THE BASICS: Drunk Theatre Buffalo presents Drunk Wizard of Oz at Mr. Goodbar, 1110 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo 14222. Sundays and Tuesdays through July 25. Sundays at 3 pm and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Tickets are $25. DrunkTheatreBuffalo.com
RUNNING TIME: One hour and 15 minutes. No intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Drunk Wizard of Oz blends comedy, nostalgia, and interactive drinking. The audience is encouraged to sit back with a drink, and maybe some pizza, and leave the old rules of traditional theatre behind. Audience members must be 21 or over. Adaptation by Matthew Rittler. Produced by Emily Glick. Directed by Emma English.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Drunk Theatre is a concept that has sprung up across the country. There are companies that produce Drunk Shakespeare, Drunk Improv, and even Drunk Debates. In Drunk Theatre, both the audience and performers drink throughout the evening and….well, mayhem may very well result! Certainly, no two performances are the same!
Drunk Theatre Buffalo produces original versions of children’s classics. Last year, Drunk Peter Pan was a big hit with sold out performances at several venues. I was intrigued by the Peter Pan concept, but I didn’t get a chance to see it, so I made sure that I got a ticket for this year’s production, Drunk Wizard of Oz. I am a big fan of The Wizard of Oz – I have directed it, adapted it, and played Glinda – so I was very interested to see this newest (very left of center) treatment of one of my favorite stories.
The show started with a reminder to “drink up but not too much,” and everyone took this advice to heart. I didn’t notice any excessive drinking. Most audience members got one drink and one shot at the bar before the show started and that took care of things for them. Cast members carried mugs and occasionally took a surreptitious sip.
Director Emma English has kept things bright and bouncy, and she has come up with clever, low budget ways to take care of the special effects needed to tell this story. There is an entertaining script by Matthew Rittler – I especially enjoyed the Oz insider jokes sprinkled throughout.
The cast is high energy and includes Charles McGregor as the frenzied Wizard, the always impressive Marissa Biondolillo as The Scarecrow, and Marty Gartz who, appropriately, plays the Lion as a sympathetic doofus. Jeremy Catania is a gravel-voiced GayLinda, and Sam Crystal is a delightfully quirky Tinman. Amanda Funiciello presents a new take on the witch – glamorous in a tight skirt and high heels. They are supported by an exuberant chorus of four — Mike Benoit, Katrina Fulcher-Rood, Steven Maiseke, and Sandra Roberts — who play munchkins, crows, trees, and monkeys.
In the center of all this madness is Emory Redfearn, relentlessly upbeat as Dorothy. She is accompanied by my personal favorite – PK Fortson, as an understated Toto – deadpan throughout the proceedings and master of the well-timed sarcastic aside.
To add to the fun, there are songs, dances, and creative costume touches like Dorothy’s blue and white gingham corset.
Seating is limited. I advise getting to Mr. Goodbar’s 90 minutes before showtime to line up in order to get a seat. There is sufficient standing room for those who aren’t fortunate enough to snag a chair.
I suspect that this production will be a sellout and that additional performances will be scheduled. Check the web site for updates — DrunkTheatreBuffalo.com.
Drunk Wizard of Oz is great summer fare – playful and offbeat with a lot of laughs!
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!