The Wicked Witch of the West: Kansas or Bust! – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Once upon a time, a spunky girl named Dorothy went on a giant adventure. Thanks to a tornado, the farmhouse she lived in with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry spun out of control and landed on a witch, wicked to her core, and placed Dorothy in the Land of Oz.

In Oz, she skipped along the Yellow Brick Road with a trio of strangers who would become her friends, the Scarecrow (Jimmy Johansmeyer), the Tin Man (Justin Rugg) and the Lion (Cadence Castro). But now our spirited heroine is back among the corn fields with her Auntie Em (George Spelvin) and her Uncle Henry (Jimmy Johansmeyer) and she is bored, bored, bored. Be careful what you wish for, Dorothy, because trouble is right around the corner.

Gather the family and a basket of treats to share at your table and let Pantochino Productions entertain you with the delightful original spoof “The Wicked Witch of the West: Kansas or Bust!” playing weekends until Sunday, October 27 at the Milford Center for the Arts, 40 Railroad Avenue, Milford.

Use your imagination to think mean and green and before you can say “Munchkins” three times who should appear but that scary madame of malice The Wicked Witch of the West, wonderfully portrayed by Shelley Marsh Poggio. Don’t let her froggy greenness scare you. She has a specific agenda: to get back her magical powers, her broom and her ravishing ruby slippers. To accomplish this, she must, at all costs and comedy, find Dorothy who stole them away from her, right under her pickled green nose. Once the WWW meets Professor Marvel and his crystal ball, another role by George Spelvin, she is quickly on the way to her goal.

Dorothy is portrayed by the adorable pigtailed sweetheart, Mary Mannix, who is plum full of spirit and perkiness. With her trio of hearty and trusted cohorts, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, they all set off to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz, another characterization assumed by the versatile George Spelvin. It’s rumored that the Wizard is in Wichita, in possession of all the good stuff.

That road of yellow is getting mighty crowded as the ragged Vagabelle kids, Elrod (Connor Rizzo), Faylene (Kiera Citarella) and Billie Rae Jay (Nora Simonelli) are also on the trail of the treasure. And don’t forget that big green lady who’s determined to get all her goodies back, even if it means traveling in disguise.

Thankfully Dorothy remembers to ask for help from her friend from her previous escapade, and the Good Witch Glinda (Rachelle Ianiello) flies in with a little comforting advice. Bert Bernardi has outdone himself in the clever department as this show is filled to the top of the corn fields with genuine humor (most of it corny). Justin Rugg’s music, like the Wicked Witch’s “I’m Back with a Vengeance,” adds a delightful liveliness to the action. Jimmy Johansmeyer’s costumes are a Halloween hoot.

For tickets ($22 online, $25 at the door), go to www.pantochino.com. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m.;, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Look for the troupe’s Podcasts on iTunes and Spotify. This ninth season is dedicated to the memory of Evan Faram, who was a valued company member who will be greatly missed.

Polish your crystal ball, practice your cackles, look for rainbows and bluebirds and bring a big glass of water for you-know-who, just in case you need her to melt!

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