Repertory’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ opens Aug. 18

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SCENE from the Repertory Philippines’ Children’s Theater musical.

Repertory Philippines’ Children’s Theater, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is staging the musical “The Wizard of Oz,” based on the book by L. Frank Baum.

Dorothy Gale is swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado and ends up in the Land of Oz where she meets a Tin Woodsman without a heart; a Scarecrow without a brain; and a Lion who’s cowardly.

The four of them set off to find the Wizard of Oz to ask for his help to get Dorothy back home, and for him to grant her three new friends’ wishes—all while fending off the evil Wicked Witch of the West.

For this staging, actor Rem Zamora will be alternating with Pinky Marquez in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.

A role is a role

“I don’t treat it so much as playing a female role but more of playing another character,” he says. “Being male does make it more challenging, but once I zero in on the character, it becomes much easier. The role is a lot of fun, though. She’s a fun character and I’m having a great time playing her.”

Zamora has played female roles before, such as (also) the witch in “Sleeping Beauty” and in the musical “Bare” for Ateneo Blue Repertory.

“The witch in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was a role that was open to male actors. ‘Bare’ was tougher because it had more layers,” he says.

“I was originally cast as the Tin Man, but when I read the script, I asked to play the Witch. The Wicked Witch of the West is fun because it’s very one-dimensional. Fun and games really.”

He hopes audiences won’t even realize that the Witch is being played by a male actor.

“But if they do, I hope they can go beyond my gender and just see the merits of the performance. I don’t think my being male playing a female role will open up any issues, though. The material is so light and fun,” he adds.

Not MGM version

There have been several stage-musical adaptations of the 1939 MGM movie musical that popularized the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and which starred Judy Garland as Dorothy. The latest adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered in London’s West End last year.

Another popular stage musical version is “The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical,” which was made into a movie in the late ’70s starring Diana Ross as an adult Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Rep staged “The Wiz” in 1994.

Theater fans will also know of the musical “Wicked,” based on Gregory Maguire’s revisionist book “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” an alternative prequel that focuses on Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

The version Rep is staging has book and lyrics by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy. It is directed by Rep Children’s Theater founder Joy Virata.

Cara Barredo and Giannina Ocampo alternate as Dorothy.

Set design is by Lex Marcos, costume design by Raven Ong and lighting design by John Batalla.

Choreographer Nathalie Everett has been tasked to create a “freestyle street dance vibe.”

Virata says: “We’ve got the Scarecrow doing waving and bugaloo and the Tin Man as a popping, breaking, locking robot on some of the dance scenes.”

Zamora says: “This version caters to a much younger audience. They will definitely like this one. It’s simple and fun. The songs have good recall and the script is really funny.

“Wizard of Oz” opens August 18 and runs till December at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Contact 5716926, 5714941 or info@repertory.ph, or Ticketworld at 8919999. Visit www.repertory.ph.

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