The cast of Hip Pocket’s “The Land of Oz,” which is enhanced onstage by some magical puppetry. John Carlisle Moore
The cast of Hip Pocket’s “The Land of Oz,” which is enhanced onstage by some magical puppetry. John Carlisle Moore

Arts & Culture

This ‘Oz’ production isn’t what you’d expect, but that’s what makes it magical

By Mark Lowry

Special to the Star-Telegram

August 17, 2017 12:22 PM

FORT WORTH

Lake Simons, a masterful New York-based puppetry artist and daughter of Hip Pocket Theatre co-founders Johnny and Diane Simons, returns for her annual show at her parents’ theater, this time for “The Land of Oz,” adapted from L. Frank Baum’s “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” the second in his series of Oz books that begins with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

What’s so different about this Land of Oz? Here are five reasons why it’s worth revisiting, even if it’s not the story you’re most familiar with.

The story: Only three major characters from “Wizard of Oz” are in its sequel: The Tin Woodsman (Allen Dean), Scarecrow (Jeff Stanfield) and Glinda the Good (Jasmine Marie West). Our hero is Tip (Christina Cranshaw), who leads Jack Pumpkinhead (a puppet manipulated by Brian W. Cook and Kristi Lynn Mills), a Saw-Horse (maneuvered by Dean, Mills and Jozy Camp), Woggle-Bug (Dustin Curry) and others to consult the new ruler of Oz, who is a character you’re already familiar with.

Christina Cranshaw and Dustin Curry: Cranshaw brings out the sense of wonder and adventure in Tip (full name in the book, Tippetarius); and Curry, who is relatively new on the DFW scene, puts his clown skills to good use with vivid vocals and mannerisms of the brainy and quirky Woggle-Bug.

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Lake Simons: She was trained by her father at Hip Pocket, then North Carolina School of the Arts and Paris’ famed L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, the world’s premier school for physical theater. This piece is more of a straightforward narrative than other adaptations she has done, but she still has innovative ideas.

The puppetry: Lake Simons is well-versed in many puppetry styles, but for the past 10 years or so, she has focused on hand-held techniques and object manipulation. Here, not only do we see the terrific Jack Pumpkinhead, we see it assembled and come to life onstage. Same with the Saw-Horse. They’re both magical.

The music: Lake Simons’ collaborator John Dyer composed and plays original music, with some help on vocals from Dean, Camp and Elysia Worcester. The music is playful, and carries the narrative like a toy boat on a smooth, fast-flowing stream.

Good to know: Performances start at 9 p.m. so it’s less hot, and it only runs 75 minutes. There’s a concession stand with beer, wine and snacks and refreshments, a concert stage with bands playing before and after the show, and plenty of bug spray on site. Tip: Bring a stadium cushion because the outdoor amphitheater has wood benches, with backs. Also bring a hand fan or three.

The Land of Oz

  • Through Sept. 2
  • Silver Creek Amphitheatre, 1950 Silver Creek Road, Fort Worth
  • $20
  • 817-246- 9775; www.hippocket.org