For the past 21 years, Ross Petty’s annual holiday pantomimes for been a Toronto tradition for theatre lovers like me. These plays take a classic story like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, then update it for modern times. This year, the legendary Petty decided to take on one of the most beloved stories of all time, The Wizard of Oz.
Petty Productions’ reimagined Oz starts on Toronto’s Ossington, where Dorothy (Camille Eanga-Selenge), a recent business school grad, works dogs for a living because she can’t find a job in her field. With a municipal election looming, Dorothy and her Ossington friends risk losing their apartments and businesses to unreasonable rent increases. That is, unless Dorothy decides to run for city council and protect her millennial hipster friends from said disaster.
The insecure Dorothy is conflicted about whether to run for council, but when a twister transports her to Oz, everything changes. Suddenly, Dorothy has embarked upon a quest that will show the twenty-something what she’s really made of.
As always, Petty’s play is a sensory delight. It’s a lavish musical with colourful sets, cute costumes, and well choreographed dance numbers. It also manages to work campy hits like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” into the plot. The capable cast all make the most of their roles; however, the standouts are the vivacious Selenge as plucky Dorothy, and Sara-Jeanne Hosie, who is deliciously evil as the Wicked Witch. While watching Hosie in particular, you get the sense that she’s having the time of her life, which makes the panto all the more enjoyable to watch!
Fun for kids and parents alike, Ross Petty’s The Wizard of Oz is one musical that’s truly fun for the whole family. Thanks to a dynamic script, kids can savour some slapstick jokes and an adorable audience participation sequence, while grownups will enjoy slyly written references to more, ahem, adult themes…
The Wizard of Oz is a near perfect pantomime. It mines current issues, like our city’s recent controversial municipal election and the underemployment of over-qualified millennials, and creates an inspirational story that will lift your spirits and leave you feeling optimistic. What could be better during the holiday season?
The Wizard of Oz will be playing at the Elgin Theatre in downtown Toronto until January 6th.
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