Ron Lytle Scores with Winter Fantasy, Joyful Music
by Rachel Norby
“Christmas in Oz” by East Bay Children’s Theatre offers a delightful adventure through Oz during Christmastime. As Dorothy, Jordyn Foley sings like an angel—clear and captivating. The Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward overflows with unforgettable songs and joy.
Especially remarkable are all the children of the East Bay Children’s Theatre. Adorably costumed in multi-colored vests and trousers, furry pom poms bouncing atop their heads, the kids dance and sing and twirl, embodying the spirit of Oz.
Lacking the compelling story of The Wizard of Oz, the show is filled with “witty little ditties” and excellently choreographed dance numbers. Ron Lytle’s musical genius is on full display in this enjoyable sequel to our most famous children’s book.
The Bloopettes have the best musical number by far with “The Bloop Brigade.” Dressed in identical green jackets fastened with gold buttons, the Bloop Brigade tap dance marches to the beat of a giant metronome overseeing their routine. It’s a delight to watch and, luckily, it indulges its mesmerized audience by not ending too soon.
The sets are simply designed, which accents their elegance. The Enchanted Forest, for example, perfectly encapsulates the quiet and sparkling stillness of a frosty morning in the woods. A few trees, bereft of their leaves, rise from the white sheeted stage. From their branches hang a few winter wardrobe essentials—mittens, a coat, hats, socks—all in gray or white, befitting the stark winter surroundings. A “broom bush” crouches near-by, with white-handled blue-brush brooms sticking out at all angles.
Pamela Ballin, the perfect Glinda, floats in and out of her scenes, surrounded by bubbles that emanate from her magical staff. Her sparkly gold gown shimmers beneath a matching gold crown. Her song to Dorothy, “Glinda’s Assessment,” makes us laugh. Rather than make Dorothy feel better about her situation, Glinda encourages her to think her way to a solution. Lytle’s thinking child’s Oz brings new ideas and new life to the beloved classic.
“Christmas in Oz” –book, music, and lyrics by Ron Lytle, directed by Ron Lytle, by East Bay Children’s Theatre, at Douglas Morrisson Theatre, Hayward, California, through December 22, 2019. Info: dmtonline.org
Cast: Jordyn Foley, Zachary Marshall, Danny Martin, Michael P. Mendelsohn, Scott Phillips, Shawna Darling, Pamela Ballin, Gregory Lynch, Heidi Amstrup, Bekki Leber,
Reggie Reynolds, Sarah Schori, Brenda Ng, Jeff August, Karen Barbera, Mary Bishop, Joel Butler, Julia Christy, Bruce Kaplan, Isabella Lau, Kenny Silberberg, Charlene Yoshino,
Georgie August, Fiona Bonilla-Duncan, Calista Caguyong, Ariella Destefano, Samantha Leber, Lila Muise, Alexandra Nicola, Allegra Nicola, Autumn Rodriguez, and Audrey Tu.