy most needed her help. She was a good foil for that Wicked Witch of the West, played ably by Kimberly Chatterjee, who performed the role with a nasty relish and just the right touch of insanity.

The role of Toto was performed by a very talented Maltese by the name of Toto! Trained by Newark Memorial High School student, Lora McHugh, Toto very nearly stole the show by looking really cute and even growling at the appropriate parts.

StarStruck Theatre once again has a smash hit on its hands. Their "Wizard of Oz" absolutely has it all; L. Frank Baum's eternal childhood story, terrific special effects and aerial feats, lots of talented actors and dancers, familiar sing-a-long melodies, good witches, bad witches, marching Winkies with their really neat marching song, and really cool dancing jitterbugs. And who knew that crows were so silly, apple trees were so mean, or that Oz came in so many shades of green?

Starstruck's "Wizard of Oz" is like your favorite comfort food - at once familiar and dear. And at a time when the flagging economy is so much on people's minds, what could be more comforting? Come to the Jackson Theatre and see a beloved musical classic performed by the best in youth theatre. And remember, for the best, you never have to look further than your own backyard!

Performance dates:

Saturday, January 10, at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 11, at 2:00 p.m.
Friday, January 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 17 at7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 18, at 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, January 23, at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 24, at 1:00 p.m.* and 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 25, at 2:00 p.m.*

Sunday, January 18 (ASL Interpreted Performance), at 2:00 p.m.

* These are tentative dates and times. See the StartStruck website.

Ohlone College, Smith Center in the Jackson Theatre
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont.

Ticket Prices are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors/students and $18.00/children 12 & under. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (510) 659-1319 or online at www.starstrucktheatre.org.


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