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Further Stage Adventures in Oz, Part Thirty-six: Off to see "Wonderful Wizard"

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In 2002, as my correspondence with Joe Cascone continued, he told me that the Toronto CLO would be staging a somewhat revised version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz later that year. Some songs and scenes, he said, were to be shortened and otherwise tightened up, and the Wicked Witch of the West, who originally appeared in Act One, was once more relegated to her usual place in the story, turning up after the first Emerald City scene.

As a consequence, her Act One song, “Wicked is What I Do,” was moved to that later point, replacing “The Wicked Waltz of the West”—an unfortunate loss, as that song (still available on the original CD) was quite enjoyable. A small reprise of it, however, remains in the last words of the Witch as she is melting.

There had been some cast changes as well. Joe had had enough to do as producer and director during the first run of the show, but by this time he was able to do what he had wanted to do in the first place, which was to play the dual role of Baum and the Wizard. There was only one Dorothy this time, namely Kelly Sanders, who had been one of the originals and was now, at the age of thirteen, taller than she had been, prompting Joe to beg her mother (who was also in the cast) to take any measures she could to keep Kelly from growing any more until the run was done!

There was also a new Scarecrow, Cameron McKinnon, who, like Hinton Battle in the original Broadway version of The Wiz, was sixteen. The Wicked Witch of the West was now portrayed by Julie Lennick, who gave the character an unexpectedly Elvira-like flair in her sequined gown festooned with spiders, snakes, and webs. Joanne Kennedy took on the role of Glinda the Good, though there was another waiting in the wings (more later!).

Returning cast members from the 2000 production included Sandi Horwitz as Locasta, Bryan Chamberlain as the Tin Woodman, and David Haines as the Cowardly Lion.

Joe made the very kind offer to me that if I could manage to be in Toronto sometime during the run of the show, he would allow me to see the show for free as many times as I wished. So when the time came, my wife and I made the trip by car from Illinois to Toronto, listening all the way to the Colonial Radio Theatre adaptations of the Oz books (which of course will be covered in later articles concerning Oz on audio).

We arrived in Toronto at the height of rush hour, which of course is the name given to that time of day when traffic crawls along at a snail’s pace. But eventually we got to our lodgings and it was not long before we got in touch with Joe.