The Wizard of Oz – Director’s Notes

          October 25th, 2011

          Contributed by
          Carole Higgins, Carousel Theatre’s Artistic Director and Director of The Wizard of Oz

          What drew me the most to the story of The Wizard of Oz is that at its heart it explores the themes of family (both the ones we are born into and the ones we migrate to) and the meaning of home.  For all that this is a classic tale, our heroine Dorothy is very much a modern youth, struggling to find who she is and what is ‘home’. She wants to escape, and goes on an incredible journey to discover that what she is searching for is already there, insider her and around her. It is a story to which we can all relate, a story that resonates with our young audiences.

          The creative team at the first production meeting

          Physical realities of our venue home, the Waterfront Theatre, is that we have no fly gallery and no wing space. One of the biggest challenges we have faced as a creative team is how can this musical actually fit into our theatre? So we’ve set out to do things a little differently, with a cast of ten actors, a lot of heart and a dash of magic.

          The tornado sequence will be told through dance and contact improvisation, we’ve brought some wackiness to the staging for the Munchkins, Glinda will float down the aisles of the audience so that young audience members can reach out and touch her glittery pink dress, our poppies will have a dash of flamenco, the Merry Old Land of Oz will tip its hat to the dazzle of Wicked, and Toto will be played by several puppets (I’m a proud dog owner and would never dream of putting Molly or Sammy backstage with all of our moving units- It’s like playing Tetris back there!) .

          The set model (from Set Designer Heidi Wilkinson) and costume renderings (from Costume Designer Barbara Clayden) showcase the look for Kansas in Carousel Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz.

          I’ve made a conscious choice to stay away from heavy stage make-up and cumbersome costumes and to let the actors’ talents and heart shine through. Our Wicked Witch will have green hints to her costume, but no green face paint, so that we can see the nuances of Meghan Anderssen’s performance. The Tin Man costume gives the physical freedom to highlight Mike Stack’s amazing physical skills, and the Scarecrow costume highlights Darren Burkett’s strong dance skills. Josue Laboucane’s Cowardly Lion will be comforting to the wee ones in our audience. And don’t worry, I promise that our heroine Dorothy (played with spunk by rising star Robyn Wallis) will pay homage to the movie, blue gingham dress, pigtails, dreams and all!

          Robyn Wallis will be playing the pigtailed heroine Dorothy. In this photo Darryl Milot adjusts her costume for a photo shoot. Photographer Tim Matheson is visible in the mirror too!

          Carousel Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz reunites the creative teams of our productions of Seussical and A Year with Frog and Toad, as well as some of our audiences’ most well-loved actors, including Josue Laboucane, Mike Stack, Darren Burkett and Janet Gigliotti, while introducing some new folks who have joined the Carousel ride. We’re a silly group who work hard, play hard, collaborate with fearless gusto, and dream of going somewhere over the rainbow. I hope you’ll join us in our travels.

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