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 — which earned the Best Overall Musical in New Jersey from Paper Mill — is the product of the musical theatre class at High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey.
Director-choreographer Alex Perez — who was involved with the original 1995 Playhouse 91 showcase of the musical — heads up the New York 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 drew interest and enrollment, and began producing shows. Among their pre-Ozworks are Bob, a tribute to legendary dancer Bob Fosse; Little Shop of Horrors,;Broadway Rocks!, a combination of excerpts from rock musicals; and 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 Paper Mill 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.