According to the scarecrow – aka Brian Laul – you will notice a few differences between the telling of this pantomime-style version of The Wizard of Oz and the Hollywood version.
For one thing, Dorothy wears silver slippers not ruby red ones. The book – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – was first published in 1900. Since then the story has certainly had a number of different interpretations on stage and screen.
Of course it lends itself to brilliant and colourful costumes and scenery so to enable this production to travel, yet still have the lavish feel of the big shows, the team employs the use of a big screen and 3D imagery.
“This is a highly interactive version which follows more closely to the book,” Laul says. “The movie differs from book, but we’ve decided to speak to the book, mainly because the themes that come from it are stronger. The main one being ‘you have the power to accomplish anything if you believe in yourself’.”
He says the show is ideal for children aged 2 to 8 years. “Everyone helps the characters along the yellow brick road. We encourage them to boo the wicked witch, and to cheer Dorothy and the good ones.” The cast and crew also love to see people dress up in their favourite Oz characters to come along to the show.
Another difference between the familiar musical and this show is the Tin Man is a rapper, the Wicked Witch is a rock chic, Shakey the Scarecrow is a country music singer and Good Witch Glinda is a pop princess.
The munchkins are played by children, and could be yours. There is a workshop before the show which gives an introduction to live theatre for children. They will learn elements of tableau, expression and voice. It costs $10 and about 20 children are accepted to attend. It will run from 9.30am until 10.30am on the show day and the children then have the chance to show off what they have learned on stage, wearing costumes and interacting with the cast.
“It’s all about giving them an experience they won’t forget and inspiring them to be confident,” Laul says. There will also be some dance students from Port Macquarie Performing Arts featured on stage.
This production opened at the Independent Theatre in 1999, but Laul says they saw a need to share the experience to regional town that may not have a theatre or have the chance to see such shows.
The team also visit as many hospitals as they can while on tour. “The idea started with Make-a-Wish Foundation asking us to visit a child who was unable to come to the show. Now we invite children to bring along a toy which we give to those in hospital when we visit as characters.”