StarStruck Theatre presents ‘Wizard of Oz’

by W. Fred Crowe
Milpitas Post – January 14, 2009

There is a lesson to be learned in most theater. Sometimes hard lessons, difficult to understand. But in the land of Oz we know, there’s no place like home. And we’re at home at the Ohlone College Smith center, visiting with some favorites for a gentle time of long ago; Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion.

StarStruck Theatre of Fremont, one of the Bay Area’s premier theaters, brings to the stage an outstanding cornucopia of sight and sound. Their latest production, The Wizard of Oz, a show that requires everything working in decided harmony, is a charming hit. With everything working in concert, it’s the talented cast and crew assembled by director Lori Stokes that makes this production simply a must-see.

This timeless classic is strongly supported by a sturdy orchestra, elaborate and enduring costumes, a modest set, and aerial antics. Yep, the wicked witch, her sinister monkeys, Glinda the good witch, and Dorothy soar into the air. Even Miss Gulch rides her bike 20 feet off the stage during the arrival of the tornado.

The leads are strong, centered and enjoying the engagement. Callie Garrett brings the musical icon, Dorothy, to life through her gentle and effortless vocals. She shows an innocent sense of pluck and verve when facing Miss Gulch or the wicked witch of the west (Kimberly Chatterjee). Chatterjee had just the right amount of arrogant busy-body imperiousness to make one wish for a pail of water. The three amigos; Scarecrow (James M. Jones), Tin Woodsman (Drew Williams), and the Cowardly lion (Connor Stokes), functioned in unison, being a delight in animation, vocals, and character. Toto, played by Toto, was a pleasant surprise – hit its cues on time, reacted in character, and was the master of the stage, at one point upstaging the cast while being hidden in a bike basket.

Kudos to Nancy Godfrey (music director), Jeanne Batacan-Harper (choreography), and Vicki Boomer (costumes), for their efforts – all held court and none found wanting. Excellence was built upon excellence. It was a treat to note the large ensemble of upcoming talent that danced and sang their way into our hearts. StarStruck strikes gold with this wonderful production of Frank Baum’s, “The Wizard of Oz.”

StarStruck Theater’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” runs through January 24. The theater is located at 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont. For box office information or to make reservations call (510) 659-1319.