Orlando Fringe 2022 review: 'Miss Gulch Returns'

A musical vivisection of the stereotyped shrew from 'The Wizard of Oz.'

Witty cabaret in the Noel Coward tradition meets the Wicked Witch of the West in Miss Gulch Returns, Fred Barton’s musical “vivisection” of the stereotyped shrew from The Wizard of Oz. Talented vocalist Brett McMahon is in fine form, whether wearing a black tie tuxedo or a flower hat and ankle-length frock, as he croons to his onstage audience, backed on the keyboard by the ever-brilliant Julian Bond.

Elmira fills the Green Room Lounge with tongue-in-cheek tunes like her excised Oz anthem “I’m a Bitch,” an ode to her lifelong bicycle obsession, and her horny mother’s mantra, “Pour Me a Man,” as Gulch gives a glimpse of her little-known life long before Dorothy’s day.

I went into this show eager to learn why this menacing matron was worthy of her own musical, but I left without many satisfying answers. McMahon nails the comic numbers as the self-proclaimed “ultimate hag” dreams of becoming a gay pop icon like Bette, but remains too glib throughout the more emotional beats. Gulch says that stereotypes (like hearts) are meant to be broken, but this amusing musical hour with the infamous Toto-hater never dug deep enough beneath her celluloid surface to make this feel like more than a lightweight lark, instead of the insightful examination of why Gulch got stuck in our collective unconscious that it sets out to be.

Tickets and show info: Miss Gulch Returns

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