A Weekend in Oz with In The Wings Productions
By Victoria Priola
Toto—I have a feeling we’re not in Staten Island anymore. In The Wings Productions led their Snug Harbor audience into the magical world of witches and munchkins in their rendition of “The Wizard of Oz” without missing a beat on April 16.
“Thank you to the cast, crew, production staff and orchestra who brought the magic of theater to life,” said In the Wings on their Facebook page.
The background crew was constantly on their toes when changing the scenery from Dorothy’s hometown in Kansas into the heavenly-esque world of Oz within minutes. A challenge the theater faced was reenacting the tornado that landed Dorothy in Oz. This was resolved by having dancers swing around and move the furniture while dressed in all black. The lighting in the scene was dark, lights flashed, and a sound recording of wind and lightning played in the background.
The production stuck to the story and choreography by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg from the 1939 MGM motion picture. A deleted scene from the film that included the song “Jitterbug” was added to the theatrical portrayal. “Jitterbug” was cut from the film because producer Mervyn LeRoy claimed the film was twenty minutes longer than it should have been according to the blog The Independent. It was the first scene they shot for the film and was the first to go.
The Independent also adds that studio executives feared that it would date the film, being that the term “jitterbug” was used to insinuate the alcohol misuse and mixed-race Harlem dives of the 1930s. Producers felt that it had too much controversy for a film that wanted to remain timeless. It remains in the theater version today and no research was found why.
In the second scene in the first act, when Dorothy meets Professor Marvel, there was a major disturbance coming from the right side of the audience. The source of the disturbance returned during the sixth scene in the second act during “Jitterbug.”
The wicked witch, played by Mimi McMann, had difficulty lighting a match to set Scarecrow on fire during scene eight in the second act. Part of her broom was supposed to catch on fire using a lighter to scare Scarecrow but there was a malfunction and nothing came from the broom. Scarecrow acted as if he got burned and the witch said “Yeah, I got you anyway.”
Minor faults put no damper on the performance’s rave reviews from Staten Islanders. Following the yellow brick road with a cast of local theater prodigies left the audience cheering. Nicole Romeo, the 17 year old actress who played Dorothy, received a standing ovation minutes after the first scene ended with her performance of “Over the Rainbow.”
“The production staff and administration has created a wonderful atmosphere that has been growing more and more in each passing show,” said CSI Macaulay Honors student Anthony Massa. “The direction I received allowed me to take the Tin Man character that I knew so well from the movie and place my own spin on it, staying true to both myself and the original, beloved role that is known by millions.”
Romeo, Phil Buccigrossi (Zeke/Cowardly Lion), Craig Kwasnicki (Hunk/Scarecrow) and Massa (Hickory/Tinman) are no strangers to Staten Island Theater and were the Director Mickey Tennenbaum’s ideal choice for the notorious foursome. Professor Marvel/The Wizard himself was played by John Griffin.
“I was thrilled to work with this company again,” said Tennenbaum, who was also in their production of Cabaret last year. “They all work as hard as any professionals I’ve ever worked with, balancing the show alongside their responsibilities–work, school, family.”
In The Wings is preparing for their next production “Legally Blonde” at the Snug Harbor Music Hall from August 7 to 16 and “Gypsy” from November 12 to 15. Tickets are available on http://www.SIShows.com.