Sunday, December 03, 2006

Special Guest Blog: Oz on Stage in Israel

(Eric here. I got word recently from Gili in Israel about two new stage productions there, and I asked if she could write something up on them for my events page. What she sent, however, is more appropriate for a blog than the events page, so I thought, why not? So here she is, Gili Bar Hillel, with her summary of Oz on stage in Israel.)

Over the past decade or so it has become a tradition in Israel to stage musicals based on children’s classics during the weeklong Hannuka holiday (sorta like Christmas pantos in the UK). The past years have seen adaptations of Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Tom Sawyer, Anna and the King, Around the World in 80 Days, and more. The forerunner of these all is generally considered to be an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz entitled Hakosem (The Wizard), starring kiddie-TV idol Michal Yannai as Dorothy. The adaptation by Uri Paster featured a smart-Alecky talking Toto, a romantic subplot between Dorothy and the Tinman, multiple Scarecrows and Lions, and three Wicked Witches... The 1994 production was a huge financial success, if for no other reason than that the cast was putting on several shows a day: in fact, this production was eventually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for most shows of a major production in a given timeframe. In the year 2000 the play was rewritten as a futuristic science-fiction story, The Wizard 2000, with a child actress in the lead role; however, the restage was a flop. Rumors circulated that the parents of the actress playing Dorothy had charged the producers with working their daughter to the point of exhaustion and illness.

This winter, not one but two productions based on The Wizard of Oz will be competing for child audiences in Israel: The Wizard 2006 is yet another restaging of Uri Paster’s adaptation, this time featuring teen pop-star Ronny “Superstar” Duani as a blonde Dorothy; the second production is a new adaptation by Azriel Asherov, starring pop-star Michal Amdurski, known for her husky voice and sultry manner. Both productions’ designs look to be closer to the 1939 MGM movie than previous productions. Zachi Noy, who played the Lion in the 1994 production, will be Wizard to Amdurski’s Dorothy for several performances, alternating with well-known comedian Meir Suissa; Duani’s Dorothy will be veteran stage and film actor Mosko Alkalay.

I have yet to see either production, nor am I particularly looking forward to doing so. The 1994 production I found to be poorly conceived, crass and unbearably loud, the 2000 production I didn’t even know about before it was pulled. But images of the sets and costumes that I’ve seen so far look attractive enough. The production starring Ronny Duani will be staged only in Tel-Aviv, in hangar #11 of the Tel-Aviv docks; the production starring Michal Amdurski will be touring all over the country during December and January, from Karmiel in the north to Eilat in the south.

The Wizard of Oz (take a look at the poster here)
Based on the book by L. Frank Baum
Written and directed by: Azriel Asherov
Original music: Misha Blochorowitz
Orchestration: Dror Margalit
Choreography: Ilan Maman
Sets: Dudi Beit Melacha
Costumes: Yoav Rish, Svetlana Vitliok
Dorothy: Michal Amdurski
Wizard: Zachi Noy / Meir Suissa
Tinwoodman: Nir “Niro” Levi
Additional cast members: Dudi Ben Aderet, Zohar Katz

The Wizard 2006 (take a look at the image gallery here)
Hangar 11 in Tel-Aviv, no Saturday perfomances
Book: Uri Paster
Director: Idan Amit
Music: Yaron Kafkafi
Choreography: Claude Didier
Dorothy: Ronny “Superstar” Duani
Scarecrow: Shalom Assayeg
Tinwoodman: Guy Ariely
Toto: Avi Yaffe
Wizard: Mosko Alkalay
Lion: Lior Shemesh
Witchy-whatsit sisters: Michal Gavrielov, Sari Alfi, Liat Akta

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