MURRAY — Desert Star Playhouse has been going strong for many years. They play to packed houses and enthusiastic audiences every show. I freely admit that I have become a fan of Desert Star and have stated so in my previous reviews. Desert Star does a great job of entertaining their audiences in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere that is appropriate for all ages. Their current production, directed by Scott Holman, is Wicked-er! It’s Not Easy Being Green.
The plot involves Vanna White, who is sent to Oz by an errant explosion from the Michael Bay movie being shot near her dressing room. There she meets the munchkins, Glinda the Good Witch, Tabitha the Wicked Witch of West Valley, and gets the ruby sneakers. On her way to the Emerald City, she meets Sheldon Cooper, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Zach Galifianakis. Together, they journey to meet the Wizard of Oz. Along the way, Vanna realizes that the ruby sneakers have magical powers and overthrows the wizard. In turn, everyone must convince Tabitha to join them to defeat Vanna. Playwright Ben E. Millet has created a fun script with a few twists and turns and more pop culture references than you can jump a shark over. The script was a bit disjointed in starting with one well-established villain (Tabitha), who was then mostly forgotten about until a second villain (Vanna) was created. It was a twist, but not a great one. However, it is a fun, witty script.
The performers are very talented and work well off each other. I was especially impressed by Corey Brandenburger, who does a perfect impersonation of the character Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Timing, voice, and mannerisms were incredibly like the character and very funny. Brandenburger’s comedic timing really shone through in the second act in the scene in Tabitha’s castle. He raised the level of energy in every scene he was in. Corrine Adair was very funny as Vanna and gave a villain that you wanted to like, even though she was not at all nice. Brian Dayley has one of the hardest jobs in playing at least four different characters. He gave each character a unique twist and was just a lot of fun to watch. He was particularly humorous as Jack Bauer. It was just so deadpan that it was funny. Kelly Knight Clifton as Tabitha was, unfortunately, left out of most of the show. Her character was not as developed as it could have been, and I believe this is more a failing of the script. Her version of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” was very good, but that was really her only chance to shine.
The only real downside to the evening was the sound. One thing that I have enjoyed about Desert Star is the lack of microphone problems and the ability to hear all the dialogue and lyrics throughout the show. Unfortunately, on the night we went, the sound was muddy and the lyrics were very hard to understand. Most of the jokes that I did catch in songs happened because the performer was facing my direction and I heard their actual voice. What was coming through the sound system didn’t help. Eric Jensen‘s light and sound tech talent usually comes through much better than what I experienced this evening. There was also an issue with the character of Zach Galifianakis. Adam Griffiths did a good impression of him, but he was saddled with a ridiculous beard which, while it made him look like Mr. Galifianakis, mostly obscured any dialogue the character had. It was very distracting.
The olio following the show was upbeat and tuneful. The theme, “From the Stage to the Screen,” included many numbers from Broadway musicals that have been made into movies, such as Grease, The Sound of Music, Chicago and Show Boat. As always, a bit of political humor was thrown in when they sang to an empty chair changing “Old Man River” to “Barack Obama.” I was surprised, however, that there wasn’t a similar parody of the Republicans. Desert Star is usually more non-partisan. The best laugh of the evening for me came from the group’s performance of Wicked‘s, “Defying Gravity,” when each of the performers was trying to get higher on stage than anyone else. It was a comic turn on the song, and yet the quality of the music was not compromised.
As I’ve said before, Desert Star knows their product and they know it well. They aren’t breaking new ground, and that is just fine. They do quality performances in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. Wicked-er! is not a benchmark to measure future performances against, but it is an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.