‘Oz’ spoof brings viewers together with comedy

A-wicked-wizard-of-ahhs Colby Patterson
Cast members from “Wicked Wizard of Ahhs” pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of Off Broadway Theatre.

Cast members from “Wicked Wizard of Ahhs” pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of Off Broadway Theatre.

Most Americans know the story of Dorothy and her cairn terrier Toto, whose house was blown by a tornado to the magical Land of Oz. The Off Broadway Theatre’s production of “The Wicked Wizard of Ahhs” is a humorous and modern spin on this classic.

From the beginning, it is apparent the show pushes boundaries of the typical play, starting with plays on the characters’ names.

“We have the standard scripts and jokes, but improvisation is allowed,” said Justin Bradley, who plays the ‘Tin Can.’

Other notable characters include ‘Dorrie,’ played by Chelsea Baldwin. Baldwin portrays the innocence and kindness associated with Dorothy, but she also gives her character a dash of sass and fierceness.

“Honestly, I’m really inspired by Judy Garland, and just working with all the different characters in my cast,” Baldwin said on what influenced her characterization of Dorothy.

‘The Straw Man,’ played by Austinn Jensen, is an audience favorite. His lack of knowledge and uncontrollable goofiness reaches both young and old. When he calls himself “dumb” and parades his oblivion of the world, echoes of laughter bounced off the theater’s walls.

Throughout the two hour and 30-minute show, audience members are kept engaged. They are able to throw comments at the actors, and actors reply with befitting comebacks. There are moments when members of the cast go up to audience members to seek participation. The interaction between the cast and the audience gives the play authenticity.

One of the show’s attention-grabbers is the use of current and popular topics in the form of jokes. The puns poke fun at political leaders, super-stars and other well-known figures. At one point, the song “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus is played, and a man wearing underwear and a tank-top glides across the stage. To say the least, “Wicked Wizard of Ahhs” is modern and current, which helps makes it relatable.

Another relatable aspect of the show is the inexpensiveness of the props. For example, Toto wasn’t a trained dog, as expected, but a stuffed animal. This allows the actors to throw him around the stage and make him seem alive.

“The fact that Toto was a stuffed animal made it funny to watch as the cast used him for various tricks which could not be done on a real animal,” said Eric Jensen, director of “The Wicked Wizard of Ahhs.”

Jensen’s writing reflects his love of the L. Frank Baum classic story.

“The main thing that influenced my writing of this play was my complete and total adoration of The Wizard of Oz,” Jensen said. “It has such a great message in it.”

He also hopes the production gives people more than laughs.

“Though we may be different religiously, politically and culturally, we can come together and laugh at a funny production and ourselves in the process,” Jensen said.

This play serves as a venue for friends and families to have fun while watching others have fun on stage. It is apparent the cast enjoys performing for the audience, which makes it enjoyable to watch.

e.etokidem@chronicle.utah.edu