Monday, August 11, 2014

The Tik-Tok Man of Oz review

Last Saturday night, attendees of Oz Con International were treated to seeing a historic revival of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz.

Tik-Tok Man was first staged in 1913: Baum returned to Oz with a new novel, the Little Wizard Stories and a new musical! The play mashed together elements of several Oz books: Dorothy and Billina being washed overboard in Ozma of Oz was adapted into Betsy Bobbin and Hank the mule also being washed overboard and winding up in fairyland. The Mangaboos of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz become the Roses who reject a female ruler. General Jinjur and Ozma's army become the Army of Oogaboo. Polychrome and the Shaggy Man from The Road to Oz are in the play, but Baum was writing the first known version of the play at the same time as that book. The Nome King also plays a role as Ruggedo the Metal Monarch.

After the play was launched, Baum adapted many elements of it into his next Oz book, Tik-Tok of Oz, for 1914.

In this new revival, Eric Shanower took all the elements of the script he could find and edited it into a neater, tighter script that could be performed by nine lead actors, a small band of dancers who take multiple roles with simple costume changes, and a couple smaller speaking roles in just under two hours. According to Eric, the main focus was to include all the extant original music for the show (which did require altering a non-Oz piece by Louis F. Gottschalk for the opening music), so he attempted to keep neatly to the plot and dropped non-essential comic mischief and running around.

This is not to say that he cut the humor. The play is still very funny, though admittedly, Baum is no great playwright.

After being washed overboard, Betsy (Laura Bueno) and Hank (Dillon Rendo) find themselves in the Rose Kingdom, where they are joined by the Shaggy Man (Eduard Cao). When the Gardener (played by the delightful little Alyson Stein) tells then they are to be executed by the ruler, they pick the new ruler: Ozma (Kendra Truett). The Roses do not honor Ozma's claim to the throne and she and Betsy, Hank and Shaggy are exiled.

Meeting Polychrome (Tamara Rodriguez), our new friends find the Metal Monarch's ex-servant Tik-Tok (Reggie Hutchins) in a well. Falling in with the Army of Oogaboo, led by Queen Ann (Amanda Everett) and sole fighter Private Files (Vander Turner), they go to conquer Ruggedo, the Metal Monarch (Danny Ingersoll), who has Shaggy's brother captive.

While Act 1 is quite recognizable as Tik-Tok of Oz, in Act 2, romantic plots take over, many of which were omitted or only referenced on the book. The Shaggy Man's Love Magnet is a major point here. Tititi Hoochoo and the Hollow Tube and all they entail were original to the book.

I'm a little torn about revealing the ending because although Eric says he has no plans to remount the production, now that a Revised 21st Century version of the show has been created and successfully staged, it is entirely possible for someone else to mount it. Eric even commented that a local theater is considering picking it up. So, who knows? Your chance to see The Tik-Tok Man of Oz may be sooner than later.

Lee Speth jokingly commented that the play didn't have much to say about the human condition and this is true. Baum's play is not deep nor should anyone look for hidden meanings of any sort. It is a fun piece of entertainment. There are, however, some interpretations you could pull from the uses of the Love Magnet. However, I won't share those here.

The cast did a fine job. All of them managed to pull off Baum's humorous dialogue without sounding hammy. They were energetic, bright-eyed and professional. They managed to sing the songs very well, and there was only one moment when the music overwhelmed the vocals. The director added a few homages to the famous Wizard of Oz film from MGM.

Little Alyson Stein definitely caught the heart of the audience first as a little girl version of Betsy (likely giving an idea of the age the character is in the books), and then offering a cute petite version of the Roses' Gardener and also joining the dancers where she held her own against much taller companions. I hope that Alyson has a great career ahead. She was bursting with talent!

Overall, I really enjoyed the show. I hope it can be staged again for more people to see to get a better idea of the imagination of L. Frank Baum.

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