Park Players take us on a trip down memory lane with an iconic musical.
The story of the Wizard of Oz has many incarnations in the theatre and literary world. Some people may know that the original book was written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 named The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but some may not know that following the success of a 1902 Broadway lead to Baum writing 13 sequels! A little investigation reveals that there are 40 “official” Oz books written by many different authors. Among the non-official “Oz Apocrypha” are Gregory Maguire’s Series “The Wicked Years” including to book to inspire arguably the biggest Musical of the last decade, Wicked.
So this humble tale written over 100 years ago sparked a global phenomenon. I’m sure that most of you reading have some sort of personal connection with the book, movie, or musicals; I know I have! So what is it about this story that keeps generations of authors, performers and readers coming back for more?
For Kate Warner playing Dorothy, AbbeyJane Jones playing the Wicked Witch of the West, and Jenter Zilm playing the Cowardly Lion, the answer is quite similar. “I saw the audition notice on TP when I was overseas,” said Kate. “That afternoon I was out and about and I kept running into things that reminded me of the Wizard of Oz. I saw it as a sign and booked an audition for the day after I returned to Australia. Dorothy is such a gorgeous role.” “Not only was I excited to play a straight acting role with no dancing or singing,” said AJ, “but to play such an iconic role. The movie certainly was a big part of my life growing up, and with the release of Wicked it certainly has brought the Wicked Witch to the forefront of the audience’s minds. I think due to Wicked, learning the back story has really helped us as actors and audiences understand why the wicked witch is just so witchy!” As for Jenter… “I can remember watching the Wizard of Oz when I was just a young tacker and thinking that the Lion was so funny, I wanted to be him. Well the chance came and I took it!”
As so many of us know the Movie so well, how does it feel to be stepping into the shoes of Bert Lahr and Margaret Hamilton? “. I think there are right ways and wrong ways of conforming,” said Jenter. “It’s just so easy to follow along in the movie Lion’s paw steps (haha!) and I think I have done so to an extent. I tried messing around with a few ideas but no other characteristics really worked. Although I have definitely thrown in a lot my own ideas a lot of people will recognise the Lion! But I reckon the Lion in the original movie was a little tame on the ad lib front so I’ve tried to free him up a little whilst still having the restriction of his insecurities.”
AJ had this to say: “I tried not to look at the movie once I got the role; I wanted her to be my own representation of who and what I thought she was feeling. Although trying to make such iconic line of ‘I’ll get you my pretty….’ I found hard to not slip into the way in which Margaret Hamilton delivered the line in the movie. The is definitely pressure to imitate the Movie, but that is the fun of theatre acting, you get to take on a role and play with the emotion allowing you to take the audience on a different journey with the character. Some audience members may find this hard to deal with and some may find it refreshing. But if I can make an audience member laugh, cry, empathise or dislike my characterisation of the Witch then I have done my job as an actor.”
And for Kate: “The film and Judy Garland’s portrayal of the character of Dorothy are both so well known, I think there is an expectation about how the character should be played. I have certainly drawn on the film in creating my character, particularly in the way I speak and the gestures I use. In terms of doing things a little differently from the film, I have tried to bring out a slightly darker side to the story in the beginning. This is a little girl who initially feels alone, lost and helpless and is missing her parents. I am also playing Dorothy in a very childlike way – mini tantrums and all.”
In 2010, how is a fantasy land of talking Trees, flying Monkeys and Emerald Cities still relevant to today’s Society? “I think if you wore Ruby Slippers down the street you would get the same reaction as you do in the land of Oz…. joking!” said AJ. “Oz is definitely relevant – we always look at others lives and think the grass is always greener on the other side; but when you think about it, it’s really not greener, just different. I have learnt that really there is ‘no place like home’ having a loving and supportive family allows you to always defeat the Witches in your life and come out on the other side of the rainbow loved, happy and healthy!” According to Jenter: “I guess it’s still relevant, because there are morals running all the way through that are still being used even in today’s times. I think the main thing I’ve learnt is…. it’s not for lack of courage, but wisdom!”
“The story of the Wizard of Oz is still very relevant to 2010,” said Kate. “A story as magical and unique in its characters as this is timeless. I think most people regardless of age aspire for something more in their lives as Dorothy does. This story shows that this is possible. I think the most important lesson I have learnt is to not look at Tinman when he talks…there’s nothing like hysterical laughter to break focus….But really, in terms of the story, I have learnt from Dorothy that sometimes the things you really need and value are right in front of you. It can be easy to overlook them when you are so focused on what you might be missing, rather than what you have.”
And so, Park Players will be off to see the Wizard this Thursday through to Saturday. Click your heels three times and see the What’s On page for details!