‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ comes to life at Serenbe

Brian Clowdus realized there would be lots of complicated logistics before proceeding with an adaptation of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as part of his new season at Serenbe Playhouse. But first things first—he knew early on that he was going to have a Yellow Brick Road. A real one.

This take on “Oz” opens his fifth sea- son at Serenbe as the artistic director. Based on the classic L. Frank Baum novel, this world premiere has been re-imagined by Rachel Teagle, a frequent collaborator with Clowdus and Serenbe. It follows the book more closely than the celebrated, iconic film.

“Being the 75th anniversary of the film, we wanted to pay homage to it,” says Clowdus, who is directing. “But it’s really a celebration of the book.”

The show has four lead performers playing Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, with three others bringing all the additional characters to life, including a Good Witch of the North and a Glinda, as well as a Flying Monkey King. Clowdus and company are working with the Center for Puppetry Arts with the production. Various forms of puppets are used for the flying monkeys, the Munchkins and the Wizard of Oz.

Having the show performed outdoors gives it a real sense of place, Clowdus says, allowing the cast to literally walk over the Yellow Brick Road. It’s not, however, one of those walking shows that has become popular in the area. With the size of his audience, including kids of all ages and in strollers, he didn’t feel it was appropriate.

Everyone can relate to this version of the story, he feels. “It’s one of those classic stories that everyone connects to,” Clowdus says. “Our kids’ shows always have that level of sophistication, some humor that goes over the kids’ heads.”

LGBT audiences, of course, can completely identify with the character of Dorothy. “She is a bit of an outcast, an only child, raised by her aunt and uncle in an area where she doesn’t have much to use for her imagination,” says Clowdus, who is gay. “She uses her imagination to escape. I think that hits home for a lot in the LGBT community because so many can relate to feeling isolated.”

Clowdus’ season also includes “Oklahoma!” (that he is also directing) and the drama “Ten Mile Lake,” also a world premiere. Last year, Clowdus’ acclaimed musical “Hair” was one of his summer offerings.

Playing through this weekend at the Fox Theatre, courtesy of the Broadway Across America series, is the musical “Evita,” about the rise and fall of Eva Peron, aka the First Lady of Argentina. Out performer Tug Martin is one of the swing members in this touring version. This is his third time with “Evita,” which has become something of a good luck charm for him. He’s been on the national tour for 10 months now. “Evita” returned to the West End in 2006 and to Broadway a few sea- sons back with out musician Ricky Martin as Che. Tug Martin says this newer version has some tweaks, such as upping the relationship between Che and Eva. “It’s been an audience favorite for over 30 years,” he says. “We pull out all the stops. It’s not showy at all.” The wonderful score, though, remains the score.

The titular role has attracted divas such as Madonna, Patti Lupone and more. Eva is a person LGBT audiences can especially relate to, Tug Martin says. “She was told she could not do it but did it with gusto,” he says. “I can’t think of a bigger word than captivating to think of her. Her power, her sex appeal helped her succeed.”


‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’
Through Aug. 2
Serenbe Playhouse’s Animal Farm at the Inn
9110 Selborne Lane, Chattahoochee Hills, GA 30268

Through June 8
Fox Theatre
660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308