Video – Return to the Land of Oz with VOS

In entertainment, Upcoming Events

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland

Everyone knows the story of Dorothy – the Kansas girl transported by a cyclone to the mysterious Land of Oz, where she makes some unusual new friends and incurs the wrath of a very Wicked Witch. Her struggles to get home to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, with the Wicked Witch in malevolent pursuit, lead her to seek the help of Oz the Great and Powerful.

In April, the VOS will bring that beloved story to life on the stage at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall.

L Frank Baum wrote the book in 1900, and the landmark MGM movie came along 85 years ago. Even so, Director Jeff Halligan finds the story is as beloved as ever.

“The Wizard of Oz is a story of overcoming your fears, friendship and discovering your own voice – a message that continues to resonate today,” Halligan said.

“We are excited to bring this production to Northumberland audiences and feature a live orchestra performance of the iconic music from the MGM film, alongside our cast of local performers.”

Staging a cyclone, presenting the Emerald City, bringing a Cowardly Lion to life along with the Scarecrow and Tin Man, trouping out the colourful residents of Emerald City – it would seem some minor magic is required here, and VOS liaison Micol Marotti said it’s all happening in the former apple storage barn that serves as their storage-and-workshop facility.

“Alan has his well-choreographed team here,” Micol said, referring to Stage Manager Alan Fletcher.

“Everyone along the way has the same vision. It’s miraculous when you get the people doing the lighting and positioning onstage, and the costumes add the colour and depth that make it come to life.”

Alan, an engineer and former draftsman by trade, displayed the pages of technical drawings that had been put together to tackle the various challenges involved in putting on a show with this much magic. And even though VOS had staged The Wizard of Oz some 20 years ago, he noted, the technology of today made it seem like starting from scratch in so many ways.

Alan heads a set-construction team that includes Scott Berry, Steve Koomen and Peter Sandiuk.

Scott Berry listed the many set pieces, including the gates of the Emerald City, the wagon on Auntie Em’s farm, and two versions of Dorothy’s house (the one that gets tossed around in the tornado and the same one after it crashed on top of the witch). These designs were formulated, keeping in mind the limited backstage space at their venue.

Dorothy’s post-crash house sits atilt, with a special hole at the bottom for the dead witch’s legs. And the pre-crash house is rigged with hydraulics, allowing Berry to demonstrate how it can levitate just enough to be spun around and around in the cyclone. And, of course, the window has a special spring to pop open and hit Dorothy in the head.

They’re working on how the trap door on the Victoria Hall Concert Hall stage can be rigged up with a special platform to help show the Wicked Witch melting away.

Props Master Tracy Berry delightedly shows off her $1.50 purchase from Home Depot – a lightweight planter just the right size to refit as the crown worn by the Cowardly Lion in his number If I Were King of the Forest.

With a team that includes Susanne Pacey and Lee Wakelin, Tracy loves this challenge of literally putting the pieces together. She has searched the VOS inventory for things like baskets, Totos and other components, “some of which is here already and can be repurposed, like the witch’s legs.”

Some have to be concocted, like the giant witch’s hourglass. She hit a dollar store and came up with two plastic candy canisters. For the wooden cage around it, she used old table legs. For the other decorative touches – skulls, rats, snakes – VOS members came through, along with a party store in Whitby.

“Always within budget,” she stressed.

And the fruit that the apple trees fling at the visitors to Oz are the brainchild of a relatively new VOS member. Her red crocheted stuffed apples will fling through the air with ease, hitting the character but not hurting anyone.

“We had a new person who came in and wanted to be involved – it was her idea,” Tracy said.

Scott gets the credit for figuring out a costume for the Tin Man, which had to give the appearance of metal, but had to be comfortable as well. He came up with the lightweight foam costume that will be worn in pieces for ease of movement. Marotti declared it a work of art.

Artist Katie Flindall is coming in for kudos on the painting job she is doing. Such details as wood grain on the wagon and furniture, the tree-bark texture and the wallpaper pattern on the walls of Dorothy’s house give life to the illusion. Her team includes Lila Flindall, Jackie Nichols and Myranda Leclerc, along with help from her daughter Rose (who also plays the Mayor of the Munchkins).

And compliments also flow for the cast, who have been working on their parts since November. That would be Mackenzie Annis as Dorothy, Kelly Paron as the Scarecrow, Liam Cragg as the Tin Man, Dave Wilson as the Cowardly Lion, Maddison Rawley and Rose Tarle as Toto, Solveig Barber as Auntie Em, Tim Annis as Uncle Henry, Nelia Amaro as the Wicked Witch, Meghan Flindall as Glinda the Good Witch and – of course – Gary Potter in the title role.

There are a lot of moving parts, Scott said, and you don’t appreciate it until you see it all come together.

“Actors perform well when they have sets that they love, pieces they have pride in. They really get into the role, and we support them as they bring it to life,” he said.

With the deadline coming to get it all finished and moved to Victoria Hall, the pace is brisk for these workers who gather in the old apple barn each Monday night – and also for the backstage crew.
Along with Halligan, that includes Florence Fletcher as Producer, Mackenzie Amis as Choreographer, Jill Baker as Orchestra Director, Nadia Stogryn Morier as Vocal Director and Fletcher also acting as Costume Co-ordinator with a team of talented seamstresses.

There are 7:30 p.m. shows April 18, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27, with 2 p.m. matinees April 20, 21 and 27.

Tickets are $32.50, available at vostheatre.com and (with service fee) at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall box office (905-372-2210), and group rates are available.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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