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“Miss Gulch Returns” to Martinis Above Fourth

SAN DIEGO -- You thought you knew everything about "The Wizard of Oz," right? Think again, Dorothy!

“Miss Gulch Returns” puts a fantastic twist on the legendary Land of Oz, and points audiences to the truth behind the archenemy of Dorothy. The cabaret act subverts stereotypes with its gay performer swapping identities with the notoriously disagreeable Miss Gulch, letting loose from her “sepia-toned moorings of the screen.” What follows is an entertaining musical comedy that roots for the cantankerous underdog, Miss Gulch.

Headliner Tony Houck speaks with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about his versatile acting career and the process of revitalizing a classic story with a wicked twist. The limited engagement will be presented by Diversionary Theatre Cabaret, starting tonight at Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest.

Your career biography shows such a wide range. How do you select the shows?

I select roles that make me laugh. If I laugh or get an image in my head that I think will be hilarious and entertaining, I will go out for the part. Some of the female roles I have played I got because nobody else auditioned for them! Still, some male actors do not like to play female or drag characters. I think that is silly because those are usually the roles that can steal the show. The next role I want to do is going to be a serious role because it is one side of me that I don't show too often and would like to share with an audience. I chose "Miss Gulch Returns" because I wanted to do a cabaret show and my friend played me the song "Pour Me a Man" and I thought, "Oh my God! That is my life!" I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to do the show.

What do you like most about Diversionary Theatre?

I love telling the stories of the LGBT community. They are important. There are still lots of stories out there to tell. Our community is changing and so are our stories. We are facing new challenges and new circumstances that we haven't seen gay characters in before. We are a community of more than coming out stories. Diversionary tells those new stories but also tells the stories of where we have come from and keeps our unique gay culture alive. As the LGBT community slowly becomes more mainstream, it is nice to have a place that tells the next generation where we came from and why we are the way we are. You can actually see our history right in front of you. Also, the space is awesome! It allows artists and creative teams to think outside the box and create interesting theater. It's one of the more intimate theaters in San Diego. And the production team, led by incomparable Bret Young, always makes sure that quality and exciting theater goes onto the stage.

Does the Diversionary Cabaret put a unique spin on "Miss Gulch"?

Yes! In this version, a man plays Miss Gulch! A gay man! I think this version is a little sassier than other productions that have been done. Doing it at Martinis Above Fourth (MA4) really brings the environment of the show to you. It's a fantastic venue! This is the first time that Diversionary and MA4 are teaming up and hopefully there will be more shows together. This show also pairs up two cast members from the Diversionary holiday hit, “Scrooge in Rouge.” It's fun to work with people that you can collaborate well with.

The Oz mythology is so well known - and perhaps hard for many people to think of the tales as being reinvented. What particular challenges were faced in bringing "Miss Gulch Returns" to life?

Well, Miss Gulch is only in about 5 minutes of the "Wizard of Oz" film. So, there really isn't a lot to go off of. I had to create her backstory, make her a fully realized person and give her this modern day twist while still staying true to the character. I mean the "Wizard of Oz" was 75 years ago. So, there are some fun things we did to bring her up to 2014 times while keeping her sepia-toned characteristics. It is also challenging to bring one of the most known villains to the stage and have people love her and feel empathy for her! And make them laugh on top of it all! Still some people have to jog their memory to remember who Miss Gulch is. So, I really have to play off of her stereotype and create the rest of her.

What can people expect from "Miss Gulch Returns"?

You can expect a classic cabaret show about a classic movie icon! It's like "Wicked" but gayer and only 90 minutes long. If you are an Oz fan, a Judy fan, a cabaret fan or just curious, you will laugh and fall in love with Miss Gulch. You will get to see the "E! True Hollywood Story" of a woman who is still searching for her 15 minutes of fame and the love of her life. It is full of catchy songs, that you will leave the bar humming and wake up with the next morning. There is a part of Miss Gulch that everyone can connect and relate with. So come and see why, after 75 years, "Miss Gulch ... RETURNS"!

The details

This limited engagement runs April 2, 3, 5 and 6 at Martini’s Above Fourth in Hillcrest. Tickets are available now at www.diversionary.org or by calling 619-220-0097. Tickets cost $22 to $35, with a $15 food and beverage minimum.