Until November 12, CTORA Theatre presents The Wizard of Oz (RSC Version), at Granville Island Stage. Directed by Mark Carter, this version, adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, faithfully recreates the beloved songs and iconic moments from the acclaimed 1939 film.
At some point over the last 84 years nearly everyone has come across the beloved film, so the story of Dorothy Gale finding friends, acceptance and a way home from ‘over the rainbow’ is surely familiar to most audience members. A family-filled audience for a Saturday evening performance clearly came ready to enjoy the timeless classic. From the squeals of emotion, and chatter from the younger audience members many were being introduced to The Wizard of Oz for the first time. A testament to the iconic source material, many will flashback to their own feelings of fright and anxiety when the characters are put in danger, or the Wicked Witch appears for the first time. Equally, the joy, levity and inspiration when they succeed in their mission also carry on to the stage.
Against Set Designer Brian Ball’s simple but very effective set, bursts of colour explode as the tornado takes us over the rainbow and we find a world of colourful costumes from a team of costume designers including: Emma Blu Pabuay, Fiona Raavita, Jaimie Lievers, Judy Cerny, Julie White, Lily Yuan each taking on different characters and groups. From the monotone Kansas farmers, to the Technicolor Munchkins or the jewel-toned Emerald City citizens, the costumes help the brilliant cast of CTORA’s The Wizard of Oz to shine.
Bright, young talent, Camryn Macdonald, as Dorothy with Arya as Toto by her side, takes the lead as Keith Macmillan as the rubber limbed Scarecrow and Kansas farmhand Hunk, Preston Wilder as the emotionally rusty Tin Man/Hickory and the powerful voiced Johnathan Gagne as the Lion/Zeke, follow the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard (Kieran Martin Murphy). Providing magical assistance, Jennie Neuman is a (literally) sparkling beacon as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North brings light and hope. Glinda is a counter to the green-with-envy Wicked Witch of the West, played with zeal by Kryst Hogan (also playing Almira Gultch in Kansas). Taking cues from Margaret Hamilton’s film version, Hogan’s Wicked Witch is a blend of terrifying malevolence mixed with a bit of comedy-camp in the style of Witchiepoo (for those of us, of a certain age), keeping her from being too frightening for all-ages.
Rounding out the cast Andrew Gillott plays Dorothy’s Uncle Henry as well as the comedic Wizard’s Emerald City Guard. In our evening’s performance, Maria Marshall stepped into the role of the beloved Auntie Em – a character usually played by the same actor as Glinda. The ensemble of children and adults fill the land of Oz with Munchkins, Emerald City Citizens, Winkies/Wicked Witch Guards, Flying Monkeys, and Jitterbugs. The latter bring to like the reinstated song, The Jitterbug, referenced in the script but cut from the original film. A reprise of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead (reprise) at the Wicked Witches’ castle also returns to the production.
Bringing this iconic production to the stage, with a cast mixed with amateur and professional performers, is a huge undertaking and CTORA successfully brings back fond memories for us adults and introduces this world ‘over the rainbow’ to new youth audiences. The only quibbles found during the performance I attended was some occasional issued with microphones and the volume of the recorded music leading some actors to sound like they were straining their vocals to be heard. At just under 3 hours, including intermission, the long performance may test the attention span, and bladder, of some younger audience members.