Wizard of Oz photo

Dorothy and friends knocking on the door of Emerald City to see the Wizard.

Courtesy of Grand Theatre

Rating: 4/5 

Most of us know the story of The Wizard of Oz; the characters of Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, as well as the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," are etched into our minds.

But seeing this nostalgic story played out live and on a theatre stage is a completely different experience: It’s much more immersive. Director Rick Miller, who previously worked on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, makes the experience unique by adding a clever multimedia aspect to the show.

Through projections, film manipulation, live video feeds and illusions, Miller recreates the 1930s Hollywood glam look in a way that’s amusing, fun and beautiful. With projection screens the sets are diverse, ranging from sepia-toned farmlands to vibrant and colourful settings like those of Munchkinland, coupled with great performances, this show is an all around happy-go-lucky experience.

Michelle Bouey, who plays Dorothy, brings all of the charm and enthusiasm that you would expect from the character. With a soft and warm singing voice and a childish disposition, she fits the part like a glove. Her companions, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, played by Kyle Blair, Marcus Nance and Bruce Dow respectively, offer wonderfully accurate performances of each character.

When playing Scarecrow, Blair stumbles, wriggles and dances like he weighs nothing. Tin Man clinks and clanks whenever he moves his rusted arms and legs, and the Cowardly Lion hilariously parades around the stage like a big cowardly stuffed animal.

Toto, an actual dog actor played by Neddy Shevchenko definitely stole the show, attracting "ooh's and 'awe's" from the crowd whenever he scurried across the stage and into Dorothy’s arms.

While most of the performances were nearly flawless, the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Carly Street, suffered a few slips and mishaps along the show. It was difficult to tell whether Street was trying to play an awkward and funny villain, like a Dr. Evil or a Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, or whether she was simply messing up lines.

In terms of the blocking, choreography and singing, however, everything was sound on all fronts. In general, the show ran smoothly even with all of the stage effects and projections. 

While it’s nearly impossible to recreate The Wizard of Oz in a way that’s new to viewers, Miller still manages to make the show feel new by using techniques that are unique only to theatre, like props, set design and lights. 

Miller also switches up the character of Oz, played by George Masswohl, by making him a film director. In a written statement found in the program, Miller says that “Our Wizard is a film director, and the Wicked Witch of the West is his onscreen villain.” 

Using Oz in this way, Miller expands on the idea of illusion and self-deceit. Both Oz and the Wicked Witch know how to “get the shot,” as Miller explains in the program, often playing with the camera and acknowledging it. When the curtain falls, however and Oz is found out to be a fake, it becomes clear just how far off we can be with what we think is true.

The Wizard of Oz is definitely a kids' show, but looking past the singing Munchkins and the crazy antics, the core message of this America classic still hits home: that what we dream of is ultimately already inside of us.

The Wizard of Oz runs at the Grand Theatre until Dec. 31.

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Moses Monterroza is a news editor for Volume 110 of the Gazette. Previously, he was an arts and life editor for Volume 109, and staff writer for Volume 108. You can reach him at moses@westerngazette.ca.

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