Shuswap Theatre stages amazing journey to Oz

Seats still available during Pay What You Can Thursday presentations

Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Follow the Yellow Brick Road, they said.

So we did.

And what a fantastical adventure Dorothy and her friends led us on.

The Wizard of Oz is currently showing at Shuswap Theatre, under the direction of James Fagan Tait and Astrid Varnes, assistant director and pre-production producer.

With advanced tickets now sold out, only those willing to line up at the next two Pay What You Can Thursdays will be able to see the play.

Based on MGM’s 1939 film version with all its fabulous songs, Tait chose to base the story on a dream.

The play is set against a single backdrop, with clever props marking Dorothy’s progress through various landscapes, including one inhabited by cheeky, apple-tossing trees.

Kudos as well to costume designers and creators Ellen Gonella and Keren Huyter.

Hearkening back to the silent film era, musicians Julia Armstrong, Jean Brighouse, Erin Hiebert and Lorn Steward McCausland are instrumental in setting the mood.

The talented, 20-member cast includes long-time theatre members, along with a few new faces, many playing several different parts.

Familiar to Shuswap Theatre audiences in the 1980s and 1990s, Norm Sargent is back as Uncle Henry, Chris Iversen is the Cowardly Lion and Zeke, Hamilton McClymont is Professor Marvel and the Wizard and Julia Body is the deliciously evil Mrs. Gulch and the Wicked Witch.

Newcomers in well-played feature roles include Gabrielle Boutet as Dorothy, Diana Robinson as Auntie Em, Ash Cullen as Hunk and the Scarecrow, Cameron Thomson as Hickory and the Tin Man and Holly Grover as Glinda.

Read more: Shuswap Theatre reduces barriers with inclusive opening of Wizard of Oz

Read more: Musicians wanted to play adventurous travellers along yellow brick road

Read more: Lion, Scarecrow, flying monkeys and more needed for journey down yellow brick road

The ensemble is comprised of a talented pool of familiar actors — Marcia Beckner, Claire Hall, Talyse MacDonald, Jaci Metivier, Elizabeth Ann Skelhorne and Griffin Webber, along with equally able newcomers Roland Babcok, Marcus Delaney, Brigid Hall and Maya Roberts and Morgan Iversen (Chris Iversen’s daughter).

The success of the production is also a credit to the many creative and clever minds working behind the scenes.

“Translating it (the movie) to the stage allows for a ton of creative solutions on everyone’s part,” said Tait, adding he wanted to create an ensemble that would almost always be part of the action.

“It has been an honour and privilege to work with this amazingly talented group who came steadily to rehearse, create, build, paint, sew and make it all happen with shining goodwill.”

There is a lovely synergy among the many cast members, beautiful renditions of familiar, heartwarming songs, punctuated by sudden and startling kabooms and flashes of light — and lots of laughter.

Wrapped up in this tender-hearted theatrical feast is the age-old notion that rings true today: love is more powerful than evil; things aren’t always what they seem and what we long for doesn’t always meet our expectations.

Through their journey together, Dorothy and her friends discover the “powers” they seek already reside within themselves.

They discover the power of belonging and how much is possible with the love and support of family and friends.

Patrons for Pay What You Can Thursday presentations — one was held Nov. 28 and the other will go Dec. 5 — are asked to simply put what they can afford into a donation glass jar as they enter the theatre.

Outside doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show will start at 7 p.m.

Each person in line will be permitted to buy a maximum of two tickets.Upon admission to the building, patrons will be given a numbered ticket, with those arriving first admitted to their seats first.


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