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‘El Otro Oz’ Review: There’s No Place Like (Your Ancestral Home)

Written by The Anand Market

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Every dramatization of “The Wizard of Oz” seems to offer a pilgrimage to the Emerald City. But “The other Oz,” the inspired and imaginative rendition currently airing on Atlantic Stage 2, introduces additional journeys that are ultimately more poignant and profound.

When I first saw this Latin-flavored version of L. Frank Baum’s tale two years ago, I was very impressed by its comic inventiveness. (TheatreWorksUnited States later presented it as a revised, more bilingual version of his own 2011 show “The Yellow Brick Road.”) This 2022 production, retitled “El Otro Oz” (Spanish for “The Other Oz”), included a pet chihuahua named Toquito, a wizard who is a disco diva and, in place of the Withered Wicked Witch of the West, the sensual Bruja del Oeste, in flamenco costume, whose magic castanets evoke a predatory rattlesnake .

None of these creative flourishes have changed, but whether because of world events or the nuances of Melissa Crespodirection, I discovered this new production in Atlantic for children (the youth division of the Atlantic Theater Company) as tender and moving as it is hot and funny.

With a book of Mando Alvarado And Tommy Newmanand the music and lyrics of Newman and Jaime Lozanothe show focuses on Dora (It’s Noemi, passionate and clear-spoken), an anxious teenager from contemporary Chicago. More of an admirer of Beyoncé than merengue, American Dora is deeply angry at her Mexican immigrant mother’s plans for a quinceañera, the traditional celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday. After reluctantly donning a voluminous pastel dress for the occasion, Dora moans, “I look like cotton candy!” (Stephanie Echevarria designed the vibrant costumes.)

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Soon after, a mysterious healer appears, telling Dora that she is only “half of everything.” (Christian Adriana Johannsen deftly juggles that of the attractive bruja.) Next, the teenager is dragged to El Otro Oz, where, according to one of its residents, her family’s picnic table crushed her sister. the witch “flat as a Dorito”. »

Once Dora acquires the enchanted ruby ​​slippers, she will of course have to join the wizard. But she also begins to understand that she has only embraced part of who she is. As she explores El Otro Oz with new friends: Scarecrow (Adriel Jovian); the Iron Chef (Eli Gonzalez), who travels with a food cart instead of an oil can; and the gentle Mountain Lion (Danny Lemache) – she comes to appreciate the heritage she often cruelly rejected. The score, which mixes mariachi-style melodies with soulful show tunes, gives Dora plenty of opportunities to practice traditional dancing, and young audiences might discover that Alessandra ValeaThe joyous choreography makes it difficult to sit still.

However, they may also have difficulty with intermittent dialogue and speech in Spanish. Atlantic recommends “El Otro Oz” for theatergoers ages 6 and up, but even adults who haven’t studied the language may find the mix confusing at times.

However, one point is always clear: not all journeys end happily. In a vision evoked by the witch, Dora witnesses the difficult migration that her widowed mother, alone and pregnant, made from Mexico. The all-rounder Arielle Gonzalez, who plays this maternal role and several others, sings a moving ballad that ultimately becomes a mother-daughter duet. This shows that for many immigrants the journey is one-way. Home remains far away; all they can hope for is to transport his spirit to a new world for their children.

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The other Oz

Until February 18 at Atlantic Stage 2, Manhattan; atlantictheater.org. Duration: 1 hour 5 minutes.