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At Western Canada Theatre, they're off to see the Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz will run from Thursday, May 12, to Saturday, May 28, at Sagebrush Theatre, with a number of matinees and special events also planned during the long run

Western Canada Theatre is going all out with its upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz, which will feature a promising local actress centre stage as Dorothy.

The Wizard of Oz will run from Thursday, May 12, to Saturday, May 28, at Sagebrush Theatre, with a number of matinees and special events also planned during the long run.

Western Canada Theatre artistic director James MacDonald, the play’s director and other man behind the curtain, said he started planning for the production back in January 2021.

The play, an adaptation written in 1987 by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Society, stages the familiar story many know and adds other elements, too.

“It’s also got touches of humour, a lot more music and a pretty show-stopping production number that was cut from the movie,” MacDonald said.

Mandisa Volo, 15, is set to take on her biggest role yet as Dorothy. It’s not her first foray with Western Canada Theatre, though, having appeared in The Sound of Music (2019) and Elf (2018).

“I’m working with such an amazing cast and crew and they all made it very clear that I belonged here — and that was really important for me,” Volo said.

Dorothy is a role castmate Robbie Towns, who plays the Scarecrow, said Volo was born to play.

“I’ve done the show before and, usually with Dorothy, you get someone a bit older, but the fact Mandisa is just so natural in this role, I think everyone in Kamloops should come see this — just for that,” Towns said.

Volo said she was familiar with Oz beforehand, but didn’t know the story too intimately prior to her audition.

“I think the great thing about the show is that the themes presented are so timeless,” she said. “They’re just as important now as they were then.”

MacDonald said the play’s “there’s no place like home” theme may resonate particularly well right now.

“We’ve been at home, mostly, for the past couple of years. But in doing that, we’ve also discovered the value of home and the value of community and friendship,” he said.

Themes around escapism and imagination also remain “valuable messages,” MacDonald said, even for adults.

Towns, an Alberta-born actor who has performed throughout Canada and the United Kingdom, has taken on the role of Scarecrow before, “a long, long time ago,” he said.

In fact, it was Towns’ first professional production. He said playing the Scarecrow again “feels a bit like coming home” — especially because he’s working with a familiar face once again. Western Canada Theatre choreographer Tracey Power worked on both productions.

Towns said it has been challenging to be given such a physical role while coming out of the pandemic. He said he has been belting out songs on treadmills at the gym in order to prepare.

Another unique aspect stems from Western Canada Theatre’s “Go Emerald” sustainability initiative. The play’s sets will feature items donated through a recycling drive, including bicycles, rakes, bottles, cans, umbrellas and more.

“People are going to see them on stage and I just think the team has created this incredible world out of these common objects,” MacDonald said.

Tickets and more information can be found online at wctlive.ca/oz.