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Preview: The Yellow Brick Road

Dorothy & Co. get a Latin American makeover in a free summer musical.

Why walk down the Yellow Brick Road when you can salsa? This summer, Theatreworks USA is putting a spicy new twist on The Wizard of Oz with the bilingual musical . Dorothy is now Dora, a modern Mexican-American teenager—and instead of daydreaming about rainbows, she's rebelling against the traditions of her Latino community. In other words: We're not in Kansas anymore.

"Dora is a city girl," says book writer Mando Alvarado, who set the story in Chicago. "There's a sweet side to her, but she's seen some things. She stands up for herself."

The prospect of wearing a fluffy pink dress at her quinceaera is what drives Dora—who would rather have an American sweet sixteen-style bash—over the edge. The neighborhood curandera ("magical healer") senses her identity conflict, and whisks Dora away to Oz, where she takes a musical journey through her own heritage.

Songs by Jaime Lozano and Tommy Newman capture a spectrum of Latin flavors, from Afro-Cuban and Castilian to mariachi. The Wicked Witch is a flamenco dancer; the Wizard is a Jennifer Lopez--esque pop star. And each of Dora's friends represents a different part of her Latina-American experience. The Scarecrow, for example, thinks he needs brains because he has difficulty speaking English. In the end, he realizes that being bilingual is actually an asset—and Dora does too.

"You become American as a kid when you take on American values, but how do you balance that with where you're from?" says Alvarado. "I'm hoping that kids in the audience see themselves, and understand that you can come from both worlds and not feel like one side has to win out over the other."

runs July 19--Aug 19 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

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