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Further Stage Adventures in Oz, Part Thirty-seven: Now, This is Oz!

The curtain illustrating L. Frank Baum's many and varied achievements.
The curtain illustrating L. Frank Baum's many and varied achievements.

True to his word, Joe charged Cynthia and me not one penny for our tickets, though we gladly bought the revised soundtrack CD, plus a snack or two, to make some contribution to the show’s success. Joe’s generosity showed itself again when, after a financial problem at the hotel we’d only managed to stay one night in, he actually let us stay in his house for the other two nights we spent in Toronto.

Each day Cynthia and I explored the city, including the CN Tower with its see-through floor on its topmost level. Those of strong equilibrium (which included me – just about) were welcome to stand on the floor to observe the clouds and birds underneath.

In the evenings, we went to Oz!

The show was presented in a delightfully unpretentious manner, beginning with Baum and his troupe of performers opening a large trunk and pulling out some of what would be needed for telling the tale. The stage contained a small proscenium bearing a curtain illustrated with images from throughout Baum’s many careers. When this curtain was opened, there was a backdrop of the Kansas prairie, and as the story progressed, other backdrops showed other locales.

Scenes were augmented by bits of furniture and set pieces, some of which were brilliant in their simplicity; for instance, in the scene with the Kalidahs, the gulf over which Dorothy and her friends escape was represented by a large round piece of cloth with a hole in it, painted to look like a chasm. When the Kalidahs “fell” into it, they simply hoisted the cloth up around themselves and exited.

Other special effects were achieved through simple human ingenuity—“humbug,” one might say, in line with the philosophy of the musical’s opening song—like the Cyclone. The cast members, dressed in black, manipulated various objects in slow motion as if they were being tossed about, and indeed passed Dorothy from person to person as Baum whirled a small model of her house over the heads of the performers on a long pole.

The costumes were also simple and effective, putting across what each character was meant to be without being needlessly cumbersome. The actors playing the Munchkins wore wide skirts covering the wheeled stools they sat on to look dwarfish. The Crows who plagued the Scarecrow wore outfits not unlike those worn by the Crows in the film version of The Wiz, with large sunglasses and black tailcoats. The Kalidahs and Field Mice wore simple animal costumes in various colors, the Winkies all wore striped prison uniforms, and the Citizens of the Emerald City were of course festooned in every shade of green.

The black-furred Winged Monkeys wore yellow vests with a “WM” logo (no, I didn’t sue them) on the front and fairy wings on the back. The Hammer-heads wore sheaths of fabric to make them look armless and buckets on their heads with angry faces painted on them.

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