Starring in The Wizard of Oz at Point Pleasant Park are musicians Sophie Schade and Garry Williams, Kathryn McCormack as Auntie Em, Jade Douris as Dorothy and musicians Deivan Steele and Dylan Brenton. (Michelle Raine)
The Wizard of Oz goes through a tornado itself in Shakespeare by the Sea’s comical, musical twist on the childhood classic.
This year’s collectively-created, all-ages show is wacky and silly – sometimes overly so in the first act.
The second act is just great with a wonderful twist in the story and a clear message about the value of friendship – a constant theme in this lively production.
Composer/lyricist Garry Williams leads a four-piece band in uplifting, compelling original songs. Williams was inspired by American country, folk and bluegrass as the company decided to set this show during the Great Depression. It also went back to L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as source material.
Tom Gordon Smith, who was a hit as the Queen of Hearts in last year’s Alice in Wonderland, takes another comic, star turn as Toto the “Southern gentle-dog.”
Toto is a witty, Southern gentleman in accent and manners as Dorothy’s best friend and also as a classic narrator. The scene in which he and Dorothy frantically converse about covering up their accidental murder of the wicked witch is very funny.
Two powerful female actors grab this twister by its tale: Kathryn McCormack, so vivid in facial expression and accent and rapidity of speech, as Auntie Em and the Mysterious Stranger and Shanoa Phillips as the Wicked Witch of the West. She is marvellously fierce with blazing eyes and a voice that punctures space.
Melissa MacGougan’s Scarecrow very obviously lacks sense but is full of love and optimism; Nathan Simmons teases out the soft kitty parts of the Cowardly Lion and James MacLean’s Tin Man is a good example of a life of supreme frustration.
What makes the first act so zany are the munchkins, the flying monkeys (Drew O’Hara and Adrian Choong) and James MacLean all in fluttery pinks as Glinda the good witch. Overall the costumes, by Bianca Tufford and Ophelia Stone, are fantastic – confectionary and dramatic. They range from Dorothy’s practical blue gingham to creepy monkey masks to a steampunk Tin Man.
Jade Douris is affecting as the forthright Dorothy seeking out adventure but easily afraid when the journey to get home (and find her true self) is difficult. Douris is also responsible for the highly animated choreography.
The Wizard of Oz is outdoors at the Cambridge Battery to Aug. 31 evenings at 7 p.m. in repertory with Henry the Fifth and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Weekend 1 p.m. matinees are indoors at the Park Place Theatre.
Tickets are by donation ($20 is suggested) but audience members may also book a sweet seat for $25 which includes a chair rental and a spot in the first few rows. Visit shakespearebythesea.ca for details.