"You're The Woman I'd Wanna Be"
Fred Barton addresses Miss Gulch (2004)

"Twenty years ago, a young man named Fred Barton became the toast of the town in a one-man/woman musical he wrote called Miss Gulch Returns! An endearingly demented look at the woman on the bicycle who tormented little Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it was clearly a show for the ages. Now it's back and, despite the passage of those 20 years, we laughed ourselves stupid when we attended a recent performance at Dillon's.

"In this little treasure of a show, Barton plays Almira Gulch as a cabaret singer. Falling somewhere between winsome and wacky, Gulch has a score full of sophisticated comedy numbers that would make Cole Porter proud. The music is partly pastiche but the lyrics are so cleverly constructed, the rhyme schemes so elegantly intricate, and, finally, the messages so rich and ripe that they make a mockery of most of today's Broadway show scores. Take for example "Pour Me a Man," a number that the lonely, needy, and surprisingly randy Almira sings in her cabaret act; there are precious few works of double entendre as hilariously suggestive as this Barton classic.

"The songs are character pieces, and Barton sings them that way. The score doesn't call for a pretty voice (which he doesn't have anyway) but it does call for an actor who can bring nuance to bear, and this he does wonderfully well. Barton begins the show as a young man trying to pick up Almira at a bar and eventually, in a bit of costume legerdemain, he becomes her. After you see this show, you'll never think of the Wicked Witch of the West in the same way again – and remember that it was written and first performed 20 years before Wicked arrived on Broadway.

"I'm A Bitch" (2004)
"By the way, you can also experience the show via its recording on the Original Cast label. Better by far, however, to see the show live and then listen to the CD, so you can savor the brilliant lyrics with the visual memory of Almira fresh in your mind." – Barbara & Scott Siegel, THEATREMANIA

"If your cup of tea is celebrity autobiographies, especially the ridiculous, self-aggrandizing ones, what is made up (and deliriously so) is Fred Barton's acclaimed one-man show, Miss Gulch Returns!, which has itself returned for a 20th anniversary celebration. Barton's flair for zesty melodies and tongue-twisting lyrical machinations is brilliant, as is his droll and sympathetic portrayal of Almira Gulch. It's smart, it's funny, and it's a blueprint for how to fashion a clever evening of campy fun. And who doesn't love Almira? On her bike or at the keyboard, she's a treasure." – David Hurst, NEXT MAGAZINE

"A marvelously inventive and very funny confection that should delight every fan of showbiz humor. But don't expect an evening of mere camp, for Miss Gulch Returns! is far more. The show is beautifully crafted, Barton's acting is subtle and always true, and beneath the humor lie considerable intelligence and poignant honesty. Quite extraordinary, actually." – Roy Sander, MAC Critic

"Why go see a 20-year-old cabaret show based on a 50-year-old movie? Because, if it's Fred Barton's Miss Gulch Returns!, it's novel, witty, and delightfully entertaining. The '20th anniversary encore edition' of Barton's 1983 cabaret success, the show is truly timeless. – CABARET SCENES

"In it, he plays two characters: a piano bar entertainer with the unlikely name of Fred Barton, and a bicycle-riding, dog-snatching old maid from Kansas (suspiciously resembling the Wicked Witch of the West) named Almira Gulch. Beginning as Barton, he tells of meeting Gulch in a bar – then, on stage, morphs into her. From then on, it's her show, as she relays her unfulfilled passion to become a torch singer. Moreover, she demonstrates with some dozen songs such as 'Born On A Bike,' a bow to Judy Garland's 'other' theme song; 'I Can Be An Icon Too,' with references to Garland, Bette Middler, and even Janet Jackson; 'Pour Me A Man,' a desire to get drunk on a hunk; and the poignant 'Everyone Worth Taking.' Between the laughs, don't fail to catch Barton's fine pianoship and cleverly crafted lyrics." – Peter Haas

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"Miss Gulch Returns! operates on so many levels, it's positively mind-boggling. It's deliciously, wickedly funny for its own sake, but it's also wonderfully insightful satire. The show is a delightful treasure trove of subtle references, double entendres, and the wisdom of Miss Gulch. Each song has something to say, even while it makes you laugh, and the whole revue is built with architectural accuracy. Every line, phrase and word works; there's real depth and character development here, and more than a little poignancy as well. It's an all-around triumph for Barton and one show you really don't want to miss." – Bob Harrington, Back Stage

"Mr. Barton plays Miss Gulch with animated, pop-eyed, energetic verve." – John Wilson, N.Y. Times

"Offered in a spirit of gleeful malice – the wit and wisdom of Almira Gulch as interpreted by Fred Barton, a talented writer of mainstream theatre songs that burst with internal rhymes and insiders' show-business jokes." – Stephen Holden, N. Y. Times

"Fred Barton, among his other achievements, has his own views of this character viewed by the young as villainous. Miss Gulch Returns! includes songs that place the maligned woman in, if not a more favorable, at least a more understandable light." – Richard F. Shepard, N.Y. Times

"Fred Barton is a ten-fingered orchestra." – Jack Kroll, Newsweek

"It's a witty piece of Fredfoolery, but what Barton does unexpectedly well is create a fully fleshed character. We do care about Almira Gulch's loneliness and career frustration, after a point, and that's a very nice thing. Barton's got razzle-dazzle sell and equally amusing material. Miss Gulch Lives! is a quick, neat package of a clever idea." – Curt Davis, N.Y. Post

"A neat little revue." – New York Magazine

"Kindly be advised that Miss Gulch Returns! isn't cabaret. It's theatre. Fine theatre, too. It's one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. With its riotous lyrics and smart tunes, a genuine poignancy underlies the wicked laughter. Miss Gulch Returns! is a marvel, and so's Fred Barton. Pay them both a visit as soon as you can. – Michael Sommers, N.Y. Native

"Bawdy, brassy and funny as can be." – Patti Hartigan, Boston Globe

"Barton is one of a handful of songwriters singlehandedly reviving the dying art of composing 'special material' – comic songs that delineate character as much as convulse an audience. He's a whiz when it comes to a salty lyric, but is equally adept at creating a more contemplative mood. This combination of mirth and melancholy is what gives Miss Gulch Returns! its special appeal and what makes us perceive this character as more than just a Hollywood stereotype. With a trunkful of songs, a quick change from a tuxedo to spinster duds, Fred Barton manages to find the beauty beneath the bitch – an absurdly charming transformation." – Thomas Lee, Boston South End News

"Late nights at Palssons' rock with Fred Barton's loving tribute to The Wizard Of Oz, Miss Gulch Lives!" – Austin Kane, N.Y. Theatre Review

"Miss Gulch Returns! is one of the most original, fun-filled evenings in New York. The music is fun, and provides the perfect balance for the lyrics, never overwhelming them nor taking our attention from Barton's intelligent turn of a phrase. Barton's a performer of wit and style; with his talent, charm and youth, who knows how far he can go. For my part, he's made me into an ardent fan of one of Tinseltown's most misunderstood bitches." – Martin Schaeffer, Tomorrow's Television Tonight

"Barton's melodies are wide-ranging in tempo, often complex, but intriguing and eminently singable. Barton, a writer and an intense performer of unusual gifts, without ever shedding his masculine voice or appearance, so endows himself with the attributes and emotional life of Miss Gulch that a fully rounded, touchingly believable figure emerges – a remarkable accomplishment." – Michael Sander, Dramalogue

"The genius of Fred Barton's Miss Gulch Returns! – besides his incredible performance, which is both roaringly funny and quite touching – is the ease with which he bridges the gap between gay sensibility and mainstream heterosexual life in a way that no one has done before. A perfect blend of sensibilities and subtleties and a perfect jewel of a show." – Michael Bronski, Boston South End News

"Fred Barton has delved into the character from The Wizard of Oz to come up with a funny, entertaining, off-beat and risqué show." – Dick Miller, Broadway Bill of Fare

"Miss Gulch Returns! is original, sophisticated, and exhibits a fine sense of satire. The songs exhibit a fine schooling in music and lyrics, with the lyrics especially clever, replete with internal rhymes and allusions cinematic and musical-past subjects. Barton performs with style; this is a young performer who should go places." – Michael Shepherd, N.Y. Native

"Fred Barton excels in the humor of his lyrics." – Ira Eaker, Back Stage

"Top notch and deliciously witty. Barton's wonderfully wicked lyrics are sure to help you laugh off the winter's cold. A clever composer and excellent pianist, Barton uses the plight of the Miss Gulches of this world as a starting point for a hilarious whimsical revue. Most of the songs are just plain funny. Others make some rather significant points about the way we view love and courtship; beneath all the silliness lurk some first-class ballads." – Bob Harrington, Long Island's Nightlife

"Judy Garland's memory is ingeniously and warmly conjured, and Barton's own sly wickedness slips out in the form of wicked puns and double entendres." – Elizabeth Pincus, Boston Phoenix

"This one-man show has developed a huge cult following among gay men all around the country. Barton's parody is wonderfully devised and performed, complete with costume and amazing fabricated and humorous history." – Lambda Rising News

"The recording can certainly be recommended as a fine souvenir of the production; highly creative, always witty, and alternately touching or campy characterization and interpretation." – John Fricke, The Baum Bugle

"A delightful musical revue written and performed by Fred Barton, who effects an astonishing change on stage to resemble the character Margaret Hamilton immortalized in The Wizard Of Oz." – The Advocate

"A very funny, mildly raunchy one-man show. Mr. Barton also manages to make some telling and touching points about loneliness, and his Miss Gulch ends up a complete person instead of a just a cartoon cutout." – Max Preeo, Show Music

"Fred Barton provides his tribute to Miss Gulch of The Wizard of Oz with a gleam in his eye and a 20-piece orchestra in his fingers. Singing his wickedly funny songs, that gleam in his eye flowers into full lunacy. He is a delight." – Gerry Geddes, Topman

"In a dozen wonderfully rhymed and lyrical songs, Fred Barton has dug into our cultural past to recreate Miss Gulch and explore her psyche, and I, for one, am delighted that he did so." – Carolyn Albert, Greenpoint Gazette

"A witty show, using Barton's considerable talents as a composer, lyricist and performer. His lyrics are amusing and extremely clever." – Charles Gross, Press Journal

"Fred Barton may be one of the most promising of a new generation of composer/performers. His lyrics are witty, exhibiting clever internal rhymes, while his music possesses an almost Sondheim quality. There's a devil-may-care naughtiness to his material which tickles us while sophisticated allusions to cinematic history and musical folklore tickle our memory banks. Barton is also a first-rate performer, managing to both poke fun at his creation and yet inspire a certain fondness for her." – Martin Schaeffer, Michael's Thing

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Nick Vannello in
In March, 2004, NICK VANNELLO starred in an all-new production of Miss Gulch Returns! at Kennedy's, the cabaret room at Playhouse Square, Cleveland.  LORA WORKMAN produced and directed, with CHARLES EVERSOLE as Musical Director.

Playhouse Square, the second-largest performing arts center in the country (after Lincoln Center), describes the space as follows:  "This 100-seat cabaret, located under the Ohio Theatre lobby at Playhouse Square Center in Cleveland, was formerly a workroom for the State Theatre. It contains an ashwood bar from the old Elegant Hog Saloon on Buckeye, and is decorated with Broadway 3-sheets. It is named for Kathleen Kennedy, author of "Conversations With an Irish Rascal," and an early supporter and staff member of the Playhouse Square Center project."

NICK VANNELLO (Miss Gulch) has enjoyed a varied performing arts career that has spanned over two decades. He served as the Company Manager for the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, and he helped orchestrate the 1,000th special performance of the show at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas.  Nick is a familiar face to Cleveland audiences, having appeared in the acclaimed When Pigs Fly at the Beck Center, Paradise (directed by Joe Garry), SmileA Chorus LineOn The Twentieth Century, and Jesus Christ Superstar as well as having performed with the Cleveland Opera.

Fred Barton:  In Fall of 1990, long after I had retired the Miss Gulch show and moved to Los Angeles for a while, I was astounded to receive a letter from the Actors' Theatre of Nashville, expressing interest in mounting their own production of the show.
After a series of letters and phone calls, the details were worked out and the first independent production of the show took place in Spring 1991.  Thom Byrum played the role; and for the first time, the pianist-singer Miss Gulch was given her freedom with a separate pianist to handle the musical aspects.

I regret that never got to see this production, although I treasure a videotape sent to me by Mr. Byrum.  I toured with City Of Angels through Nashville later in 1991, and finally was able to meet Thom Byrum – two sole veterans of the Gulch Experience in a sit-down to compare notes.  Alas, the theatre company appears to be no more; and sadly, Mr. Byrum passed away not along after our new acquaintance began.

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August 21, 2004 marked the opening of the Richmond Triangle Players' revival of their acclaimed production of Fred Barton's Miss Gulch Returns!, earning raves (below) surpassing even those garnered by their original production of 2002 (read original raves).  The Richmond revival incorporates the revisions Fred made for his own 20th Anniversary revival earlier this year, including the new song, "I Can Be An Icon Too."

The Richmond revival was selected for presentation at the National Gay & Lesbian Theatre Festival in Columbus, Ohio, September 2004.

On with the latest raves!

"Miss Gulch" Offers Great Fun
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Susan Haubenstock, Special Correspondent, August 21, 2004

Hilarious solo revue shines with clever impersonation of 'Wizard of Oz' character

Richmond is more fun than you think. You just need to know where to look.

The place to look at the moment is Fieldens Cabaret Theatre, where Richmond Triangle Players have brought us a return engagement of Miss Gulch Returns!

This is Fred Barton's hilarious solo revue focusing on Almira Gulch, that annoying maiden lady from The Wizard Of Oz who turned into the Wicked Witch of the West. An unlikely subject for a comic cabaret, you say? Well, enter Barton's world.

A self-confessed groupie of Margaret Hamilton (who played the role in the film) since the age of 10, Barton wrote "Miss Gulch Returns" 20 years ago and performed it in New York at Palsson's Supper Club, the venue for years of successful Forbidden Broadway shows. Barton was one of the Forbidden Broadway co-conspirators -- a piano whiz/arranger/performer...
He has at least three goals here, and he nails them all: clever, intricate rhymes; snickeringly good double-entendres; and the creation of an irresistible character.

But there's even more than that on display at Fieldens, because the chanteuse taking on the challenge of impersonating Miss Gulch is Robert Throckmorton.

Throckmorton first gave us Miss Gulch in 2002, and he's brought her back as a tuneup, because the production has been selected to be performed at the National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival in Columbus, Ohio, next month.

Throckmorton is tall and lean, with long, expressive fingers that are equally adept at gripping a martini glass and whipping a bicycle seat out of Miss Gulch's wicker basket.

He's a great physical comedian -- probably the best pretend cyclist ever -- and not a bad dancer. His singing is perfection, his timing terrific, his gestures hysterical. The raising of an eyebrow or a finger leaves the audience breathless with laughter. He even hands out snacks.

The premise is that a young man looking for love meets Almira in a bar and tries to woo her with the song "You're The Woman I'd Want To Be," but through some stage magic (and Thomas W. Hammond's intricate and brilliant costume design) Almira sings her reply, "I'm A Bitch."

There are Judy Garland references galore -- some sour grapes there as Almira reflects on why Judy got more attention than she -- and Almira sings "Born On A Bike," the answer to Garland's "Born In A Trunk." There's a lot about Almira's rotten luck with men.

"There are a million love songs, a million unrequited love songs," Barton said in a 2002 interview. "But when I wrote this, I felt there were not enough songs about people unable to fall in love to begin with or about people who can't even attract the attention of the person they want to love."

To that end, Barton includes a couple of ballads, which give Throckmorton the chance to show more emotional colors and change the pace of the show.

Randy Strawderman has given Throckmorton great support with the staging, which is minimalist but always sharp and effective, and Timothy Brewster does a great job as the onstage accompanist and general factotum.

The Deconstruction of Almira Gulch review by Carter S Grove

Fred Barton, perhaps one of those "flamboyant men impersonating Judy Garland to this day," met Margaret Hamilton (aka Almira Gulch) quite by accident.... Barton's star-struck obsession with Hamilton led to his creation of Miss Gulch Returns!, a play that deconstructs this unforgettable yet often overlooked icon in a way that perhaps only a queer sensitivity can manage.

The show is firmly postmodern -- an ironic, psychological, and self-referential examination of this Oz anti-hero -- and is therefore wholly suited to today's queer sensibility. Throckmorton opens with a bit of stand-up (playing himself) which gracefully elides into an imagined pick-up attempt of Miss Gulch at a cabaret bar. But Miss Gulch is not to be wooed, for she has her own floorshow to do. Throckmorton makes the transformation from male to female, suitor to spurner, tall and handsome to tall and ugly right before the audience's eyes in "You're the Woman I'd Wanna Be."

In the comedic musical genre where timing is all, Throckmorton is an atomic clock.... Throckmorton's hands, particularly the fingers, resurrect the spine tingling shivers we all felt as children when Almira first threatened "your little dog too." His energy, all balled up with frenetic bursts at the animate and inanimate -- bartenders, the audience, a stuffed dog -- is über-Gulch, and his well controlled voice, a tenor with flashes of falsetto, will make you think Almira has indeed returned to sing her sordid story.

Even more, Throckmorton plays Fieldens like it's home field, like he's queening it up at the club with friends, rather than performing in front of paying patrons. Campy, witty, bitchy, it's a constant source of wonder how Throckmorton blurs the distinction between the memorized gag and the impromptu wag.

Of course, he's working with quality material. When the show opens with Throckmorton's monologue, we're enticed by a discourse on "the subject of this psychological cabaret analysis." Throckmorton declares, "she is imprinted on the subconscious of everyone of us." With her "salient characteristics" -- unpleasant, single, frustrated, and past her prime -- Almira Gulch is, in fact, "what everyone of us is going to become."

By taking an imaginative tour of the Almira Gulch behind the bicycle and broom witch, the show offers both a pop cultural romp as well as the beginnings of a sophisticated critique. Indeed, this analysis cannot be too far removed from the post-structural method of critic Roland Barthes.

Yet even Barthes could not have woven the sophisticated and hilarious verbal ironies in the song "Pour Me a Man." In the show, two versions of this number bring down the house, while commenting on each other and ultimately on the most basic of human needs. If the play misses its mark on any level it's that Barton's script takes us often to the edge of deep self-awareness without always arriving.

No matter. The songs, the parody, the sheer joy of play, and especially Miss Gulch's penchant for double entendre engage and elevate. Almira offers herself up to us -- "May my mortification be your edification," and we take her, warts and all. It's loads of fun.

Fred Barton attended Throckmorton's first run of the show two years ago. That led to discussions about how to improve and update it. The result is a tighter script and two new numbers, the contemporary commentary of "I Can Be an Icon Too" (including reference to Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction") and the upbeat encore "Party Girl" which is borrowed from Barton's The Two Svengalis.

As usual, Fieldens Playhouse provides a perfect venue for such an intimate show, and Throckmorton plays this small house perhaps better than any other performer to date. He knows how to touch audience members as individuals with direct eye contact, and there's not even a hint of play-acting when his hand pats the knee of a front row viewer.

Randy Strawderman and T. Ross Aitken collaborated with Throckmorton to improve the staging of this show compared to its first run. Musical director and piano accompanist Timothy Brewster shares a palpable, though nicely understated, chemistry with Throckmorton. Special kudos to Thomas W. Hammond for his absolutely precise costuming.

Richmond clamored for more Miss Gulch two years ago. Now's your chance to be both amused and abused by this "musical vivisection of a stereotype" on its way to almost certainly great acclaim at the theatre festival in Columbus.

Copyright © 1997-2003 A Publication of Ginter Park Technologies, Inc.

The Wizardry Of 'Gulch'
by Roy Proctor, Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 08, 2002

Subtitle it "The Wit and Wacky Wisdom of Almira Gulch."

And call it downright wonderful as Robert Throckmorton, in the Richmond Triangle Players' Miss Gulch Returns, adds another immense audience-pleaser to his growing list of portrayals of outrageous women.

For 75 mercifully uninterrupted minutes, Throckmorton commands the tiny Fielden's Cabaret Theatre stage in Richmond's first production of this one-man musical.

First, clad in a black suit as himself, Throckmorton addresses one Almira Gulch in the audience and explains that this show is about "the musical resurrection of a stereotype."

Then, through the alchemy of theater, he transforms himself into Almira.

In one sense, Throckmorton had little to work with because Almira appeared so briefly as the bike-riding, dog-snatching Kansas spinster in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz.

As played by Margaret Hamilton, color her evil.

As played by Throckmorton in this cabaret-style tour de force created and first played by Fred Barton in the 1980s, color her complex, colorful, hilarious and, at times, even poignant.

Why did Almira snatch Dorothy's beloved Toto?

In Throckmorton's telling, it had something to do with Almira's love for a guy named Joe who threw her over for a blonde.

She loved, she lost, she suffered, and she became a sadder but wiser – and embittered – woman in the process.

Miss Gulch Returns! has nothing to do with Hamilton's playing the role on film.

It's predicated on the unlikely possibility that, after being reduced to a bit part in The Wizard of Oz after her big number, "I'm a Bitch," was cut, she ended up as an entertainer in an establishment called Dorothy's Bar and Lounge.

Funny thing is, Throckmorton makes all that seem likely from that early moment he sings the hilarious "I'm a Bitch," then cuts into a biographical number in which Almira explains that she was "born on a bike in West Topeka on an afternoon in 1902."

Throckmorton's unerring knack for comic timing based in female psychology and his ability to continually spring surprises based in character soon has the audience eating out of his long, tapered hands.

Barton's script is devilishly clever – so clever, in fact, that Almira seems to the Oscar Wilde epigrammatic manner born – and Throckmorton knows just how to lob each zinger into the house.

Sample: "As my mother always said, 'It's impolite not to keep the conversation going when the other person's mouth is full.'"

Or simply: "Frustration is the mother of appreciation."

Throckmorton, who staged the show with Randy Strawderman, gives each line its explosive due, sings as expressively as he speaks and gets fine support from musical director Timothy Brewster, who doubles as the onstage pianist.

Thomas W. Hammond's schoolmarmish costume for Almira springs a lot of surprises of its own. Timothy McMath's bar setting, which features a large rainbow and a ruby slipper as big as a canoe, is A-OK. McMath devised the fine lighting as well.

She'll Get You, My Pretty: Miss Gulch Returns
GAY RICHMOND, February 8, 2002, Reviewed by Carter Grove

She's Back!

You may not be able to recall who Miss Gulch was or name the actress who played her. After all, she had no musical numbers and was cast as the bicycling witch who puts Toto in a basket. She wasn't exactly one of the more endearing characters in The Wizard of Oz. But like one of your childhood nightmares, Almira Gulch is back in the Richmond Triangle Players production of Miss Gulch Returns!.

You might expect Miss Gulch to be a bitter, shrewish, aggressive, angry sort. She is. And yet, you can't help feeling for her all the same. Maybe it's all of her double and triple entendres, all the puns, and all the gender bending and gay-friendly humor ("As my mother used to say, show me a man with a sense of humor, and I'll show you his lover"). Perhaps it's because you sympathize with her unhappy childhood in West Topeka and the raw deal she's received since the film that ensured Judy Garland's fame. Or maybe it's because "In short, she's what each one of us will become."

Miss Gulch says she could have been like Judy Garland, with the "flamboyant men impersonating her to this day" if her musical number, "I'm a Bitch," hadn't been cut from the film. Ever since, she's been a lonely woman, frequenting cabarets, where she eventually became a performer. She drinks to excess, only because she can't find a man, as she tells us in the memorable tune "Pour Me a Man". The show appeals so well because it's part cabaret, part standup comedy, part drag show. What could be more fun?

When playwright/lyricist Fred Barton accidentally met Margaret Hamilton, he began a star-struck obsession that led to the development of Miss Gulch Returns. But where Fred Barton, who played the role in the original production, has Gulch sing in a clearly masculine New York cabaret style, Robert Throckmorton's renditions in this production sound like the way Miss Gulch would sing these songs. It's not just her voice that resonates, it's her style.

Throckmorton masters the stage, as well as his voice, body, facial expressions and timing. Even when the pianist misses a beat or hits the wrong key, Throckmorton never does. His ad-libs flow so easily that the untrained ear might think they are part of the original script. He first appears on stage as a man of low self-esteem who introduces and attempts to seduce Miss Gulch. By the time he changes into drag, Almira Gulch's tight-fisted body and repulsive big mouth stun the memory and mesmerize the attention. In Fieldens' very intimate venue it can be difficult even for the best actors to find the right chord to connect with the audience. The experienced Throckmorton plays this stage like it's his home field.

The costume design is right on target, down to the campy nose and fishnet stockings. Throckmorton's complete control of the house ensures that Miss Gulch Returns wickedly entertains.
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Brent Marty
FEBRUARY 2000: Miss Gulch Returns! received an epic production on the mainstage of Theatre On The Square in February 2000, to stunning critical acclaim (see raves, below). The production was nominated for the Indianapolis theatre awards in each of the 5 categories for which it was eligible, and made a clean sweep of all five awards at TOTS's Annual "Glitz" Awards on July 15, 2000: Best Production – Musical (Ron Spencer and David Stine); Best Actor – Musical (Brent E. Marty); Best Direction – Musical (Ron Spencer and David Stine); Best Lighting – Musical or Play (Kevin Brown); and Best Set – Musical or Play (Ron Spencer, David Stine, and Rob Koharchik of The Indianapolis Civic Theatre).

DECEMBER 2000: The Indianapolis production of Miss Gulch Returns! reopened in October, to a whole new slate of rave reviews (see below) at The National Comedy Theater, after its acclaimed, fully realized, epic mainstage production at Theatre On The Square. Returning were inexhaustible actor Brent Marty, romping and fuming with abandon, and pianist Paul Galloway, providing him/her with an admirably faithful and animated accounting of the score (Marty also occasionally played for himself, just for old time's sake). The new cabaret incarnation was produced by the indefatigable David Stine, and, as before, was directed by Mr. Stine and Ron Spencer.

OCTOBER 2002: On October 25, 2002, Indianapolis's Theatre-On-The-Square revived their acclaimed and heavily awarded production of Miss Gulch Returns! as part of their 20th Anniversary retrospective of their most successful productions. The latest raves:


Brent Marty: "I'm A Bitch"
'Miss Gulch' Takes A Fun Stroll Down The Yellow Brick Road
By Peter Szatmary, Indianapolis Star, October 26, 2002

Perched on the edge of a piano bench, the chanteuse strokes her Yorkshire terrier. The lights dim as she leans toward the audience.

The woman in black philosophizes about love for a few moments, then begins a torch song. Turning introspective, she transforms the wry ballad "Everyone Worth Taking (Has Been Taken)" into a vulnerable confession.

Caught up in a bittersweet passage, the transported entertainer opens her arms wide. The placid pooch goes right along with her.

Miss Almira Gulch captivates Theatre on the Square through the divine histrionics of Brent E. Marty.

He makes the spinster – who kidnapped Toto the dog and changed into the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939's The Wizard of Oz – the most irresistible hag this side of Kansas.

Marty and company first went over the top of the rainbow in the satirical cabaret act Miss Gulch Returns! in February 2000. At the preview performance, Marty already ruled the stage like a haughty queen removed from office.

He flounces and pounces and shifts from bratty to batty while reveling in the delectable lonely-heart. Marty roars through the double entendres and show-biz camp that comprise the 1985 "musical vivisection of a stereotype" by Fred Barton, best known for co-creating and performing in the debut Forbidden Broadway of the early 1980s. When Miss Gulch tries to vamp in "Pour Me a Man," Marty writhes on the counter of a bar as if overtaken by spasms. When she chronicles her one affair, he hunches in profile and in slow-motion strikes a melodramatic pose that ends up arthritic.

Marty charms and pouts, moans and sasses, often simultaneously. He brims with pride and revulsion as Miss Gulch insists, "Just because I'm not going to get it, doesn't mean I don't know what I want." Marty puffs his flat chest out as Miss Gulch asks for a romantic table for one at restaurants in "the fuming section."

Miss Gulch winds up a lounge singer after her number from Oz got cut. Marty renders her 10 or so tongue-in-cheek songs as mockumentaries, winking ever so coyly and grotesquely at the make-believe truths.

Ron Spencer's delightfully schizophrenic set splits between a disreputable lounge bar and a skewed "Oz" theme park. On one side of the stage, dozens of bottles shine with Technicolor liquids. On the other, green in the shade of envy saturates the yellow brick road, whose path spirals into a circular revolve atop of which rests a baby grand piano.

Spencer, who co-directed with David Stine, pipes in Judy Garland – Miss Gulch's nemesis and Dorothy in Oz – at intermission.

Their shrewdest move is to retain accompanist Paul Galloway, even though Barton wrote the piece for one actor behind the piano. While they overdo the pratfalls, Spencer and Stine free Marty to traipse about, and physical comedy goes a long way to enliven the caricature.

Marty wobbles on a bike as Miss Gulch, emotes, then teeters off. What a fun, loopy ride in between.

Miss Gulch Re-returns
Indianapolis NUVO (weekly), October 30, 2002

"Pour Me A Man"
The Wicked Witch of the West is a cross-dressing, self-proclaimed bitch whose love of song and hard alcohol has landed a shamelessly endearing gig at The Emerald City Lounge. For your information, Miss Gulch's career high came as a result of her debut in that infamous cinematic classic starring alongside Dorothy, Toto and the Yellow Brick Road posse. Ever since, she's been raising the roof in smoky lounges as she gripes about men, lost loves and the many ways life has wronged her.

Brent E. Marty (Miss Gulch) opens this witty musical as a tuxedoed emcee accompanied by a genuine piano sidekick played by Paul Galloway.

Just moments into the rush of Broadway-esque show tunes, Marty transforms himself into the prudish and hysterically pessimistic Miss Gulch. From then until the close of the curtain, Miss Gulch delivers non-stop laughter as she emulates an archetypical personality envied by all who have experienced bitterness, resentment and a willingness to let it all hang out for everyone else to see.

Brent and pianist Galloway play off of each other, creating a brilliant balance of talent on TOTS' charming set which features a spinning baby grand piano housed inside the very green Emerald City Lounge bordered by a wall of rainbow colored liquors and flashy mirrors. Most impressive was the delicate and diligent chemistry between Miss Gulch and Toto, played by Angel the dog. This TV- K-9 duet brought a tear to all doglovers and a jolt of laughter to everyone else.

Accomplished director, Ron Spencer, breathed life into this Fred Barton (Forbidden Broadway and The Two Svengalis) creation. Its flawless arrangement and fast-paced blocking made every second entirely fascinating and hilarious. Originally opening Off-Broadway in 1985, Miss Gulch Returns! has played to audiences around the country and, in 1986, an original cast album was released, jam-packed with all the zany tunes involved in this unconventional hit. Now, at Theatre on the Square, Miss Gulch can be seen in all of her harsh and hysterical beauty.Theatre on the Square is located at 627 Mass Ave. Call 637-8085 for reservations/information.

(OCTOBER 2000)


"Sometimes the smallest characters in movies can take on a life of their own.... I always wondered what happened to these characters after their parts were done. Sunday night I got some of my questions answered. Miss Gulch Returns, currently playing Sunday evenings at the National Comedy Theatre on Massachusetts Avenue, is a one man/woman show that takes the character of Miss Gulch from The Wizard of Oz, and in one evening tells us more about her than you would ever want to know.

Brent Marty turns in a tour de force performance. Not only is the timing flawless but, toward the end of the evening, you even feel some sympathy for her. This is not easy to do in a show filled with so many one-liners and double entendres. Under all the musical numbers (such as 'I'm a Bitch,' cut from The Wizard of Oz) he has an undercurrent of pity that I found to be captivating. His Miss Gulch is a little different from the movie. He doesn't really try to imitate; instead he makes the character his own with hilarious results. From the opening number to his/her finale the audience never stops laughing. One forgets that this is a one person show. Brent Marty easily slides from soliloquy to song to all out show-stopping numbers with the grace of a professional. If for no other reason this show could be seen just to witness the performance. However, aside from that, the script is hysterical. The humor never seems to let up. Not only do the jokes come forth at break-neck pace, they seem to resonate. By the time one sets in you're laughing at something else. The musical numbers, especially her lament about the fame of Judy Garland among many of the men she meets, is absolutely hysterical.... This show has gotten rave reviews in almost every local newspaper, and deservedly so. So, if you're looking for something to do one Sunday night, ease on down to the National Comedy Theatre. You won't be disappointed." - Ron Popp, The Reflector, 11/22/2000

The B*tch Is back! in new play:

"'Nanutanantananaa. Nanutanantananaa.' Do you remember those sinister bars from The Wizard of Oz when Miss Almira Gulch enters on her bicycle to steal away Toto and destroy him? Bet you never thought you'd see her again.

Well, the bike-riding bitch is back in Miss Gulch Returns!: The Wicked Musical, playing every Sunday night at 7 p.m. at The National Comedy Theatre in Indianapolis.

A special preview was last Sunday, when I had my first taste of the one-man show. Local actor-singer-musician Brent E. Marty begins the show as a lounge lizard intent upon giving us Miss Gulch and a little of her background. Accompanied on piano by Paul Galloway as Miss Gulch's comic side-kick, Marty dives into the character in full drag.

In the first act Miss Gulch heartbreakingly reveals the song that would have made her a star had she been allowed to perform it in The Wizard of Oz, "I'm a Bitch." Marty makes a very convincing Gulch as he turns her into a real woman who has known her share of rejection, yet refuses to compromise her beliefs. She tells the sad story of her dysfunctional family, her love of liquor, and her brief and singular affair with 'Joe.'

But telling the story doesn't really give the musical the credit it is due. I laughed so hard it hurt for most of the night. With numbers like "Pour Me A Man" and "Give My Best to the Blonde," I thought they could go no further across the line, until they did. The show is full of hilarious sexual references and the continuous banter between Marty and Galloway is a sketch comedy in itself.

Miss Gulch Returns! received a fully staged and choreographed production on the mainstage of Theatre on the Square in February. The Indianapolis Star called it sophisticated, and wickedly funny, and I certainly agree." - Amanda Strickland, Senior Columnist, The Franklin, 10/27/2000.

"Miss Gulch Returns"– to Great Success

"Did you ever wonder what happened to that wicked woman in The Wizard of Oz who steals Toto and rides her bicycle through the tornado cackling along the way? Well, probably not. But she's back and she's right here in Indianapolis singing, dancing and delighting audiences on Massachusetts [Avenue] every Sunday night through December 17 at 7 p.m. Enter the Emerald City Lounge and the world of Almira Gulch (Brent Marty) post 'Oz' fame. She is mad, bad and ready to say a thing or two about how shortchanged she was in Hollywood. (Her solo in Gone with the Wind "I Don't Give a Damn and Stop Calling Me Frankly" was cut from the movie.) Marty is dynamic and charming, carrying the show along with his charismatic energy and powerful vocal chords. You never know what he… I mean 'she' will do next. With Paul Galloway's commanding talent of the piano and co-direction by Indianapolis' Kings of frisky after-hours comedy (Ron Spencer & David Stine), this show is a sure hit! So go to The National Comedy Theatre and be amused, be entertained, and be home in 90 minutes." – Crystal Roberts, The Collegiate, 11/16/2000 (4 stars out of 4)


"For those of you who missed Miss Almira Gulch the first time around, now is the time to redeem yourself, for she is happily returning. Initially presented at Theatre On The Square, now it can be seen and heard at The National Comedy Theatre. However, if this is your first time in this auspicious area, the address is 721 Massachusetts Avenue, in the heart of offbeat theatre.

Miss Gulch Returns! is a one-person show strenuously built around the tremendous talent, Brent E. Marty, a local actor with surprising credentials. He is a tireless performer with an abundance of explosive energy. He never stops moving, and neither does the comedy.

Marty actually plays two parts. In the beginning, he just sort of interviews Miss Almira Gulch, the frustrated, cranky, sarcastic, evil-mouth, wicked dog-napper from The Wizard of Oz. Then he transforms himself into her right before your eyes. When he takes on this character – or she takes over him – the comedy really blossoms into hysterical laughter. Miss Gulch kindly invites audience participation and then proceeds to properly ignore it. She definitely is some kind of independent and free-spirited witch.

The [preview] night I saw this production, the small audience roared with laughter. A lot of the comedy comes from the ingenuity of Brent E. Marty, but the most credit should go to the man who created this whole thing, Fred Barton. He wrote the funny dialogue full of blue thoughts, manufactured the original lyrics full of blue rhymes, and composed the snappy music full of blue notes. But Almira Gulch is anything but blue. She is sharp, stinging, and pleasantly wicked, thanks to Fred Barton and Brent E. Marty.

This production was produced and directed by those masters of the winking eye, Ron Spencer and David Stine. Paul Galloway was piano accompanist. The show lasts about an hour and 40 minutes including intermission, of which the timing was done using a huge hourglass full of red sand. Being presented every Sunday evening at 7 pm, this is a thoroughly enjoyable show. Indianapolis must learn to appreciate the extraordinary talent of the fabulous Brent E. Marty." – Charles Epstein, The Jewish Post & Opinion, 11/1/2000.

* * * * * [out of 5 stars] - MISS GULCH RETURNS (National Comedy Theatre - 721 Mass. Ave.) Brent E. Marty returns as the Wizard of Oz antagonist turned nightclub singer. Highest recommendation. Sundays Oct. 22 - Dec. 17, 7 p.m. $15. – Lisa Gauthier, Nuvo Newsweekly, 10/19/2000
"If you love The Wizard Of Oz, you are going to love a one-man show going on here in Indy. Brent Marty is the star of Miss Gulch Returns!... Well, I will not be visiting Kansas, because you scared me.... It was wonderful!" – Clarence Reynolds, WXIN-TV Fox 59, 10/19/2000

"I love him! I love him! - Jordana Green, WXIN-TV Fox 59, 10/19/2000


Miss Gulch Gets A Witch's Revenge In Clever Show
By Marion Garmel, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS (Wed. Feb. 9, 2000) – Don't look now, but Miss Gulch, the bicycle-riding harridan who threatens Dorothy's dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz, is getting her revenge.

Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons on the mainstage at Theatre on the Square, the bicycling cyclone in black, who will become the Wicked Witch of the West once Dorothy and Toto land in Oz, is wowing audiences with "her" one-woman cabaret show, plus piano accompaniment.

Brent E. Marty, normally accompanist and music director for several area theaters, takes the stage first as a tuxedo-clad lounge singer who finds (an imaginary) Miss Gulch sitting at a table and decides the world is clamoring to know her better. "You're the woman I like, which I'd wanna be like, if I wanted to be like a woman," he sings. And then, bending over to pick a hat and wig out of a basket, flipping his collar and swirling a scarf around his waist – presto, change-o! – he is Miss Gulch, who describes herself in the title of her first song as a word that rhymes with witch and is not printable in a family newspaper.

The gender game

Yes, this is a show in which a man is playing a woman, but most Judy Garland impersonators also are male. And, as Miss Gulch argues, if she'd been allowed to sing her song in The Wizard of Oz the way Garland sang Dorothy's Over the Rainbow, "flamboyant men across the countryside would have been putting on dresses and imitating me."

This is such a clever show, in words and music, that you want to wrap it up and take it home. Marty is a delicious, pinched-up, bitter, disappointed woman with a voice like a hurricane. The set and props, borrowed from Civic Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz, fit remarkably well, from the Kansas house that falls on the witch with the ruby slippers (finally worn by Miss Gulch instead of Dorothy) to the Gothic lights from the witch's ominous castle to the yellow brick road that swirls around the stage.

On the side opposite the fallen house, accompanist Paul Galloway sits at an upright piano on a raised platform, and you haven't seen anything until you've watched Miss Gulch drape herself across the top of that piano. At the rear, a large mirrored bar is backdrop to a pyramid of bottles that light up and twinkle as Miss Gulch sings about the many uses of alcohol to numb the frustrations of unrequited love.

It all works well

Co-directed by Ron Spencer and actor David Stine (a friend of the author's who secured the show for Indianapolis), with Jeannie Logan as vocal coach and Kevin Brown handling the lighting, everything falls into place.

I'd be remiss if I didn't call attention to the clever rhymes – "I find it hilarious that we're so similarious" – and the sly humor, such as the lyrics, "When you're born on a bike in West Topeka on an afternoon in nineteen-o-two," which perfectly parallels Garland's hit song (not from The Wizard of Oz) about being born in a trunk at the Princess Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho.

Everybody involved deserves a big hand, even if this is not your usual musical comedy. It's a superior cabaret show that is slumming in a theater.

Be warned, the show is sophisticated, wickedly funny and not for young kids, which is why the free tickets available for young people through this month's New Audiences for the New Millennium Festival are limited to ages 16-18.

The Bitch Is Back
By Chad Marshall, Indianapolis Night & Day Editor
Rating: * * * * (Out of four)

If you want a night full of unrestrained belly-laughs, just click your heels together three times and say, "There's no place like TOTS!" because Theatre on the Squares' current production of Miss Gulch Returns is the funniest show to hit the Indy theater scene this season.

Miss Gulch Returns takes a post-Wizard of Oz look at Almira Gulch, the crabby old lady who whisked Toto away from Dorothy during the black and white segment of the famous film. Why? Because, according to Brent E. Marty's lounge-lizard character who opens the show (reminiscent of Buddy Cole from The Kids in the Hall), funding for Gulch studies in colleges across the country have been slashed, if not eliminated entirely. And that's bad because (in silly pseudo-intellectual terms) growing up exposed to Almira Gulch year after year on TV has psychologically implanted her characteristics in all of us and, if not careful, we'll all end up just like her: A frustrated bitch.

Marty's charm and charisma are infectious from his first entrance as he invites everyone to come to the reception after the show because "the only downside about one-man shows is that the cast parties are dismal." Cheesy jokes with perfect comic delivery make just about every utterance by Marty a riot.

But the lounge lizard is only the beginning. After a couple of quick Velcro rips and untucks, Marty transforms from lounge lizard into – well – another lizard: Almira Gulch, Entertainress Extraordinaire of the Emerald City Lounge. And then the fun really begins.

Almira, unhappy in life and love, launches into a hilarious torch song tirade beginning with the song that was cut from the final print of The Wizard of Oz, "I'm a Bitch."

Gulch laments that life could have been different for her if her song (much better than Garland's "Over the Rainbow") had not been cut: "flamboyant men across the country would have been putting on dresses and impersonating me!" Gulch's Hollywood hard luck stories continue as she bitterly tells how she missed out playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, which ruined the opportunity for her to sing "My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn Either, and Stop Calling Me Frankly."

Miss Gulch Returns is filled with funny lines too numerous to count and songs with such clever (and liberal) rhyme schemes that there isn't one second that goes un-enjoyed. Plus, Almira passes out chocolates to the audience, putting her on my A list forever.

But, fantastic as he was, Marty didn't pull off the one-man show alone. Musical accompanist Paul Galloway plays a low-key Teller to Marty's Penn for a couple of good gags; Yorkshire Terrier Angel makes a cameo as Toto for a cute warm and fuzzy factor; and the colorful, fun and fabulous set is the best I've see at TOTS.

If you see one play this year, see Miss Gulch Returns. If you see two plays this year, see Gulch again.

Indianapolis NUVO:
MISS GULCH RETURNS!: ***** (out of five)

It's Twister Time! Why create a one-man show about one of the lesser Wizard Of Oz characters, you ask? Because, according to Fred Barton's script, early Gulch exposure is embedded in all of our psyches; she is what we will all become: a frustrated bitch. The show opens with star Brent E. Marty trying to pick up Gulch in the Emerald City Lounge and explodes into a cabaret with flirty, frustrated Gulch, the spinster performance junkie, singing her blues about lost men, fame, and the comfort of alcohol. If only she'd gotten to sing her title song in Wizard, "I'm a Bitch," "flamboyant men would be putting on dresses and impersonating me." She had hope at one point in Joe, a man like no other: "He didn't run away nauseated." But what do you expect from someone you pick up in a gym? This show is stellar and hysterical, not only in the excellent slap-stick courtesy of Marty, but in the most elaborate set I've seen for a one-man show, great off-stage sound effects, a subtle accompanist/sidekick in Paul Galloway and always on-cue lighting. Added bonuses include a special appearance by Toto (stick around after the show to meet her!) and chocolate (the ultimate substitute for being in love). Go! – Lisa Gauthier.

'MISS GULCH' mirthfully mischievous
The Indianapolis Jewish Post, Charles Epstein

Theatre On The Square presents Miss Gulch Returns!, a cabaret-style one-man show, starring Brent Marty, a maniacal comedian who also is an accomplished pianist. Miss Gulch Returns! was created by the warped mind of Fred Barton, whose sophisticated lounge dialogue and clever lyrics keep the audiences in stitches.

Just in case someone does not remember who Miss Almira Gulch is, she's the bicycle-riding hag who turns into the flying witch in the film, The Wizard of Oz. Marvelously portrayed by Margaret Hamilton, who replaced Gale Sondergaard, the original actress cast in the role, she will be forever remembered for her superb performance and extraordinary wickedness.

But now Margaret Hamilton has some daring competition in the person of Brent Marty, whose portrayal of The Emerald City Lounge lizard at the beginning of the show at TOTS is also extraordinarily wicked, explaining Miss Gulch's views about men. Then suddenly a fantastic transformation takes place on stage. Marty sheds his formal tuxedo and dons the garb of Miss Gulch. He, or she, then starts the shady proceedings in the first person. Getting and having a man is an utmost concern of Miss Almira Gulch.

Fred Barton's short musical play does not contain foul language, except for the word that rhymes with "witch." However, there is definitely a blue tinge on stage. In fact, the dialogue and lyrics sink to a deep purple. Barton does all this with double and even triple entendres. Add Brent Marty's depraved comedic timing plus his devilish facial expressions and you have normal language that would make a sailor blush. Marty waits for the exact moment to deliver his mischievous punch lines and evil smirks.

The set is a fabulous combination of a bar, a piano on an elevated turntable of which Paul Galloway expertly accompanies Marty, and a sort of lean-to house that has settled upon an unfortunate witch with red slippers. There is a yellow brick road and ramps for Miss Gulch to perilously ride her bicycle at speeds of which crashes occur. Marty reveals his dexterity in many ways, including the art of ad-libbing.

Ron Spencer and David Stine directed this evening of hilarious craziness. Stine is also listed in the program as the sponsor of this most unusual presentation.

The show is in two acts divided by a 20-minute intermission. Each act is approximately 40 minutes. Theatre On The Square is always providing different and unusual entertainment, but this production takes the cake with plenty of hysterical icing. TOTS, we thank you.

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