The Wizard of Oz

Tilley as Toto steals the Hotdog and the Show

Pack up the kids and follow the yellow brick road to Grand Bend for a visit to the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz, now running at Huron 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 last winter in St. Jacobs. She continues to have audience appeal, getting “aaahhhhhs” every time she trots across the stage. She even wears a little red coat when she is disguised as a Winkie.

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.

Sarah Higgins, who was in the ensemble last December, has moved into the lead role as Dorothy. She has an engaging smile, good stage presence and a beautiful voice. Her rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is heartfelt.

Nick Settimi is Zeke and a hilarious Cowardly Lion, complete with the Snagglepuss voice. His handling of Toto delights the audience. Jordan Bell is an excellent Scarecrow, stumbling about on his straw-filled legs. The Tin Man and Hickory are played capably by David Ludwig.

Lisa Horner is wonderfully horrible as the nasty Miss Gulch and the hideous Wicked Witch. Lisa’s penchant for comedy is well-known at Huron Country Playhouse – she was hilarious as Penny’s mother in Hairspray last summer, and of course, when her face isn’t painted green, she is recognizable as the “Start the car” lady in the Ikea commercials. She brings that sense of fun to the Wicked Witch.

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 an improvement over what was used last winter on the smaller St. Jacob’s stage. The tornado is very well done, with the house and even a cow being spun around. Costumes are colourful and there are frequent changes. The choreography is well done, performed by excellent dancers in the ensemble.

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. There are two teams of 11 children who take turns appearing on stage. 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 June 23 at Huron Country Playhouse. Tickets are available at Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check

The 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 Sarah Higgins, Jordan Bell, Nick Settimi,David Ludwig, Lisa Horner, Brian McKay, et al (with Tilley as Toto)
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 4 to June 23, 2012
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Note: I saw this same production last December in St. Jacobs. This blog is an update of that review.


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