Orpheus Musical Theatre’s production of Wizard of Oz shines

By Sadie Macdonald

On May 31, I had the opportunity to see Orpheus Musical Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz, directed by Riley Steward and starring Marlayah McLeod, on opening night at the Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe.

The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy Gale (McLeod) through the magical world of Oz after she was brought there from her home in Kansas by a tornado. All she wants to do is get back home but, unfortunately, she has made a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy her. Luckily for little Dorothy, she makes three friends along the way, all of whom would gladly help her to get home because it means they will get what they most want: a brain, a heart and courage. In the end, Dorothy learns the valuable lesson that there is no place like home.

A few actors really stood out to me, most notably Corgan Svendsen, who played the Scarecrow. I thought he did a really good job of staying in character and convincing the audience that he was stuffed with straw through his movement and dancing. He was a strong performer and my eyes were often drawn to him throughout the show to see how he was acting and reacting to the events unfolding on stage.

I also thought that Thea Nikolic, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, did a great job of embodying her character. I know others had this same opinion because during one of her scenes, an audience member even yelled out “She’s really good!”. Even though I couldn’t see her exact facial expressions from my seat in the hall, I thought that through her voice you were clearly able to tell what she was thinking and how she was feeling.

The actor playing Dorothy had huge shoes to fill when taking on such an iconic character. However, although her singing voice was beautiful, I felt that her choice of vocal inflections and accent was misplaced. There didn’t seem to be a cohesive decision among the actors regarding accents, but it seems McLeod was aiming to emulate Judy Garland’s accent and tone throughout the show. Unfortunately, this came off as being a bit too over the top and gave the impression of nervous opening night jitters rather than a strong acting choice.

In terms of visual design, this production used a projector in the background of the set, but I didn’t feel as though it was being used to its full potential, or even necessary in the first place. It seemed as though it was mostly there to communicate information related to the location and setting of each scene, which the lighting and set were already doing quite well. I also have to note that the projector malfunctioned once during opening night in a way that was quite noticeable, but the technicians were very quickly able to fix this glitch.

Finally, I’d like to recognize the work of the set designer (Gillean Bernier) and prop designer (Hannah Gorham-Smith). It’s clear that a huge amount of work went into the complex and well planned set, as well as the large number of props used throughout the show. I appreciated how every set piece was used in multiple configurations and the way it made me believe the actors were somewhere else was truly impressive.

This play was well-produced and is worth seeing if you have time and live in the area. The audience best suited for this play would be families with teens but I do think others could have a great time as well.

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