(Full disclosure: Emory Churness and Hillary Giffen, who put the show together, are good friends of mine, and I attended one of the early brainstorming sessions for the project, and contributed a couple of ideas.)
The concept was an interesting one: what if you could tell a story using only songs that were not written for that story? And what if the audience had to figure out what the story was as it went along?
And, what if the story was “The W*z*rd of *z,” and you were doing it without any songs from the 1939 movie, from “The Wiz,” or from “Wicked”?
Well, the result would be “Osmosis.” (A hint is in the program design, where the ‘s’ is replaced with a vertical Infinity symbol, which can also be taken as an s overlaid with a z.)
Dustbowl Kansas was evoked by “Dust in the Wind,” while Dorothy (Betsy Mueller) longed to be “Somewhere That’s Green.” Arrival in Oz bought up a duet of Glinda (Hillary Giffen) and the Wicked Witch (Rachel Elizabeth Wachtl) on “My Eyes,” from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which I thought worked really well for two women.
“The Long and Winding Road” was a natural choice for the beginning of Dorothy’s trip to the Emerald City, followed by The Muppet’s “Movin’ Right Along” as she gathers companions. Some added lyrics to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” clued in the audience as to what the story was as the first half ended.
The second half was more open and humorous as the cast added makeup and costume bits to the action. One of the funniest bits was the chorus’ rendition of “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees,” as the Wicked Witch’s winged henchmen. There were some fine dramatic segments in this half also, with Ms. Wachtl on “Witchy Woman,” and Kyle Gunby as the Scarecrow preparing to invade the Witch’s castle to “Into the Fire”.
Even knowing the secret ahead of time, we enjoyed the show very much, having the pleasure of perceiving how each number fit into the storyline as they came up. “Osmosis” was a really clever idea that was well executed.
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