Monday, 24 March 2014 15:03

Back to Ozness

Written by  Allison Parker
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Wizard of Oz Wizard of Oz COURTESY PHOTO

Broadway Grand Rapids presents The Wizard of Oz
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids

April 22-27, show times at 1, 2, 6:30, 7:30 & 8 p.m.
$32-$81.25
broadwaygrandrapids.com, (616) 235-6285

Some stories are just worth retelling, and The Wizard of Oz is one of them. Since the novel’s debut more than 100 years ago, we're still in awe with a certain plucky prairie girl’s crash landing in a realm of breathtaking magic.

 

Ozians at heart can now watch the iconic fantasy unfold before their very eyes with Broadway Grand Rapids’ sparkling new production of The Wizard of Oz.

 

As far as Oz adaptions go, this one remains mostly faithful to its film source by preserving the setting, story, characters and songs everyone knows and loves.

 

That’s not to say it's without updates and surprises, however. Most notably, Broadway’s Oz represents a mini not-in-Kansas-anymore adventure for its lead actress, Danielle Wade. For this Ontario native, the yellow brick road leading from community theatre to Broadway came in the form of the Canadian reality TV series, "Over the Rainbow." During this Dorothy boot camp run by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Wade defeated 10 other finalists to land role of America’s ruby-slippered sweetheart.

 

Wade’s story not only makes her an inspiring leading lady to root for, but also serves as a reminder of Oz’s tremendous power to resonate with universal aspects of the human experience.

 

“[Dorothy is] extremely relatable. Everyone has some situation where they feel like nobody is listening or where all they want to do is go home," Wade said. "There’s something in that character that everyone knows and can hold on to."

 

Broadway’s Oz helps audiences connect with the story further by adding a few modern touches to the classic tale.

 

“Our version is more contemporary. The script is updated a little and there are a few new jokes thrown in. … It’s more our time—I don’t talk like a 1930s movie,” Wade said. 

 

This Oz also gives off a more modern vibe by fleshing out its heroes and villains in the tradition of many other recent remakes. While supporting characters don’t take center stage, a few new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice give characters such as the Wicked Witch and the Wizard a bit more of a voice.

 

“They’ve thrown in a few new songs for character development. [The songs] make the characters more human and help us understand what they want. … I think my interpretation of each character has changed the more I get to know them,” Wade said. 

 

Although it may have been tweaked here and there, the enduring presence of the Oz adventure in American culture is a testament to its tremendous emotional pull and timeless sparkle.

 

“I think no matter how many times you’ve seen the movie or seen the show, you just get so wrapped up in it as you see the story come alive in front of you. It makes you want to laugh and cry. It’s always there in spite of everything else around you,” Wade said.

 

 

Other Performing Arts Events

Pilobolus
Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
April 15, 7:30 p.m.
$25-$45
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300

Named for a fungus that propels spores with remarkable speed, Pilobolus is an avant-garde company that challenges the very definition of dance. A collaborative effort of multi-disciplinary geniuses, the company often blurs near-acrobatic movement with innovative biological imagery. By creating unusual shapes with their bodies, the company exalts the human form as a compelling instrument of expression.

 

Rock of Ages
Wharton Center, East Lansing

April 6, 6:30 p.m.
$22-$57
whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982

Jam-packed with poofy hair, rock hits and ‘80s clichés, Rock of Ages is a high-energy tribute to Hollywood’s totally rad decade. The story centers around busboy Drew, who falls for wannabe actress Sherrie while aspiring (of course) to be a rock star. As the deliciously cliché duo struggle to make it big, a group of developers plans to demolish the club at the heart of the Sunset Strip’s rock scene. Things go from bad to worse when Drew mistakenly friend-zones Sherrie, who quickly finds a rebound hookup. “Don’t Stop Believing” though, folks, because Drew and Sherrie are in love and ultimately “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

 

King Stag
WMU Theatre

Williams Theatre, Kalamazoo
April 3-6, 10-13; show times at 2 & 8 p.m.
$10-$20, WMU students $5
wmich.edu/theatre, (269) 387-6222

Like many classic fairytales, King Stag begins with a king looking for a woman who will love him for who he is, not for the crown he wears. When one of his jealous officers notices sparks between the king and a potential Miss Right, he transforms the king into a stag and banishes him to the forest. Featuring a blend of live actors and puppetry, the production showcases guest artists from NY’s Puppet Kitchen and South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company.

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