HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The Wizard of Oz gets a dream production from YPT

by Drew Rowsome - photos by Cylla von Tiedemann


You'd better be afraid, there's not a more infectious spell in my book

The creators of Young People's Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz must have a more comprehensive spell book than the Wicked Witch of the West. "The Jitterbug" that she unleashes is indeed virulent, but this production sparkles and beguiles, casts a spell, in a way that is utterly irresistible. 

By this point I have seen the classic film innumerable times, a big-budget spectaculara satirical campy pantomime riffWicked twice, two filmed versions of The Wiz and two sequels to the original film. And read a revisionist trilogy as well as Geoff Ryman's brilliant Was. I wasn't sure I needed to see another version of The Wizard of Oz. But as soon as Vanessa Sears applied her golden voice to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the entire audience was hooked.

This production takes as its premise that the adventures in Oz are all Dorothy's dreams. Usually this feels like a cop-out but director Joey Tremblay uses it to his advantage. Everything Oz is from Dorothy's Kansas-bred perspective: characters are formed from familiar objects, the music and choreography are country/folk inflected, and in the few places where special effects are usually wielded, there is clever substitute or a least a wink at the audience. 

And this Dorothy must also have watched a lot of stand-up, punchlines are emphasized and everyone plays shamelessly to, but not down to, the audience. This works wonderfully when the Wicked Witch tries to uncover just who dropped the house on her sister and again when the Cowardly Lion asks and audience member if his nose is bleeding after being struck by Dorothy. However it is a little disturbing when the reprise of "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" is turned into a clap-a-long, especially considering the malevolently mischevious work Amy Matysio (Repetitive Strain Injury) has put into bringing the Wicket Witch of the West to life.

Matysio mugs, belts the blues (why, oh why, did Margaret Hamilton not get a song? Every current Wicked Witch seems somehow cheated), plays the drums, cackles convincingly, and milks her "I'm melting" death scene for all the comedy, and a bit of the pathos, there is. She may not have been actually terrifying except for the one teenage boy who she approached in the audience: he shrunk back in such sudden fear that the seat he was in should be checked for a possible mop up.

Justin Bott is a delightful Cowardly Lion, riffing on a combination of Bert Lahr and Pee-Wee Herman. Any hearts he didn't steal were captured by Matthew G Brown's Tin Man who has an extraordinary hearty voice and the limber David Coomber (RedFortune and Men's Eyes) whose Scarecrow exhibited comic timing that earned laughs far beyond what is in the text. Jamie McRoberts' Glinda tap dances (literally) and, except for a freaky resemblance to Baby Jane, is satirically cloying. 

Puppets are used brilliantly for The Wizard and magically for Toto who transforms into Nathan Carroll who is a fuzzball wise beyond his years. Omar Forrest gets the most impressive dance moves as the creepy Jitterbug and Vanessa Sears' Dorothy is innocent, brave and, as mentioned, possesses a gorgeous voice. The entire ensemble juggles roles and of particular joy in what is a seminal gay text, several of the chorus girls were, with no comment, men in skirts. The theme of acceptance of difference and becoming one's true self runs through the production like a yellow brick road.

If you have a kid to introduce to the theatre, do not hesitate - the other wonder of the concept is that it encourages imagination and a sense of "I could do that." I suspect this production will inspire many school plays and raise the level of each of them. And if you feel like being a kid yourself, revisiting Oz is always a dream and this The Wizard of Oz mashes the nostalgia with a contemporary comedic touch that makes it fresh while still the classic dear to our hearts.

The Wizard of Oz runs until Sun, May 15 at Young People's Theatre, 165 Front St E. youngpeoplestheatre.ca


7

 

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct - '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct - '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep - '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep - '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep - '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep - '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep - '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul - '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul - '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul - '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun - '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun - '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun - '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May - '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May - '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May - '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11