Who knows what L. Frank Baum would think upon seeing a new interpretation of his story, this time with Dorothy being a lesbian from Kansas who goes on a journey to find love in San Francisco.
“Left of Oz” is clearly a labor of love for writer, director, producer, set designer and co-star Stephanie Reif, whose musical comedy is designed for, and pays tribute to, the Bay Area’s spirit of openness, inclusiveness and experimentation.
Onstage at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley, the show is filled with cute inside jokes, tuneful songs and characters familiar to the local LGBT scene reinvented as Dorothy’s cohorts.
Aunt Emma (Val Scott) is a deep-voiced lesbian; Jazmin (Amelia Mae Paradise) is a drug-happy hippie who gets one of the show’s best tunes, “If I Don’t Burn Out My Brain”; Kat (Helena J.) is a tough leather butch with a soft heart; and butch dance instructor Toni (Tonilyn A. Sideco) is the one who falls for the wide-eyed, pig-tailed new girl in town.
Headed by the sweet-voiced Sarah Mosby as Dorothy, all are fun and empathetic, yet the show — clearly made on a modest budget — could use more energy, shine and creative staging.
Opening weekend, the pacing seemed slow, some of the singing was off, and repeated opening and closing of makeshift curtains gave the production an amateur feeling.
Still, Reif, who makes an amusing appearance as good witch Glenda Ellen, along with choreographer Douglas Caldwell and pianist-arranger Janis Dunson Wilson, has crafted a show that does what it set out to do: reflect and entertain the community for which it was created.
Presented by Stephanie Reif
Where: Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes July 18