If you want to see The Wizard of Oz, you don’t need to follow the yellow brick road to Australia or the Emerald City. You can just jump onto a TTC subway and take a ride to Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St., Toronto ON).
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest production opened in January and tells the classic story of Dorothy’s attempt to return home to Kansas that sees her farmhouse caught up in a cyclone and depositing her in Munchkin Country, in the eastern quadrant of the Land of Oz.
While trying to find her way back to her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, Dorothy is told by the Good Witch of the North that she has to travel to Emerald City and ask the Wizard of Oz for assistance. Along the way, the heroine frees a Scarecrow without a brain, assists a Tin Man without a heart and is joined by a Cowardly Lion who lacks courage. The unlikely trio join Dorothy on her quest in an attempt to secure what they have been missing from the Wizard as well.
The show itself fuses traditional theatre with a fascinating reality component as Dorothy is played by LaSalle, Ontario’s Danielle Wade, who secured the role by winning the CBC reality show, Over The Rainbow.
I checked out the show on Thursday and was entertained by the show, which really didn’t deviate at all from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel or the 1939 film adaptation.
Really, the show is specifically geared toward children (as it should be). Kids of all ages will be dazzled by the vibrant color that is the production’s strongest aspect. From the yellow brick road to Dorothy’s sparkling red shoes to the shimmering set design, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” might as well refer to the striking palettes that are effectively employed.
In addition, the fusion of classic movie songs like the aforementioned “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with new material from Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (like the Wicked Witch From The West’s Act 2 opening chanson) does offer an interesting concerto and is a notable highlight.
The all-Toronto cast also delivers. Jamie McKnight’s Scarecrow is easily the standout performance, but his cohorts Mike Jackson as the Tinman and Lee MacDougall as the Lion also warranted their raucous post-show applause.
Danielle Wade was also strong as the show’s title character while perhaps a little too convincing in wide-eyed portrayal of the naïve farm girl. I also thoroughly enjoyed Lisa Horner as the Wicked Witch of the West, combining a cantankerous cackle with a verbose villainy that was an Oz highlight.
Really, the only disclaimer is also the show’s strongest suit. Unlike Wicked or Avenue Q, there really isn’t an intellectual dynamic to the show or any kind of new adult-driven angle. As a result, its best audience is probably its only one. Make sure you bring your kids with you as they will eat up the entertainment.
The Wizard of Oz runs until August at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
For ticket info, check out Mirvish.com