The Quotable Sayak
The Quotable Sayak is a critic, contributor and coordinator of social media at SesayArts and student at Sesaya.
The wonderful joy of musicals . . . the catchy punchlines, the can’t-get-out-of-your-head songs, and the amazing acting. The Wizard of Oz is a hit musical that has existed for over 50 years from a book that has existed for over 100 years! The Young People’s Theatre (YPT) production now playing displays a fresh take on the classic, beloved musical and its actors’ many, many talents. Between the tap-dancing Good Witch of the North, the drum-playing Wicked Witch of the West, the guitar-playing Toto, the hilarious dialogue and the singable songs, there is something for everyone from age 6 to 106 years to enjoy.
The Countdown – Top 3 Things I LOVED about YPT’s Wizard of Oz:
YPT’s spin on the characters is, well . . . refreshing. A character that really stood out to me was the tap-dancing Good Witch of the North (Jamie McRoberts) because this element adds a joyful, kooky touch that reminds us all that this is Oz, where anything can happen. Possibly the most interesting and thought-provoking characterization is Toto the dog. Toto first comes out as a puppet controlled by an actor. After Dorothy sings “Over The Rainbow,” and she and Toto magically go to Oz, he becomes a “human-dog” (a dog played by a human, Nathan Carroll). At first I was confused, but as I got used to it, I thought that this idea was great! It helps to separate the “real” from the “dream” world (Kansas and Oz).
The punchlines and the funny improv are really what ties the show and story together. The Scarecrow, especially, got some really funny lines. I personally really enjoyed this exchange: When Dorothy asks, “How are you talking if you haven’t got a brain?”, the Scarecrow responds, “I don’t know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” An example of the improv occurs when all of a sudden, about halfway through the show, the Wicked Witch of the West (Amy Matysio) is in the balcony. She jokes a little bit with the people sitting in the seats below by saying “When you booked your tickets, you clearly missed the hot seats,” gesturing to the balcony seats with her broom, which can throw sparks. These light touches, with unexpected, over-the-top dramatizations, help to make the heavy themes (Dorothy wanting to go home and the Wicked Witch trying to stop her) easier for children to accept.
One last thing that I really love about this specific production of The Wizard of Oz is the shorter length and how strategically the time is used. This production is 90 minutes, with no intermission, which is beneficial because, this way, the director, Joey Tremblay, can cut out any unnecessary things. The Scarecrow who longs for a brain. . . the Tin Man who needs a heart. . . the Cowardly Lion who wants courage. . . each gets a few minutes to introduce themselves and have their own time to shine. They break out into song (just like in any musical), and each sings about what they’re missing, whether it be a heart, brain, or courage. The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz (Alana Hibbert) gets her song (yes, her!) when she helps Dorothy (Vanessa Sears), The Scarecrow (David Coomber), The Tin Man (Matthew G. Brown), and Cowardly Lion (Justin Bott) to get what they came for. I feel in other musical versions and in the movie, The “Great and Powerful” Wizard of Oz takes too long to actually get to this part of helping others, so this pacing really helped to keep me interested. Also, the way the Wicked Witch of the West melted was unique and hilarious. Amy Matysio really elevated this part to a place I never thought it could go. She melted in a magnificent and dramatic way. She contorted her body and gradually moved downwards and then slid offstage, like a puddle. This might be my favourite moment of the musical.
One Friendly Suggestion . . .
I felt the transition time between Kansas and Oz (the few seconds when the characters were moving set pieces and I could hear a cackling laugh), was too short, so I didn’t get to absorb the full experience. If it was even just 10 seconds longer, I could feel like I was moving there with everyone, too; however, as soon as I started to connect, we were already in Oz.
Overall, this Wizard of Oz show is DEFINITELY not short of laughs, fun, and dramatic awesomeness. This is 100% one of the top 3 shows of the YPT season.
It’s over–and beyond–the rainbow. So, follow the yellow brick road . . . right to the Young People’s Theatre.
News You Can Use
What: The Wizard of Oz, based on the book by L. Frank Baum (and he wrote 13 sequels you can also read!)
Who: Audiences 6 years and up
When: On stage until May 15, 2016
Where: Young People’s Theatre, 165 front Street, Toronto, ON
FYI: YoungPeoplesTheatre.ca and 416.862.2222
Study Guide for parents and educators
© 2016 Sayak S-G, Sesaya