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20 November 2017

There are perks of being a critic.

The obvious one is that you get to see all the big shows that come to town.  Any traveling Broadway show that hits Sacramento, I get free high priced tickets, great seats, and all I have to do is enjoy the show and write about it.

Another perk is watching a theater company improve over the years, like the Davis Musical Theater Company, which was not wonderful 40 years ago, but which has turned in some amazing first-rate productions these last years.

The down side is that I have to see everything and while most are fun, some are real duds and trying to write something about them is real work and I figure helps pay for those great shows that are easy to review.

The perk that I don't often think about until it happens is seeing shows that are maybe not the best but so much fun it more than makes up for it.

One of my very favorite theater groups is the Winters Community Theater.  Winters is a small town (~7,000 people) and they have had this theater company which has been going for some 40 years.  They perform in the community center and people sit on uncomfortable folding chairs around big round tables (on opening night you get free champagne and cheesecake; other nights you can buy cheesecake)

What I love about Winters is that they are amateurs and they know it.  The definition of "amateur" is someone doing something for the love of it, and these guys love what they are doing.  They don't pretend to be or act like they are better than they are.  They just do what they can, but love what they are doing. Walt and I rarely leave a Winters production without smiling about how much fun it was and how much everyone loved what they are doing.

This week we had what may have been the most fun we've had at a theatrical production this year, and it was at Winters, where set changes seem to last forever and the pace of things is slower than it should be, but the overall result was just so much fun you almost didn't mind.

This show was The Wizard of Oz and it had a cast of thousands (well, about 35), including Tibby, who played Toto, and who was incredibly cute, especially when any of her "real" family came on stage (like the Cowardly Lion or Glinda) when her tail would wag much faster.

I was covering this show for two different newspapers (both of which will get the same review).  Debra DeAngelo, on the right, is the editor of the Winters Express, and since she was also playing Auntie Em, she couldn't very well review the show.

The last time she did a show it was Calendar Girls and I reviewed that one for her as well.

In the Munchkin number, I lost count of how many little kids were on stage, but one of them had a real baby in a front pack and a toddler by the hand.  The toddler wasn't into show biz and kept struggling to break free, finally doing so and first running off stage by a side ramp and then trying to run off stage and into the audience. Since the girl who was supposed to be his Munchkin mom was packing a baby, she couldn't chase him, so someone else managed to catch him before he plunged off the stage.

Toto didn't stay on script and barked when she should not have and didn't bark when she should (but Dorothy hid her face in Toto's head and barked for her)

Putting some of the familiar actors in the Oz costumes changed their personality and several gave better performances than I've ever seen, particularly the wicked witch who chewed the scenery just wonderfully.

And then there was Sunday's British Panto, Robin Hood in the Forest of Frogwarts, a zany 2-hour romp that is perfect for little kids.

There was lots of audience interaction, a chance for many kids to come on stage, and a finale that had everyone in the audience throwing plastic balls at the stage.  It was a little too much for me, but the kids in the audience loved it.  For the older people, they even had banners hanging over the houses of Hotwarts:  Pachyndwarf, Canary foot, Rasta Puff, and Chirpiz.

All too silly for me; I much preferred The Wizard of Oz.



The director wanted to take a picture of my shirt after
The Wizard of Oz.


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