Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Full of recognizable characters, witty dialogue and a large number of actions scenes, Maticic's script is well plotted and intriguing. There are numerous twists and turns in the plot so I'll attempt to be as vague as possible to not spoil any of the fun that Maticic has baked into her script. Ozma, the ruler of Oz, has been overthrown by Mombi, aka the Wicked Witch of the North, who has found a way to take away the memory of the people of Oz, thus instilling a sense of doom throughout the land. With her rag tag fleet of allies, Ozma discovers that the key to peace, and to regaining her thrown, may be in a young boy and girl who have found their way to Oz, yet also lack their memory.
The large cast is fairly good. Maticic plays Ozma with an appropriate regal elegance but also isn't afraid to get down and dirty in the action sequences. Megan O'Connor is having a blast as the evil Mombi, seemingly relishing delivering some of Maticic's wittier lines, including when she calls Ozma's gang, which is full of various animals, a "rag tag petting zoo." Jared Queen and Kristiana Faddoul are full of innocence but also inquisitive as the Boy and Girl who find themselves pulled into the adventure. In smaller parts, Devon Mahon is very funny, and charming, as the constantly hungry tiger and Chelsea Jauregui, Megan Olsen and Chavez Benally are a blast as the three other witches.
Brian Maticic's solid direction and impressive fight choreography allow the action and fantasy elements to shine through but don't let the message of the piece get lost. The large Peoria Center stage gives the play plenty of room to breathe while also providing Brelby the ability to show what they are capable of creatively in a larger theatre. While Brian Maticic's set is fairly simple, it does include several drops and other set pieces that work well to portray the many settings of the story. The combination of Mollie Flanagan's vibrant lighting with Fernando Perez's imaginative media design and Jessica Holt's non-stop sound design provide a constantly changing and fascinating visual and aural treat that make the magic powers of the main characters seem real. The fun and creative costumes and hair and make-up designs by Carolyn McBurney and Melody Chrispen, respectively, work well to make the many beloved characters from Baum's books instantly recognizable. Mia Passarella has crafted a few large scaled puppets for the piece including some stunning dragon puppets.
The beauty of Baum's books is how they allow the reader's imagination to soar. With a combination of elaborate fight choreography, imaginative creative elements, a cast that inhibits their characters with glee, and a big dose of stage magic, Brelby's The Oz Chronicles is a fun-filled, fantasy treat.
Please note that while the show is based on Baum's books the fight sequences and a few moments may be too intense for smaller children, though I think older children will love the adventure, fantasy and fun elements.
The Brelby Theatre Company production of The Oz Chronicles runs through August 21st, 2016, with performances at Peoria Center for the Arts, 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at (623) 282-2781.
Written by Shelby Maticic