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article imageOp-Ed: The Wizard of Oz takes centre stage in Toronto Special

By Bryen Dunn     Dec 18, 2011 in Entertainment
Toronto - Everyone has heard about Dorothy and her escapades in the Wizard of Oz, but be prepared for a tale of a different kind in Ross Petty’s version now playing at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto until January 6, 2012.
Petty is known here in Toronto for his annual holiday theatre productions that put a modern day twist on classic fables. The underlying plot line remains somewhat intact, but other than that the actual storyline is anything but traditional. Case in point, the show opens with a rousing rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, and continues throughout the show with a barrage of 1970’s and 1980’s retro favourites, such as “Funkytown” and “Macho Man”. For those hoping to hear “We’re Off To See The Wizard” or “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, this production won’t appease that craving.
It should also be noted that while these holiday extravaganzas are deemed family entertainment, there are enough adult innuendos to keep the parents focused as well. As usual, Mr. Petty casts himself as the most evil of characters in the play, this time in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West. For those who have seen previous productions (Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Robin Hood), Petty’s presence on the stage evokes a catcall of boos and hisses from the audience, to which he happily glees with admiration.
Petty also brought back the ‘commercial breaks’ again this year, which are faux television commercials done for the show sponsors with various characters. Seeing Dorothy and the Scarecrow shopping at Lowe’s, or the Cowardly Lion lounging at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is a treat in itself. Here's a link to a couple from previous years.
So while Dorothy romps around finding misfits like the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man, the Wicked Witch of the West battles it out with the Good Witch of the North to see who trumps. Meanwhile, when we finally do get introduced to the Wizard, it is none other than Ozzy Osborne. So for those who have followed along so far, they do end up living happily ever after!
I have seen many Ross Petty productions, and always enjoy the campiness, local Toronto references, pop culture reflections, and the obvious ad libbing that changes with every performance. In previous years, one show I caught had references to a news item from earlier that day. Petty took the opportunity to take several jabs at Mayor Rob Ford as well, which were greeted with a few laughs but not as much as one would have expected. Perhaps the theatre crowd isn’t the best for dropping, “Look, bike lanes! Toto, we must not be in Toronto anymore.”
With that being said, I personally found the show to not be as lively and catchy as previous years. This is in no way a reflection of the hard working cast and crew who whole-heartily gave outstanding performances. Kudos go to Dorothy (Elicia MacKenzie), Aunt Plumbum (Dan Chameroy), and Good Witch Splenda (Jessica Holmes). Toto was also a big hit, particularly when he pawed his way on the stage to great admiration. I didn’t feel the vibe of the crowd as much either, and ‘the munchkins’ were definitely not as rowdy as in previous years. Again though, that may have been only on the night I attended, and other shows may have gone way over the top.
Either way, it’s a whole different type of theatre experience that Petty has been offering in the city for over 15 years, and if you haven’t attended any of them yet then you are definitely missing out on something uniquely different.
Now playing until January 6th, 2012 at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto
Performance times and ticket information can be found here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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