The stage production of the Wizard of Oz came complete with flying monkeys, cute munchkins and a real live Toto. Alberta Theatre Projects pulled out all the stops in their holiday production.
Opening to a simple backdrop of a house with the sun in the sky, the characters prepare because the skies are clouding over and they fear a twister is coming. Dorothy (Ksenia Thurgood) is upset because the neighbour Miss Almira Gulch, has gotten a Sheriff’s order to have Toto (Tyson) destroyed because Toto allegedly bit her. Dorothy decides to run away and thus unfolds the familiar tale of the Wizard of Oz.
This production of The Wizard of Oz is definitely a family show, but it is not without its nods to the adults in the audience. Particularly the tribute to the Lion King by the Cowardly Lion (Kevin Corey) and the lines filled with puns when putting Scarecrow back together. Alberta Theatre Projects brought a big story to the stage with the help of projections and videos. The depictions of the flying monkeys and the twister moving the house was all taken up by video, allowing the story to come to life on the stage.
The play is backed by strong acting. Thurgood hit the notes on some of the more difficult songs though had a tough time portraying being frightened when she was locked in the Witch’s lair. She does have some pretty big ruby slippers to fill though. Corey as the Cowardly Lion was a perfect blend of humorous and silly. Bruce Horak was charming as Scarecrow and portrayed his physicality with full accuracy, it always seemed like his legs were made of straw. The Tinman (David Leyshon) was also very well acted. Elinor Holt does a fabulous job as the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s exciting to play Dorothy, but the playing the Wicked Witch must be more fun. And Holt goes to town with the role, pulling comical expressions and cackling loudly at audience members as she passes by (she made this reviewer jump a couple of times). Tyson steals the show as Toto, doing very well being called by a different name and is impressively unfazed by a theatre full of people.
John Pennoyer’s set and costume designs are worth noting as well. Using trap doors and smoke and big moving parts made for impressive storytelling. It isn’t the same yellow brick road as the movie, but it fits the bill none the less. The live cello and piano are also a very nice touch.
As it is with a family show, one of the best parts is the little kid in the audience who says “that’s not good,” when the Wicked Witch comes flying in. The Wizard of Oz is great holiday fun.
The Wizard of Oz runs at Alberta Theatre Projects until December 31st. Tickets available online or at the door.