The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

wizard-of-oz

Book by L. Frank Baum
Music & Lyrics Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Directed by Adam Furfaro
Choreographed by Linda Garneau
Musical direction by Peter Aylin
Performed by Amy Wallis, Stephen Roberts, Nick Settimi, Jonathan Whittaker, Jackie Mustakas, Brian McKay, et al (with Tilley as Toto).
Drayton Entertainment Production
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
November 16 to December 18, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

And Your Little Dog, Too!

Pack up the kids and follow the yellow brick road to St. Jacobs for a visit to the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz, now running at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse is a great family show – it has an engaging adult cast, an enthusiastic children’s chorus and best yet, an adorable real live Toto. In fact, Tilley who plays Toto, has an impressive bio in the program. A Norfolk terrier, she is reprising the role she played two years ago at London’s Grand Theatre, and continues to have audience appeal, getting “aaahhhhhs” every time she trots across the stage.

The story is well known, thanks to the 1939 movie. Dorothy runs away from home with Toto, afraid of the nasty old neighbour, Miss Gulch. A tornado hits Kansas, and Dorothy is swept away to the Land of Oz – or is she just dreaming after a bump on the head? She goes on a quest to return home, and finds new friends, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Together they seek out the Wizard to help her get back to Kansas.

Amy Willis plays a feisty Dorothy. Wallis comes to the role, having played Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown, making her Dorothy as mischievous as Anne.

Stephen Roberts is hired hand Hunk and The Scarecrow with spaghetti legs and a wonderful ability to tumble. His acrobatic skills make it easy to believe that The Scarecrow suddenly comes to life

The Tin Man and Hickory are played capably by Jonathan Whittaker, while Nick Settimi is Zeke and a hilarious Cowardly Lion, complete with the Snagglepuss voice.

The beautiful Jackie Mustakas is wonderfully horrible as the homely Miss Gulch and the hideous Wicked Witch. In fact, with her green face, poor posture and screeching voice she is not recognizable. It’s a good thing her own two children as part of the ensemble – if they had just dropped by the theatre to see the show, they would not know their own mother.

Brian McKay is a delightful Professor Marvel, sharing his hotdog with little Toto, and later plays the Wizard with warmth – the audience loves him despite the fact he’s a humbug.

The set is the only disappointment in the show. It opens in a straggly corn field and one wonders if the tornado has already gone through. Other times, they rely on painted backdrops, some of which are wrinkled. Thankfully excitement is added with the tornado, when the house, a cow, Miss Gulch’s bicycle and an assortment of other pieces of Kansas go flying around.

This is a show that children will enjoy – Dorothy and her trio create fun, while the Witch offers a bit of a scare, and the chorus keeps the show moving along. Of the 50 or so children in the ensemble, 16 to 18 are rotated into the show for each performance. The local youngsters keep the show interesting, and make it truly a family experience.

The Wizard of Oz continues with eight shows a week until December 18 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are available at Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check www.draytonentertainment.com

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