A New Twist on Oz Comes to New York City, July 16-Aug. 9

News   A New Twist on Oz Comes to New York City, July 16-Aug. 9 A New Jersey high school staging of Oz, which took home the 2002 Paper Mill Playhouse's Rising Star Award for Best Overall Musical in New Jersey, makes its way to the New York stage, July 16-Aug. 9.
Mary Birdsong and Martin Short
Mary Birdsong and Martin Short

Oz, subtitled A Twisted Musical, is a new take on the classic, "The Wizard of Oz," featuring a book by Tim Kelly with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur. The lauded production by the musical theatre class at High Tech High School in North Bergen, NJ, will turn the stage at Producer's Club II in Manhattan into the Emerald City.

Director-choreographer Alex Perez — who was involved with the original 1995 Playhouse 91 showcase of the musical — heads up the run which reunites the original HTHS cast members ranging in age from 15-19. Rod Shepard, the only other adult involved with the production, serves as musical director and sound designer.

Perez — who has appeared in Off-Broadway's De La Guarda and his own work Media Killed the Video — explained, "I always envisioned the show [as] different and thought of interpreting it in a way that brought some new life into the work. It basically stayed in my mental notes for seven years until I directed this new version."

In 2000, Perez created the musical theatre class for HTHS with only 12 students enrolled. The program quickly grew interest and enrollment, and began producing shows. Among their pre-Ozworks are Bob, a tribute to legendary dancer Bob Fosse; Little Shop of Horrors, earning nominations by Paper Mill; Broadway Rocks!, a combination of excerpts from rock musicals; Chess.

"The moral of the original tale is still intact, with every intention of still paying respect to the original," said Perez, who cites the goal of the new work was to use new and contemporary music while making the characters more realistic. The cast of Oz includes Kyla Garcia (as Dorothy), Frank Criscione (Scarecrow), Jeff Vicente (Tin Man), Gio Perez (Lion), Matt Kelly (Toto), Marissa Gonzalez (Wicked Witch), Desiree Santiago (Glinda the Good), Lazaro Marquez/ Ashley Vitha (Oz) with Lazaro Marquez, Miriam Cortez, Michelle Matrachia, Tyler Flagg, Chelsea Richardson, Veronika Deleon and Jean-Marie Stodolski.

The design team includes Peter King (set), Matt Kelly (lighting), Barri Yanowitz (costumes) and Rod Shepard (sound). (Student Barri Yanowitz won a Papermill prize for her original and creative Oz costume design as did Perez for Best Direction.)

For tickets to Oz at The Producer's Club II, 616 9th Avenue, call (212) 868-4444. For more information, visit the show's website at www.ozmusical.com.

<i>Oz</i>'s twisted-looking Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow.
Oz's twisted-looking Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow.