Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ: A Toto-ly Twistered Family Musical

by Lynn on December 8, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Elgin Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Matt Murray

Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Directed and choreographed by Tracey Flye

Set and costumes by Cory Sincennes

Sound by Peter McBoyle

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Projections designed by Cameron Davis

Cast: Eric Craig

Michael De Rose

Camille Eanga-Selenge

Eddie Glen

Sara-Jeanne Hosie

Matt Nethersole

Daniel Williston

Irreverent, topical, charming and one of the best productions of the yearly pantomime to come out of Ross Petty Productions.

 The Story.  This is the annual Ross Petty pantomime with a twist.  He has not been in these productions for a few years but his presence is in every word.

The story takes place in Toronto and Oz. Dorothy is a lovely environmentally conscious, politically aware young woman who lives in Toronto and feels things are getting out of hand.  Miss Gulch is a rich landlord who wants to gouge her tenants by raising the rent 20%. She wants them out so she can build a big polluting factory. She does not believe in climate change and wants to destroy the environment and make lots of money. Dorothy tries to stand up to her.

Then there is that tornado that blows her and some of her friends to a strange and colourful land where they meet odd people, including Sulphura, a terrible witch, who looks a lot like Miss Gulch.

The Production. This is the 23rd year that Ross Petty has been producing these family musicals based on fractured fairy tales, or beloved books given a twist.

This is a typical twisted (or ‘twistered’ family musical to a point. We still have a story of good vs. evil. There is a villain—or villainess in the case of Miss Gulch. There are the decent people—Dorothy and her friends, and even Sulphura’s side kick, Randy is secretly fed up with her bad behaviour and is really a good guy. There are topical jokes, some rather risqué humour for the adults and lots of interplay with the audience and the kids in the crowd. And like a well oiled machine the audience knows instinctively when to boo. Of course it helps that the chords of foreboding that play just before Sulphura’s entrance give a good indication when to puff up to boo.

 I say this is typical to a point. How is this production of The Wizard of Oz: A Toto-ly Twistered Family Musical different?

It’s one of the best productions of these pantos I’ve seen in a long time.  Matt Murray has written one of the best scripts for this show. The jokes are sharp, funny and clever. The story is topical and local. It’s about the environment, climate change, affordable housing, fairness in politics and wanting to serve the people. It takes place on Ossington during its annual summer street fair.  It has a lovely dog playing Toto.  And the talent is terrific.

Dorothy is played by Camille Eanga-Selenge who is feisty and a powerhouse singer.

Eddie Glen plays Randy with his usual impish flair and he also plays the mysterious wizard. Glen is a mainstay of these productions.  He’s always wonderful.  Miss Gulch and Sulphura are played by Sara-Jeanne Hosie. She earns every boo. She owns the stage; she stares down and challenges the audience. She takes no prisoners and she’s wonderful.

There is a creature named Sugarbum who is a hapless fairy who mixes things up and gets things wrong. She is played by Michael de Rose in his debut here, and he’s hilarious, quick, seemingly offhanded and a total joy. Many of the main cast are debuting here and they are so solid in their roles.

It’s directed and choreographed by Tracey Flye. She has created a world of neon colour, wit, dazzle and eye-popping images.  The choreography is dazzling. The production is slick. It never drags except for the insertion of those annoying but funny ads from their sponsors.  But that’s a quibble.  This is a strong, tight, very funny show.  Loved it!

Comment. See It!

Produced by Ross Petty Productions.

Opened: Dec. 6, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 5, 2018.

Running Time:  2 hours, 30 minutes.


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