When I was a child there were a few things you could count on, and one of them was that (in the days before VCRs – and yes, honey, I AM that old) if you waited long enough The Wizard of Oz was going to be on TV at some point that year. Back in the day, TV had that kind of power . . . it could make you wait expectantly for something and then give you the big reveal – making your heart beat faster for that one joyful night.
Seeing Friends Of Dorothy – An Oz Cabaret was a little bit like that and . . . I have a feeling that – just like the hallowed movie – we haven’t seen the last of it. Dorothy is a Fringe Encore if I ever saw one. So, while the show has packed up its rigging and its pasties, sit tight. Here’s a little breakdown of what will certainly come around again:
“Toto,” Dorothy (Rita MenWeep a.k.a Jessica Silver) says to her iPod – crammed with play lists of the band famous for songs like “Africa” . . . “I don’t think we’re in Starbucks anymore!” Poor Dorothy, she got swept away, not in a huge Twister big enough to carry away a house, but rather in a tiny, tidy-bowl sized twister that swirled her through the toilet that she was doomed to clean, had it not, instead, transported her to this magical Land Of Bras. But Poof! Just like that the tiny twister took this sister away from her minimum wage job and into the glittery world of burlesque.
First on the scene to welcome her is Glinda (Miss Mary Cyn) who is swathed in a puff of stuff . . . but not for long. Seems clothes just don’t stay on a gal in this Cool New Land. Glinda sticks around just long enough to strip off the candy pink confection she arrived in, and to give Dorothy some good advice. Seems the Wicked Bitch of the West (Bianca Del Rio) is looking for the Ruby Pasties (which somehow made their way onto Dorothy’s . . . dainties) and if Dorothy knows what’s good for her she’ll . . .well, you know the story.
Soon Dorothy is carried off to dreamland courtesy of a Munchkin (Veruca Honeyscotch) who then dances on the Aerial Silks to a driving Annie Lennox tune. Sweet Dreams indeed! Ending with a death defying drop that had the audience gasping in unison as if on cue, this is one Munchkin who knows how to represent – more than just The Lollipop Guild.
So, as Dorothy moves through this strange but exciting land it’s the usual gang of suspects – Scarecrow (Jenny C’est Quoi) does a fun striptease from atop her perch amid the corn, Tin Man (Schäffer The Darklord) entertains with a foul mouth and a nasty attitude (“I am the Tinman . . . who the hell are you?”) by breaking it down for us via a 100mph rap that – if you can follow it – does a great job of telling the Tale of Dorothy Gale. And of course there’s The Cowardly Lion (Sizzle Dizzle) who removes her clothes to the A-Team Theme Song. Cute. It’s right about at this point in the show that Gypsy’s “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” popped into my head (Once I was a Schleppa, Now I’m Miss Mazzeppa . . .) and I thought “Wow, this is SOME gimmick!”
The Wicked Bitch does her best to strut and sneer and vamp delightfully, when she’s not introducing the next act. I mean, summoning her minions. Flying monkeys (Harvest Moon and Mr. Fantastic) doing a beautiful routine on the static trapeze and more stripping – courtesy of The Wizard -but not really the Wizard (Ambrose) himself round out much of the middle.
When the gang manages to thwart The Wicked Bitch – not with a pail of water but with something much more frightening to a carefully made-up drag queen – there is rejoicing all over the land, including the joyful Gate Keeper (Go-Go Harder) who does a neat little strip of his own.
In the end, Dorothy realizes that she never wanted to go home anyway, The Land of Bras is where she wants to be . . . and as she strips down to her magical Ruby Red Pasties it’s clear that she’s where she belongs.
Fun from start to finish, with just the right mix of kitch, drag, burlesque, circus, and glam this is one wild ride over the rainbow that doesn’t disappoint. Keep an eye out, this one will be twisting its way back into town again soon – count on it.
VENUE #7: The Ellen Stewart Theatre @ LA MAMA