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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Something's Wrong with Wizzer Pizzer, an Oz-Inspired Romp
Theatre 22

Also see David's reviews of Wicked and Orpheus Descending


Eric Mulholland
L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" has inspired many an off-shoot and reimagining (SyFy's "Tin Man" mini-series and the musical Wicked back for a fourth national tour run at Seattle's Paramount just to name two), and Theatre 22's current Seattle premiere production of local playwright Amy Wheeler's Wizzer Pizzer: Getting Over the Rainbow has to rank as one of the most misguided and dated of them all. What may have been hot-topic when Wheeler first wrote it in 2005 seems musty mow, and as camp entertainment the show owes what buoyancy and laughs it manages more to the exuberant direction of Corey McDaniel and a die-hard cast of funny folk, than to anything in the script.

Wizzer Pizzer follows Adrian, a past winner of a drag queen/king contest trying to retain the title by lip-synching to two recordings of Judy Garland (circa 1939 and mid '60s) of her trademark "Over the Rainbow" (the contrast of the young and then life-weary Garland vocals is affecting and sad). Sadly, a costume change catastrophe occurs, and he suffers the indignity of losing his chance at another victory, and then is tossed out of the bar—just as his friend/roommate and protégé Frankie, a butch young lesbian, takes the Drag King title. On his way home Adrian is gay-bashed, and takes comfort in reclining on his living room couch and watching an ICY Christian reparative therapies evangelist show, which he calls into, before falling into an Oz inspired sleep. The trouble is there is too little Oz and too much ridiculing (albeit deserved and occasionally funny) of the Christian right vs. the gay community from there on in. The televangelist is only seen on a video-screen in a committed and terrifyingly dead on portrayal by Lisa Viertel. Yet she is called Dr. Marvel (aka the Wizard) when she should rightly have been the Wicked Witch of the Tube. The script winds its woeful way through two hours of old news and by the end, when Adrian realizes there is no place like home, we are only too glad to be heading home ourselves.

As stated earlier, director McDaniel and company plunge in and perform the piece as if they believe in it as much as Dorothy believed the ruby slippers would send her home. As Adrian, Eric Mulholland carries a lot of the show on his shoulders, and earns laughs as well as empathy. Rhonda J. Soikowski is totally likable and believable in a very naturalistic performance as Frankie. Chip Wood and Alyssa Keene are particularly strong as "saved" homosexuals Steve and Helen Eden who now teach the reparative therapy, and have gotten their effeminate son Gable and butch daughter Blaine on board. Matthew Sherrill as Gable and Pilar O'Connell as Blaine mine laughs where they can, and all four of these actors also play several other characters successfully.

Phillip Lienau's scenic designs make the Studio Theatre at 12th Ave Arts seem larger than it is and capture the flavor of the tale, Ahren Buhmann's lighting and video design are sharp, and Cami Funk's costume designs all hit the mark.

The second night audience I saw Wizzer Pizzer with seemed evenly divided by smiler/laughers and yawners. Clearly some folks will like this show, but as much as I wanted to, it gave me the jitterbugs.

Wizzer Pizzer: Wizzer Pizzer: Getting Over the Rainbow from Theatre 22 runs through August 1, 2015, at 12th Ave Arts: Studio Theatre, 1620 12th Ave. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, through August 1st, 2015, plus matinees on Sunday July 19th and 26th at 2:00pm. Thursdays are pay-what-you-can at the door. Tickets at www.theatre22.org.


Photo: Robert Falk



- David Edward Hughes



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