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A Girls' Night Out: Dinner & A Show

03 October 2013

Tuesday evening, I had the delight and pleasure of going out for a girls' night out with Veronica. To celebrate her birthday (a few days belated), I treated Veronica to dinner at Fabiolus Cucina, an amazing Italian restaurant tucked into Sunset Boulevard with the most charming of outdoor patios.

I had their delicious Gnocchi Radicchio e Salsiccia and Veronica had Penne alla Vodka.

To top off the perfect dinner, we indulged in some birthday Tiramisu' from our delightful waiters.

After such a heavy dinner, a walk up Argyle Avenue was just what we needed. Because we had arrived so early in Hollywood (no traffic, thank the Lord) we could take our time and enjoyed checking out the different stars along Hollywood Boulevard. There is even a Mr. Browning at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. (Unfortunately no photo.)  The most appropriate star was right in front of the Pantages Hollywood Theatre -- that of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who penned this new production of The Wizard of Oz.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber
View from my new season ticket seats.
Before we ventured into the theatre to our seats, we explored the beautiful staircases and mezzanine level. Such beauty. Such opulence. Such majestic grandeur.



Veronica and I in our seats
Onwards to The Wizard of Oz:
The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland came out in 1939 and has become a classic in most households with the trademark song, Over the Rainbow. I was never a big fan of the film myself but when I heard that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was searching for Dorothy on the BBC's Over the Rainbow in 2010 I was quite curious and watched the show via BBC on-line and YouTube.  Just as religiously I watched the 2012 Canadian version of Over the Rainbow where Danielle Wade was named Canada's Dorothy.

Even more exciting was the news that Jacquelyn Piro Donovan was starring as Miss Gultch/The Wicked Witch of the West.  I had been following Jacqui's career ever since she was on Broadway as Fantine in Les Miserables opposite my friend, Stephanie Waters (Cosette).
Original US Tour Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
So humming to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain, Heart, Nerve", Veronica and I eagerly took our seats and awaited the overture.
2010 BBC's Over the Rainbow Finale
We were pleasantly surprised to see that this performance would be ASL-Interpreted. The Pantages Theatre provides one ASL-Interpreted performance per show.  To find out dates for ASL-Interpreted performances, call their box office at 1-800-982-2787. For those who are not dependent on an ASL interpretation, note that the interpreters are stage right and not the least bit distracting.

Based on the 1939 movie, the new stage musical features all the classic songs you've known since childhood including: Over the Rainbow and If I Only Had a Brain.  New songs written by the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice team, fresh costume and hair design, and video production techniques brings the beloved 74 year old movie musical forward with sparkle and panache.

Danielle Wade (Dorothy) was even more impressive then she had been in the 2012 Canadian t.v. series, Over the Rainbow. It seems that she has continued to grow vocally, in her walk, and performance. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow is believable, powerful and vulnerable. And her chemistry with the trio (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion) was top marks!
Original Canadian Cast. Photo by CYLLA VON TIEDEMANN    
 In particular, the chemistry between Danielle Wade (Dorothy) and Mike Jackson (Tin Man) was sheer perfection!  Little looks they gave each other, the giving of a key Tin Man line from If I Only Had a Heart to Dorothy, and the way Tin Man twirled her towards the end of the show gave cause for many ooos and awws.

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan (The Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gultch) does an excellent job of pulling away from the stereotypical WWW in the 1939 movie, Margaret Hamilton, and the recent Wicked metamorphosis -- Elphaba.  Her portrayal is campy, smart, modern, determined and perfected by a delightfully wicked cackle.  The new song written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice perfectly compliments Mrs. Donovan's performance.  

Unfortunately there were quite a bit of technical glitches when it came to microphones and the performers being drowned out by the orchestra.

The one most controversial aspect of this updated production are the video screen projections.  [My first experience with video screen projections was in 2005 at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White.] The video can be used to great benefit as a background and to create an amazingly visual tornado.  Unfortunately these same technical advantages can be the show's detriment when it is overly used as in Act II.  You be the judge when you go to see the U.S. national tour and let me know your thoughts!

Show Rating:
Acting: A
All cast members, ensemble to headliners, give 110% of themselves in their roles and nobody outshines the rest of the cast. It's a fabulous ensemble show.
Choreography: B+/A-
The show's best choreographed number is "Hail-Hail! The Witch is Dead!" and the Tin Man and Scarecrow both move well.
Costumes: B+
The munchkins' costumes were the one major let down for both Veronica and myself. Not believable.

After the show, Veronica and I headed to the Stage Door and talked with a young girl with her mum and another young woman.  Everyone unanimously commented on the beauty of the show, splendid cast, fantastic costumes and adorable Nigel who played Toto.  All the principals made a point of speaking with everyone at the banister. Veronica and I especially enjoyed conversing with Jamie McKnight (Scarecrow) and Danielle Wade (Dorothy) who made a point of taking time to talk with the little girl and pose for photos - making her night, I have no doubt!
The young girl admiring Nigel ("Toto")
Touring care package for Jacqui.
Yours truly with the beautiful and talented Jacquelyn Piro Donovan

So what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets to see The Wizard of Oz when the tour is in your neck of the woods. You won't regret it. It will make for a great family outing or date night. There are still tickets left during closing weekend here at the the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

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