With their performance season fast approaching, MLOC Production's cast and crew take time out to discuss their upcoming musical, The Wizard of Oz  

In 1939 a musical adventure known as The Wizard of Oz captured youths' imagination by transporting viewers to a bizarre and colourful world that marked a stark contrast to the mundane, black and white existence that we're so familiar with.  The film about a Kansas girl trying to find her way home after being transported via tornado to a magical land of witches, munchkins, living scarecrows, emerald cities, tin men, anthropomorphic lions and flying monkeys was such a massive hit that 73-years later The Wizard of Oz remains one of the most popular children movies worldwide.  

29-year old Sarah Goussé says that when she first saw the film she thought it was the “most magical, incredible and wonderful thing she had ever seen”, leaving a lasting impression that made her envisage herself as the film's protagonist.

“When I was little, I always thought I was Dorothy; I thought that if I clicked my heels together three times I would be in a magical land,” she explains. “After trying a few times with no results, I just took it for what it was; a brilliant, inspiring tale of always persisting with your dreams”.

Currently Sarah is set to to fulfil this childhood fantasy when she portrays Dorothy in MLOC Production Inc's stage adaptation from the 9th – 17th of November at Elwood's Phoenix Theatre.

Based on L. Frank Baum's classic novel from 1900, The American Film Institute has honoured the Wizard of Oz as the #1 greatest  fantasy film, the 3rd greatest musical, and the 6th greatest movie made in the last 100 years. According to MLOC's director Lucy Nicholson, one reason for the film's popularity and success is that its story is highly relatable and its moralistic theme of “friendship and the journey to discover courage, fortitude, wisdom and love” is “ageless”,  “boundless” and “breaks all age barriers”

“Everyone has experienced 'homesickness' at some point in their lives” she says “Also everyone has attempted to runaway from home…everyone day dreams…so the story is very close to home for all people”.

Staying loyal to the 1939 film, the theatrical version focuses on Dorothy and her dog Toto, who find themselves lost in Oz and traversing its dreamlike landscape to seek the assistance of a mysterious individual known as 'The Wizard' who can allegedly return her home. Along the way she meets a ragtag assortment of iconic characters who accompany her, including The Scarecrow who desires a brain, The Tin man who wants a heart and The Cowardly Lion who longs for courage.

“These characters are her first true friends, and as a friend Dorothy wants to help them to have their dreams come true,” says Sarah.

With seven years theatre experience under her belt and The Wizard of Oz marking her first Melbourne stage production after traveling from Adelaide, Sarah describes the show's themes as “universal” and “relevant” and her character of Dorothy as being “just like all of us; dreaming for a better life with more adventure and excitement”.  

“Even though we always dream of bigger, brighter and better places, there really is no place like home – where people that you love and that love you are,” says Sarah. “But who doesn’t want to get bumped on the head and end up in the Merry Old Land of Oz?

Director Lucy Nicholson's theatrical experience ranges from performing with the Victorian and Melbourne City Opera to directing a number of productions, including Annie (MLOC), Wizard of Oz (Kids4Kids), 'Roald Dahl's Witches (People's Playhouse) and Seussical. Through her experience Lucy says that she has tendency of working with children, appreciating their energy and enthusiasm on-stage. With a varied cast of young and older performers alike, Lucy says that she is highly influenced by contemporary film makers who “cater to the audience and their likes and dislikes” and she aims to emphasise a Tim Burton-ish spin on The Wizard of Oz's classic tale with “very minimalistic sets” that “hope to  give the cast more space to act and make it seem more of a dream like land”.

One small twist emphasised in MLOC's production is a more sympathetic representation of The Wicked Witch of The West, portrayed by Cat Stephens, who says that while Margaret Hamilton's legendary performance as the character in the 1939 film was fearful (and is currently ranked by the American Film Institute as the 4th greatest villain), she was also very shallow and one dimensional. Cat says that though she loved the movie she believes that there is greater complexity in the character and audience members may even sympathise with her as she attempts to recover the belongings of her recently killed sister.

“If you think about it the ruby slippers belonged to her sister and somebody has come along and  taken them from her dead sister's feet and all she wants is to get the shoes back”, says Cat. “Her sister has been killed, it's a shock for her. It's not a clear cut situation – yes she's a villain but at times I think she's quite a sympathetic and funny villain”.  

To flesh out the character a bit more Cat says that her performance is somewhat inspired by Victoria Grayson in Revenge and Susan Sarandon as The Witch in Enchanted.

Arguably one of The Wizard of Oz's most recognisable elements is its famous musical numbers, which  for Sarah are some of the production's greatest highlights.

“They're absolutely the most fun!!!”, she exclaims. “I love 'Over the Rainbow' for the inspirational injection it gives me, but 'Merry Old Land of Oz', 'Munchkinland' and 'Jitterbug' are just about the most fun I have had on stage. EVER! I think it’s the inclusivity of the ensemble with all their gorgeous spirits and costumes that do it for me”.

Choreographer Keir Jasper says that he has applied a a variety of choreography styles in MLOC's production to contribute to the story and  “portray mood and aspects of Dorothy's journey through movement” that will assist audience members to “experience and live the story (just a little) for themselves”.

“The dance sequences transports us through the big changes in Dorothy's story. It creates the moods for many of the different settings and situations that Dorothy finds herself in – the audience needs to see the choreography through Dorothy's eyes – she hasn't had any of these experiences before, and each dance sequence needs to look fresh & new, and a little bit unexpected”.

Describing his experience with MLOC as “a dream come true”, Keir says that while audience members have certain expectations in regards to choreography, there are opportunities for originality, such as the Cyclone and Jitterbug dances that were absent in the 1939 film.  

“I think these are the numbers that have been the most challenging, and the most exciting to choreograph, as the slate has begun relatively clean, and I've been able to create my own interpretations,” he says. “Thank goodness Jitterbug was cut from the movie!”

The title character of Wizard of Oz and his doppelganger Professor Marvel are both portrayed by MLOC Theatre veteran Graeme Marriott, whose theatre credits since 1978 include 'The Wiz' in The Wiz', 'Jud Fry' from Oklahoma!, 'The Wazir' in Kizmet,, and and 'Captain Von Trapp' in The Sound of Music. Graeme said that while his performance is inspired by Frank Morgan in the 1939 film, the character reminds him abit of W C Fields with Bogart tossed in for good measure”.

Currently a MLOC board member and having been involved with the company for around 30  years, Graeme says each show brings something unique to audience members, with the Wizard of Oz probably being “the most popular storyline ever presented by MLOC” with possibly “the most popular song of all, Over the Rainbow”.  Graeme says that while priding itself on its “friendliness, its welcoming attitude and preparedness to give people a go”, MLOC  rehearsals can be noisy and lively events that always remain in good fun.

According to Cat, MLOC'S Wizard of Oz will present audience members with “a version that is both familiar and yet a bit bit fresh”, staying true to the very much loved 1939 film while simultaneously bringing its own interpretation to the classic tale.   

“I'd like to say to people to come along and see it,” adds Cat, “as it really is the ultimate chick story – two women fighting to the death over shoes”.  

MLOC Production Inc's The Wizard of Oz will run from November 9-17th at The Phoenix Theatre, Elwood College, 101 Glenhuntly Rd, Elwood.  To book tickets your tickets visit http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=33101

PRODUCTION SEASON:

Friday 9 November 8pm
Saturday 10 November 2pm

Saturday 10 November 8pm

Sunday 11 November 5pm

Thursday 15 November 8pm (Matinée)
Friday 16 November 8pm

Saturday 17 November 2pm

Saturday 17 November 8pm

Ticket Prices range from $28 to $32

ENQUIRIES : [email protected]

PRODUCTION TEAM:

Director: Lucy Nicolson

Assistant Director: Tanya Chaves

Choreographer: Keir Jasper

Assistant Director: Katie Lewis

Stage Manager:  Jacinta Lyne

Lighting: Michael Richardson

Sound: Les Marton & Trish Carr

Costumes: Margot Sephton

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