CVIndependent

Tue10272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

As a child, my older sister was scared to death of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. My sister would flee the room in terror when the old green hag appeared onscreen. Sis is not alone: The witch, and her alter ego, the bicycle-riding, dog-hating Almira Gulch, have been feared and reviled by scores of little ones for years.

But what if Miss Gulch had a softer, more vulnerable side? The Desert Ensemble Theatre Company explores that possibility in its latest production, Miss Gulch Returns, a one-man show featuring local cabaret performer Jerome Elliott in a delightful performance.

The show, written by New York singer/pianist Fred Barton, became a hit 20 years ago, and holds up well. The premise is that Miss Gulch feels disrespected after her big musical number was cut from The Wizard of Oz movie, so she hits the cabaret circuit in search of showbiz success—and love.

The show opens with Elliott, looking quite dapper in a black tux, detailing in the first musical number how he met Miss Gulch in a bar (“You’re The Woman I’d Wanna Be”). Moments later, he morphs into Miss Gulch herself, losing the tux and appearing in a long black dress and a black hat adorned with a large bow. (Elliott pulls off drag quite well.)

He warns us that if we’re not careful, “Miss Gulch is what every one of us is going to become”—old, bitter and frustrated (“I’m a Bitch”).

There are lots of laughs and plenty of suggestive lyrics (“Pour Me a Man”) as Miss Gulch struggles valiantly to find true love, singing torch songs for a living and hitting the bottle a bit too much. One of the highlights of the evening is one of the few ballads, the poignant “Everyone Worth Taking’s Been Taken.”

Elliott is a solid, seasoned performer with a strong voice. He seems right at home onstage and is reminiscent of an old song-and-dance man like Donald O’Connor. He possesses great comic timing and can really throw out a zinger, as he does to a lover who’s just dumped him: “One look at you, and I knew you were one of those guys who thinks monogamy is a game put out by Parker Brothers.” Later, he compares lovers to dentures: “You don’t want them in your mouth all night, but you do want them within arm’s reach first thing in the morning.”

This material isn’t earthshaking—there are no big show-stopping numbers, and there are slow moments here and there—but the lyrics are clever, and there’s just the right amount of raunchiness to keep us entertained. The piano-bar set is simple and just right, and musical director Charlie Creasy provides excellent keyboard accompaniment. The production runs just about 90 minutes, which is perfect for a one-man musical show.

Desert Ensemble Theatre’s production of Miss Gulch Returns is funny, bawdy, touching and worth seeing. Kudos to director Tony Padilla, who has helped Elliott create a believable, three-dimensional character in Almira Gulch. Even my sister would like her.

Miss Gulch Returns, a production of the Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, April 16, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Running time is about 90 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $22; and $18 for students, seniors and military. For tickets or more information, call 760-565-2476, or visit www.detctheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

August: Osage County—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Weston family members are all intelligent, sensitive creatures who have the uncanny ability to make each other miserable. When the patriarch mysteriously vanishes, the Weston clan gathers to simultaneously support and attack one another; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Buyer and Cellar—From Coyote Stageworks

Emerson Collins (Sordid Lives) stars in the comedy Buyer and Cellar, which focuses on the price of fame, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, April 5. $45 to $60. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-318-0024; www.coyotestageworks.org.

Diva Dish! The Second Helping—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Luke Yankee stars in this one-man show featuring anecdotes about various celebrities, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Hold These Truths—From CV Rep

During World War II in Seattle, university student Gordon Hirabayashi fights the U.S. government’s orders to relocate people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Gordon begins a 50-year journey toward a greater understanding of America’s triumph—and a confrontation with its failures; at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Wednesday, April 15, through Sunday, May 3. $45; $40 previews on April 15 and 16; $55 April 17 opening night; no matinee on April 18. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Little Dog Laughed—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Mitchell Green is a movie star who is on the verge of hitting it big. One problem: His agent can’t seem to keep him in the closet; the show takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, May 17. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Man of La Mancha—From Palm Canyon Theatre

While awaiting a hearing with the Inquisition, Cervantes presents a play as his defense in a mock trial for the prisoners; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 26. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

McCallum Theatre

Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye takes place at 8 p.m., Monday, March 30, through Saturday, April 4, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 4; $35 to $95. College of the Desert presents Fiddler on the Roof at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3; $20 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Miss Gulch Returns—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

Jerome Elliott stars in this Palm Springs premiere of “a musical comedy valentine to the romantically disenfranchised,” at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 26. $22, with discounts. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Psycho Beach Party—From Desert Theatreworks

It’s 1962, and Chicklet just wants to be a surfer—but her multiple personalities keep getting in the way; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, April 10, through Sunday, April 19. $25 regular; $23 seniors; $15 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Seventh Annual Play Reading Festival—From Dezart Performs

After screening submissions from around the country and world, Dezart Performs offers staged readings of selected plays—and the audience helps choose which one will receive a full production next season; at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, April 3, through Saturday, April 11. $10; $34 for a festival pass. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

That Cancer Show!—From Script2Stage2Screen

Joni Hilton’s comedy-musical about cancer is directed by Gina Bikales; at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 3; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 4. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Wait Until Dark—From Theatre 29

An apartment in 1960s Greenwich Village becomes the site of theater’s most terrifying game of cat and mouse, at 7 pm., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, April 10, through Saturday, May 9; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, April 19 and May 3. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance