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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 4 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 40
Off to see the (new) Wizard - Webber and Rice's stage musical reinvigorates a classic
Arts & Entertainment
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Off to see the (new) Wizard - Webber and Rice's stage musical reinvigorates a classic

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE WIZARD OF OZ
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
October 9 - 13


The Wizard of Oz is perhaps the best-loved movie musical in American history. Since its original publication in 1900, the story of Dorothy's visit to an enchanted world has been embraced on the page, on the stage, and, of course, on the big screen. Using the recent innovation of reality TV as a casting vehicle, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has put together a new version of this beloved classic, and with his additional songs (co-written by Tim Rice), the cherished story has been given new life on the stage. As the musical follows the Yellow Brick Road into the (real) Emerald City, SGN caught up with lead actress Danielle Wade, the woman wearing the best red shoes in town.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Danielle Wade: This is a great question. I have had so many influences over the years. However, I can remember perfectly sitting on the railing at our family cottage listening to the radio and singing along, and my dad walking over to me and saying, 'You know, if you practice, I bet that could be you one day.' I don't think I've stopped practicing since. So, I guess my biggest influence was my dad. My family has never pressured me into performing or doing anything I didn't want to. They have always been there for me whenever I need them, providing love and support.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first production you ever performed on the stage?

Wade: The first musical I ever performed in was Grease. I was in grade 10 and I played Sandy. It was absolutely terrifying and amazing. I don't know if I would be performing if I had not done that show. I was rather shy as a child, but singing and acting took me out of that.

Andrews-Katz: Describe (for us in the States) the concept of the Canadian reality show, Over the Rainbow.

Wade: Over the Rainbow was a reality competition much like X Factor or American Idol. The show provides a great opportunity for young women to take a swing at the big leagues. The series auditioned aspiring musical theater performers for the role of Dorothy Gale in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz. One of the coolest parts of Over the Rainbow was that Canada decided the winner. Each week we would perform a group number and a solo. The judges would give us critiques and then Canada decided the bottom two. Those two girls would perform the sing-off song and Arlene Phillips would save one. This happened until there were only three of us left. It was all up to Canada after that.

Andrews-Katz: What was your audition like for the show?

Wade: I auditioned on a whim, really. I had never done anything like this before. My mother and I drove up to Toronto for the day just to see what would happen. I mean, the worst they could say is no, and I could spend more time working on my craft. I remember the day very well - my mom, my best friend, and I, waiting outside the CBC building in a line of easily 600 girls for about three hours. Finally, when we got inside the door, we had to check in and wait another few hours. I watched a number of girls come out with 'golden tickets' and found myself getting more and more nervous, yet more and more excited. Finally, I walked into the audition room and saw [casting director] Stephanie Gorin sitting behind a table. She was so sweet and welcoming, my nerves disappeared. I performed 'Over the Rainbow' and she looked at me and said, 'I think you could be Dorothy.' Well, my heart stopped. I received my golden ticket, and ran out of the room to find my mom.

Andrews-Katz: Was there any time during the reality show when you were nervous about being eliminated?

Wade: I was nervous about being eliminated every week. In a situation like that you never really know your fate until your name is called. It's strange because even once I was safe, I was worried about the other girls. I've said since the first day that it stinks that only one person could win.

Andrews-Katz: There has been reality-show casting for Grease, Legally Blonde, and now The Wizard of Oz. Do you think this will become more common?

Wade: I think that casting shows in this way provides a great opportunity for people who wouldn't normally get it. Now, whether or not it becomes a more common theme, I am unsure of. I definitely wouldn't be opposed to it happening.

Andrews-Katz: The stage production of The Wizard of Oz is more than just the movie on stage. Can you tell us about some of the new additions?

Wade: The adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is a lot of fun. The show maintains the same magic that the movie does, which I think is very important. Andrew has written a few new songs, which I think add a great deal of character development. In this version the two witches both have a solo and there is an opening number that establishes Dorothy's conflict right off the bat. The same iconic songs are still present, and as beautiful as ever.

Andrews-Katz: How do you take such an iconic role as Dorothy and make it your own?

Wade: I find 'iconic' to be an interesting word. It can make whatever follows seem extremely daunting or absolutely wonderful. With every role I try to bring a little bit of myself to it. I mean, I only have my own life experiences to draw from, so I think it is inevitable that I show up somewhere. Dorothy is such a wonderful character. She is just like every 14-year-old girl I know. Full of wonder, curiosity, frustration, and excitement, which can be a lot to handle at that age. Judy Garland really does a perfect job of conveying all of these things. My goal in this show is to bring the same integrity that Judy did to Dorothy, but make her a little bit more relatable to this generation. I get to wear overalls and be a tomboy. It's exciting to be rougher around the edges.

Andrews-Katz: What's the most challenging thing for you about doing this musical?

Wade: I think the most challenging thing about doing this show is working with a live animal. However, it is the most wonderful thing, too. Nigel [Toto] and Loki [Toto understudy] are the most adorable and well-behaved dogs you could ask for. They are always there when you need them and ready to do whatever you ask. I think it's amazing that sometimes I can look over at Toto and see him staring back at me and paying attention to everything around us. I think it's safe to say he steals the show each night, and that makes me so happy.

Andrews-Katz: Regardless of limitations or restrictions, what role would you most like to perform?

Wade: In the future I would love to play Eponine in Les Misérables. That is my favorite part of all time. If I could do that, my life would be complete. The Wizard of Oz has had many incarnations since its 1900 publication. It spawned two black-and-white films before the MGM 1939 blockbuster movie musical. Since then it has gone on to create a legacy involving more than 15 books in the series (with more being written), innumerable parodies, and alternative takes such as The Wiz, Wicked, and Oz the Great and Powerful. The musical was first adapted for the stage in 2011 by Andrew Webber and Tim Rice, marking their first collaboration in over three decades.

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