Flying, and puppets, and dyed pointe shoes, oh my!
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful iteration of the story many of us grew up watching. Before the show, there was a pre-show chat with Cathy Levy, Executive Producer of NAC Dance; v, stager of The Wizard of Oz; and Julian Pellicano, Principal Conductor. Larouche said that “the story takes these incredible turns just at the right moment,” which is so true of this great show! There was an opportunity for audience questions prior to the show and one asker was curious about what happens if anything goes horribly wrong on stage. Larouche answered that it isn’t very common but did mention they had some minor issues with their first full run with the orchestra, flying, and Ottawa dancers, to which Cathy Levy remarked “rocky dress rehearsal, perfect performance!” I think Levy’s sentiment really rang true of RWB’s performance.
The performance of the company dancers with the Ottawa dancers, along with the NAC Orchestra made for a coherent and enjoyable performance. Matthew Pierce’s score was a brilliant refiguring of the classic score and the NAC Orchestra nailed it! It’s always so great to have the NACO perform the score live with the ballet—I think it adds an entirely new and welcome dimension. Pierce really has constructed a magnificent score!
The flying of the show was really magical. Most notable was Miss Gulch, who first rides in on a bicycle and is later suspended in the air, flying, with that same bicycle—it was really brilliantly done! (Editor’s note: read our interview with Sarah Davey, who played Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch, here).
Later, there are flying monkeys, Dorothy flies through the twister, Glinda appears, the Wicked Witch flies across the stage, and the Wizard is carried off by balloons. RWB really works to modernize their works and place them in a more contemporary context. Like in their Nutcracker, The Wizard of Oz also featured a group selfie with a camera flash.
The dancing is really well-choreographed and hits on the most important aspects of this well-known show.
The dancing is really well-choreographed and hits on the most important aspects of this well-known show. I understand that the audience would know what each of the characters was going to the Wizard for, but I would liked to have seen a more obvious depiction of that through the choreography. The Scarecrow’s choreography was my favourite because it really represented the Scarecrow in every movement, with that dopey, wholesome attitude he is so known for. The Tin-Man could have used a bit of oil—I do get that that’s the point of his movement, but it was a bit rigid. The Cowardly Lion’s timid movements coupled with his jazzy score were great and perfectly fitted to his dancing with despair choreography. Dorothy’s dancing was perfectly sweet and curious, exactly what you would want from her. The scene of the Emerald City dancers was a magnificent emerald sequinned affair with green disco balls, green costumes, and green lighting.
The temporal space of the show was so remarkable. Right before the intermission, as they are all attempting to get into Oz, there are hilarious signs that get hung on the door by its two keepers—Beat it, OMG, and Get Lost. Then, “Back in 20 mins” to indicate to the audience it was intermission, which broke the fourth wall so splendidly!
From the dyed pointe shoes that correspond with each character to the absolutely magnificent full costume choices, each of the costumes were well thought out and added to the wonderful aesthetic value of the show.
The costume design by Liz Vandal is absolutely brilliant! From the dyed pointe shoes that correspond with each character to the absolutely magnificent full costume choices, each of the costumes were well thought out and added to the wonderful aesthetic value of the show. Perhaps, the best costumes of the night were the Yellow Brick Roadies—their costumes were yellow and looked like there were bricks flying off of them. Dorothy even wore sequinned red pointe shoes!
The projections were absolutely integral to the performance and really created a brilliant and believable twister—something that the story could not do without. There were so many wonderful aesthetic choices that hit this Wizard of Oz home. My favourite was the apple tree scene, where I was desperately hoping for some apple-throwing, and RWB delivered! There were dancers stationed atop the tall trees that threw the first apple on the scarecrow’s head and a tantamount more afterward. RWB always makes such good use of raining objects on stage and had some apples magically fall from the sky, as well.
This Wizard of Oz is a welcome addition to the infamous story. The visual, choreographic, and orchestral choices really make this version familiar, but in an entirely new way. Their puppet Toto is enough of a reason alone to see the show—he had a handler and could wag his tail, jump, and run across the stage—so lifelike! Go off to see the Wizard, this wonderful Wizard of Oz!
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs The Wizard of Oz from January 23rd to 25th at the National Arts Centre (1 Elgin St) at 8pm, with one 2pm matinee on the 25th. Tickets cost $44-$150 online and at the box office. $15 Live Rush and half-price student tickets are also available.