Rain, wind and cold had audience members at the opening night of the SCERA Shell's Outdoor Theater production of "The Wizard of Oz" clicking their heels three times and chanting, "There's no place like home."
Not even the Great Oz could help this El Nino blast as the public, cast and this reviewer took the brunt of the cold night air that followed the rain.In fact, I wasn't sure the day's heavy showers would allow the Wizard to appear at all. But SCERA officials continued to verify there would be a show if the rain stopped. If it was just "misting" at 8 p.m., Dorothy and Glinda the Good Witch would be singing in the rain (which is also the title of a Shell production scheduled for August).
Most reviewers would have bagged the first night, but SCERA officials assured me all would be well. They would even have a chair for me so I wouldn't have to sit on the wet lawn. All day they went out of their way to make sure I would be there.
And the rain continued.
About 4:30 p.m. I received a frantic call from the SCERA. The woman on the line apologized for the inconvenience and then pleaded with me to review the show another night.
It seems the weather had kept the crew from getting the final painting done on the stage and Dorothy's trip down the yellow brick road could end up being a short one. Other props were also incomplete.
Undaunted, I knew I must now review that night if the show were to go on at all. Besides, my curiosity and my 6-year-old's pleadings had gotten the best of me.
The rain quit about 7:40 p.m., so we packed sleeping bags, blankets and coats into the car and headed to the outdoor theater. With five minutes to showtime, we dashed across the park, hoping we hadn't lost a good spot to sit. We hadn't. In fact just about any spot in the amphitheater was ours.
Approximately 100 folks (mostly parents of the Munchkins) huddled close to watch the Scarecrow burn, the Tin Man rust and the Cowardly Lion roar.
The production was good. The singing voices were crystal clear and harmonious. The gray-and-black costuming in the opening scenes gave way to a beautfiul and colorful Munchkinland.
Even the yellow brick road was there, albeit a little runny.
The special effects included a projection of the Wizard himself inside the large "O" of the word "OZ," which hung mid-stage. And in the witch's crytal ball, you could actually see faces. It was a great effort.
Special kudos should also go to "Siggy," who played Toto. The little guy knew his cues and where to go at all times. It's too bad the cast didn't do the same. Poor Toto was stomped on a few times by exuberant cast members.
While the show was "hot," the audience was not. By intermission (9:30 p.m.), we were ready for the great hot chocolate usually served at the Shell. The announcer said, "We will now have (pause) a 10-minute intermission. We apologize for any inconvenience and we are sorry but we do not have hot chocolate at the concession stands this evening!
What! No hot chocolate? They had cinnamon rolls, pretzels, popcorn (cold), pizza and soda. . .but no hot chocolate! My review had just taken a new turn. I made a mental note to comment on the Shell's concessions, or lack thereof.
It is thanks to my two daughters that I discovered the true "hit" of the night. Both needed to use the ladies room, so we hiked up the amphitheater and back down the hill to the restrooms. I should have known this would be the respite I was looking for.
Inside I found the majority of the women from the audience warming their hands by the automatic hand dryers and in the hot water from several sinks. This is where I found the best show of the night. In fact, a few women and some young girls got in a tiff over others hogging all the hot air.
When the lights went up for the second half, all of us girls were in our places, with coats, blankets and warm hands. My husband couldn't figure out why the complaining had stopped. When I suggested he visit the men's room, he raised his eyebrows and looked at me kind of funny.
While I would recommend this production of "The Wizard of Oz" to anyone, I would encourage the SCERA Shell and its managers to consider the audience - and next time, when bad weather hits, cancel the show or provide portable heaters.
And please, don't forget the hot chocolate.