Friends Of Dorothy: An Oz Cabaret
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
August 16, 2010
It goes without saying that every year FringeNYC is going to choose some innovative, exciting, and fun productions for their festival. Conatus Productions' Friends of Dorothy: An Oz Cabaret is, without question, all three.
I'm a big burlesque fan and New York is a great place to see some of the best burlesque there is, but when I entered the Ellen Stewart Theatre I was expecting more of a drag show. This was not the case. Instead I was greeted with an amazing variety show complete with trapeze artists, aerial circus performers, male strippers, and some very creative burlesque performances.
The adventure begins when Dorothy, played by Rita MenWeep (aka Jessica Silver), has an unfortunate accident while cleaning the bathroom at the Starbucks where she is a "simple barista." Her "wicked bitch" of a manager has thrown her iPod into the toilet. This is a serious tragedy because it has all her favorite Toto songs on it! (You remember the band Toto, they were a big hit in the '70s and '80s.) She reaches in to fetch it, cracks her head on the toilet bowl, and is magically whisked away on the adventure of a lifetime.
The retelling leaves a lot to be desired in terms of text, but truly comprehensive storytelling is not the goal of this show; here is a quick breakdown anyway. Dorothy wakes up to find herself in the land of Bras (rhymes with Oz). In order to return home to Kansas she is granted the "Ruby Pasties" by Glinda the good witch and sent down the yellow brick road to seek the assistance of the Wonderful Wizard of Bras all the while avoiding The Wicked Bitch of the West who covets said pasties. On her journey she meets the sexy and hilarious Scarecrow, played by Jenny C'est Quoi, and The Cowardly Pussy, performed with curvy gusto by Sizzle Dizzle, who each perform a fun strip routine. (The Scarecrow's suspended routine is especially impressive.) She also meets a truly aggressive rapping Tin Man performed by Schaeffer the Darklord (or STD) but they understandably avoid him, even though his rap is awesome. They find the semi-sleazy Wizard and are instructed to go to The Wicked Bitch's night club where they thwart her with cold cream, melting her away. Dorothy realizes this is where she's always belonged and treats us to a finale where we finally get a glimpse of the Ruby Pasties and a sexy dance.
The high point for me in this show was Veruca Honeyscotch's aerial performance as The Lullaby League. Honeyscotch combines burlesque storytelling and humor while performing jaw-dropping acts of physical strength. She is fearless and charismatic. The Wicked Bitch's miserable Flying Monkeys, Harvest Moon and Mr. Fantastic, are also very impressive on the trapeze. They did a great job keeping their characters while contorting their bodies and balancing in the air. Bianca Del Rio has brilliant stage presence as the Wicked Bitch of the West and Rita MenWeep's Dorothy is very sweet. I was also very pleased to see Ambrose as The Wizard. I had the pleasure of attending a burlesque at The Slipper Room some time back where his alter ego, Manchego, displayed...ahem...the complete package to me. His hilarious strip performance is worth the price of the ticket alone.
The only thing that didn't work for me were the transitions between performances. There were huge blocks of time where the audience sat in dark silence while we waited to see the next part of Dorothy's journey. It was almost as if the cast had been abandoned by the tech booth. Truly, some transition music in addition to the amazing selections would make all the difference in keeping the audience energy up and positive.
Overall this production is a great time. Go enjoy yourself and suspend your disbelief and inhibitions. (P.S. I would also love a copy of the soundtrack...can that be arranged?)