WOZ: A Rock Cabaret @ Victory Gardens

by Rand Ringgenberg (Chicago Stage Standard - July 21, 2014) 3 stars out of 4

There are probably very few people who are not familiar with the MGM classic film The Wizard of Oz. The L. Frank Baum story has probably spawned more books, films, musicals, and plays, then any other source material. Luckily for us it is also now the inspiration for, the clever and often hilarious production, ofWOZ: A Rock Cabaret, now playing for a very limited engagement at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theatre.

Although the show is billed as a “rock cabaret,” it is really more along the lines of a staged concert, but whatever you call it you can most certainly call it a lot of fun. It is a near perfect, frothy night of summertime entertainment.

The show was conceived by Kimberly Lawson and William S. Rogers earlier this year at Davenports Piano and Cabaret. The show uses songs we all know from the 80’s, 90’s and today, to add a modern new twist on this well-worn story. And I’m happy that this wacky and engaging version of one of my all-time favorite films has made the journey over the rainbow and is back to tell the tale. I had a smile on my face from beginning to end. This is not to say it’s a perfect production, but I’m not going to quibble over a few off-key vocals; some harmonic issues; and a couple of slow musical cues. Perhaps some of the songs should have been transposed into a different key to better suit a few of the singers or possibly musical director, Nick Sula, should have put his cast through a more thorough vocal warm up. Happily however, the sheer energy and obvious delight the entire cast possesses on stage trumps any small musical misgivings I might have.

I don’t want to spoil any of the cleverly inserted song choices, but suffice it to say some are used to perfection, such as, Walking on Sunshine, One Way or Another, Rescue Me, and the showstopper Man in the Mirror.

Also adding perfectly to the proceedings are the inspired costume pieces by PageFree, the amazing puppets created by TSGpuppetry, and the beautiful lighting design by Brandon Moorhead.

The entire cast deserves mention for their terrific performances. Heather Currie (Wicked Witch) Clara D’Onofrio (Glinda) Edward Fraim (Lion) Kim Lawson (Dorothy) David Lipschutz (Munchkin/Winkie Soldier) James Nedrud (Tinman) Kevin Webb (Scarecrow) Sarah Wurz (Munchkin/Winkie Soldier) and last but most certainly not least Scott Gryder (Wizard). Scott pretty nearly steals the entire show in his two big numbers as the wizard, the earlier mentioned Man in the Mirror is definitely a highlight of the evening. Gryder’s gifts do not stop onstage as he is also the director of the madcap proceedings, where his offstage gifts certainly mirror his onstage presence.

WOZ won’t be around long, so do not hesitate and get your tickets to once again take the magical journey down that iconic yellow brick road in an ingenious new way.

WOZ runs July 19-20, August 1-2 at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theatre. For tickets ($25) or more information; 773-871-3000,

More information can also be found at:

WOZ: A ROCK CABARET is Divinity Anthropomorphized

by Dave McGuire (Showbiz Chicago - June 20, 2014)

Divinity anthropomorphized. It may seem a little over the top, perhaps, but isn’t that the nature of cabaret? Let me back that statement up. Music is the heartbeat of the universe, and dreams are the soul of God, so anything that melds the two in such a way as WOZ did, must in some way be linked to divinity?

There are moments in this show I wish I could video tape and add to my random shuffle list so that they will pop up now and then when the world is beating me down, 'cause you cannot help but feel picked up by this show, and there are moments that would make you laugh even if your own mother had just passed on. You cannot help but smile. I do advise you use the bathroom before going in to the theater. There were moments I was laughing so hard I almost peed myself. For instance, when Glinda played by the bubbly Clara D’Onofrio, and the Wicked Which played by Heather Currie, who seems to be the strange love child of Janis Joplin and Henry Rollins the way she belts out some of the best Angry Chick Rock, when those two squared off in an epic battle of choreography while singing Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics, this battle scene is so epic it makes the Jets and Sharks from “West Side Story” pale in comparison.

No, – there are no big production values, though the puppets are spectacular. The Wizard is amazing in his disembodied foam head guise belting Axel Rose at Dorothy and her companions. This is not ‘Wicked.’ This is not a high end production. This is something better. The show begins with a hummed almost choral version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” A few of the cast members step out of the chorus and share child hood memories about the Wizard of Oz. Moments of our shared cultural experience, that everyone in the audience can get on board with. Because, honestly if you haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz as a kid…I’m sorry for you. Everyone in America remembers that trip over the rainbow as kids. Every one of use has memories of this film.

As this is a musical performance I must call out a few of the songs, The Wizard (Scott Gryder; who also directs) singing Michal Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, was divinity. The guy looks the Perfect Peewee Herman Nerd, and you cannot help but laugh, was a definite highlight.  The Tin Man (James Nedrud) “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” as Dorothy and the Scarecrow (Kevin Webb, whose facial contortions had me chuckling all night) somewhat sexually lube him up from an “Oil Can,” is one of those pee yourself moments. I loved how the Winkie Soldiers (David Lipshultz, and the gorgeous, Sarah Wurz,) who if you do not know are the witches palace guards, turned the “Oh Eee Oh”, chant from the movie into New Kids On the Block’s “Hanging Tough”. However, the Wicked Witch was an all-consuming presence the second she hits the stage. No matter what song she was singing, or what part of the story line we were in she took you into her, beat the sh*t out of you, and puked you back out with an evil cackle and a shine in her eye. What a performance!

WOZ: A Rock Cabaret is an excellent show. Returning us to the dreams of OZ, that is one of the many common experiences of all our child hoods, with music that brings to mind the greatness of our youths. So if music is the heartbeat of the universe, and dreams are the soul of God, then WOZ: A Rock Cabaret is divinity anthropomorphized.

"GIVE ME A HAND: A Puppet Cabaret" at MIXTAPE Summer Edition 2014

The TSGpuppets of SIMPLY SCOTTY premiered 3 new songs written by Nick Sula (music) and Scott Gryder (lyrics) at the Summer Edition of MIXTAPE at Bar Forza. We "felt" such a positive reception, we look forward to a Spring 2015 completed, public performance!


Join TSGpuppetry for WOZ!

Join an incredible cast of singers and storytellers as we take a walk down the yellow brick road, but this time it's to the beat of power ballads and rock anthems from the 80's, 90's, and today! (TSGpuppetry features it's latest puppet creation with The Wizard!)

Davenport's Piano & Cabaret (1383 N. Milwaukee) * Mondays, April 14 & 21 at 8pm! * $18 (plus 2-drink minimum)


Starring: Heather Currie, Clara D'Onofrio, Edward Fraim, The Scott Gryder, Kimberly Lawson, James Nedrud, Kevin Webb; Will Rogers, director * Nick Sula, music director * Eric Engelson, drums

TSGpuppetry makes its national television debut! January 2014

Say hello to Nutmeg! This adorable little guy was made as a birthday gift for Jess. The puppy puppet will debut on Green Screen Adventures in "Kisser's Book," a story written by Gabriela from Red Cedar Elementary in Bluffton, South Carolina.

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© Scott Gryder 2013