By Prof Sehdev Kumar & Ankita Kumar-Ratta
TORONTO: If there was ever a modern fairytale that continues to amuse, inspire and tantalize the young and the old everywhere, it is The Wizard of Oz.
Currently being presented at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of the musical is spectacular in every way. Based on a children’s story by L. Frank Baum, published in 1900, this musical is a great tribute to the book as well as to the 1939 movie, with Judy Garland, that made the fable a world-wide musical phenomenon.
The story of a little girl, Dorothy, being whisked away by a tornado from her home in a small village in Kansas, with her dog ‘Toto’, to the Land of Oz, is filled with heart-rending adventures, strange encounters and mythic allusions. In this adventure in a dream world, Dorothy – played with aplomb by Danielle Wade, and chosen through a CBC TV’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ contest – encounters a lion, who despite his name and fame, seeks courage; a tin man who wants nothing more than a feeling heart; and a scarecrow who yearns for a brain. And Dorothy herself, despite the suffocation she felt in her home in a small village, realizes that “there is no place like home”.
Courage, intellect, feelings, all together, the great classic tells us yet again, are what make home the best place to be! The Emerald City and the Wizard point to the same eternal message in their own glorious way. When Dorothy sings the much-loved classic song “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, the grand theatre vibrated with the powerful and captivating sound of Wade’s voice, and the large audiences could not help but sing along, creating a moment of extraordinary celebration.
The grand sets and the spectacular costumes – designed by Robert Jones, excellent musical score, classical songs, with additional lyrics by Tim Rice, captivating dance choreography by Arlene Phillip, and much more, make this musical into an experience to remember for everyone, the children, the young, and not so young.
The show also reminds you – if such a reminding is needed – that there is something very special about the magic that is created by live performers, musicians and story tellers on a stage, right in front of your eyes; it is a magic that bewitches you, draws you in, and inspires you to participate in. The Wizard of Oz in Toronto is a testimony to that magic.
(Prof. Sehdev Kumar lectures on International Films at the University of Toronto. Ankita Kumar-Ratta is a student of drama at the university)