The Durham Performing Arts Center will conclude its critically acclaimed 2013-14 SunTrust Broadway Series on April 8-13 with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s vivacious new version of The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical-fantasy film with screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf and 1940 Academy Award®-winning song “Over the Rainbow” by composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Oscar®-winning score by Herbert Stothart.
Baron Lloyd Webber and his erstwhile collaborator, lyricist Tim Rice — now Sir Tim — reunited to pen new songs and write additional lyrics for the West End production of the show, which premiered on March 1, 2011 at the London Palladium, where it ran through Sept. 2, 2012. The Wizard of Oz then crossed the Atlantic and made its Canadian premiere on Jan. 13, 2013 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, where it played through Aug. 18, 2013. Then the First North American Tour of The Wizard of Oz commenced on Sept. 10, 2013 at The Smith Center in Las Vegas, NV.
The latest-and-greatest version of the series of stage musicals based on the beloved 1900 children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, has two gimmicks. The first is the new songs by Lloyd Webber and Rice that flesh out the characters and give expression to the emotions of the Wizard of Oz (played by Vancouver actor Jay Brazeau) and the Wicked Witch of the West (portrayed by New York, NY actress Jacquelyn Piro Donovan). (Rice and Lloyd Webber also wrote some new lyrics for the old songs penned by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.)
The second gimmick is the fact that Danielle Wade, the twenty-something college student who plays the show’s heroine Dorothy Gale — plucky Kansas farmgirl-whisked-off-to-Oz — was selected on Nov. 4, 2012 by a telephone poll of the Canadian viewers of CBC TV’s reality show “Over the Rainbow.”
“Our Dorothy — Danielle Wade — won that contest; and five days later, she was in rehearsals. She is really fantastic,” claims Jay Brazeau, who also plays Professor Marvel, the fortune teller whom Dorothy meets when she runs away from home shortly before the tornado hits her aunt’s and uncle’s farm.
“When it first came out [in 1939], The Wizard of Oz was like The Lord of the Rings is today,” claims Brazeau. He adds, “[Andrew Lloyd Webber] was able to take some themes from the film, and actually make songs from them. There’s 6 to 10 new songs, and [we] are also able to simulate a tornado on stage.”
“I am lucky in that I get to sing two of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new songs: ‘The Wonders of the World’ and ‘Bring Me the Broomstick,'” says Brazeau. He adds, “We have the best [of the film], and Andrew Lloyd Webber has just added to it…. Plus, there’s nothing like seeing a live performance.”
In addition to Danielle Wade as Dorothy, Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as the Wicked Witch of the West and mean old Miss Gultch, and Jay Brazeau as Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz, the cast for the First North American Tour of The Wizard of Oz includes Larry Herbert and Chelsey Duplak as Dorothy’s Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, Lee MacDougall as the farmhand Zeke and the Cowardly Lion, Jamie McKnight as the farmhand Hunk and the Scarecrow, Mike Jackson as the farmhand Hickory and the Tin Man, Robin Evan Willis as Glinda the Good Witch — plus Nigel as Toto and Loki as Toto’s understudy.
London and Toronto Wizard of Oz creative team members who are reprising their roles on the First North American Tour include director and adapter Jeremy Sams, choreographer Arlene Phillips, musical supervisor Graham Hurman, set and costume designer Robert Jones, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, sound designer Mick Potter, and video/projection designer Jon Driscoll. The production also features orchestrations by David Cullen and animals are trained by William Berloni.
Born on Dec. 22, 1953 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jay Brazeau grew up in a cold climate. “It’s a very cold place,” he explains. “There’s a lot of mosquitoes in summer and it’s freezing in winter.
Brazeau adds, “I never saw a play until I was 16. It was a crazy play called Little Murders by Jules Feiffer” He first stepped in front of the footlights at age 19. “I was playing in a band, and they they needed someone to play guitar in a play. I had one line: ‘Screw the cops!'”
From that inauspicious beginning, Jay Brazeau has fashioned a career that now includes roles in dozens of plays and hundreds of films and television shows. “I’ve always been an overweight, balding guy, so there’s always been parts for me on film and on stage,” he quips. “As a character actor, I get to play lots of wonderful characters.”
He adds, “From the beginning, I was very lucky.” Brazeau says that when Len Cariou — who was the original Sweeney Todd in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on Broadway and won a 1979 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his efforts — took over the Manitoba Theater Center to perform a new production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Cariou cast him in three small parts.
“He helped me with my career…. He had come from Winnipeg, too, and had this fellow named John Hirsch help him out. I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for Len Cariou. He’s really a wonderful actor and musical performer,” claims Jay Brazeau.
“This is my first time performing in the United States,” says Jay Brazeau. “The audiences are different in the States. In Canada, audiences are sort of reserved. In the States, they tell you right away if they like what you’re doing.
“I am having a great time [on this tour],” he adds. “There’s a lot of little girls dressed up as Dorothy [who come to the show].”
Brazeau also recalls, “Thirty-six of 37 years ago, I went to London, trying to find myself. While I was there, there were auditions for The Wizard of Oz. They liked my American accent, and I ended up playing the Lion.”
He notes that 2014 is the 75th anniversary of the release of the Wizard of Oz movie, and that the 2003 advent of the Broadway musical version of Wicked, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, has re-introduced the denizens of Oz to new generations. Brazeau adds, “There have been a couple of different [stage] versions of The Wizard of Oz recently,” notes Jay Brazeau. “This particular version was first done in England with Michael Crawford as the Wizard.” (Cedric Smith played the Wizard in the subsequent Toronto production of the The Wizard of Oz.)
Jay Brazeau invites Triangle theatergoers to renew auld acquaintance with Dorothy, the Wizard, the witches, etc. “This show will bring back a lot of memories,” he claims. “If you have a chance to bring a child to the show, by all means do so — and experience the story all over again through their eyes.”
SECOND OPINION: April 4th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/showcase/x1548112467/She-s-gone-Over-the-Rainbow-nearly-500-times (Note: You must register to read this article); and Sept. 10, 2013 New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Michael Gioia and Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/181902-North-American-Tour-of-The-Wizard-of-Oz-Starring-Danielle-Wade-Kicks-Off-Sept-10-in-Las-Vegas.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE WIZARD OF OZ at 7:30 p.m. April 8-10, 8 p.m. April 11, 2 and 8 p.m. April 12, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 13 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.
TICKETS: $42.75-$121.75 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/887597.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-wizard-of-oz and https://www.facebook.com/events/226653144145650/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/multimedia/video/.
FIRST NORTH AMERICAN TOUR: http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/.
TOUR CAST: http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/about/cast-list/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/about/creators/.
SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, and https://twitter.com/DPAC.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13th, performance.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900 novel): http://thewizardofoz.info/ (fan site by Eric P. Gjovaag) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz (Wikipedia).
Book: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbc3&fileName=rbc0001_2006gen32405page.db&recNum=0 (Library of Congress online facsimile edition).
L. Frank Baum (novelist, 1856-1919): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Frank_Baum (Wikipedia).
The Wizard of Oz (1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical-fantasy film): http://thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com/ (official website), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/852/The-Wizard-of-Oz/ (TCM Movie Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_%281939_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Harold Arlen (music, 1905-86): http://www.haroldarlen.com/home.html (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Arlen (Wikipedia).
E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (lyrics, 1896-1981): http://www.yipharburg.com/ (Yip Harburg Foundation) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yip_Harburg (Wikipedia).
Herbert Stothart (incidental music, 1885-1949): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Stothart (Wikipedia).
Noel Langley (screenwriter, 1911-80) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Langley (Wikipedia).
Florence Ryerson (screenwriter, 1892-1965) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Ryerson (Wikipedia).
Edgar Allan Woolf (screenwriter, 1881-1943) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Woolf (Wikipedia).
The Wizard of Oz (2011 musical): http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/shows/?show=The%20Wizard%20of%20Oz (AndrewLloydWebber.com), http://www.timrice.co.uk/wiz.html (TimRice.co.uk), https://www.facebook.com/wizardofozthemusical (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/yellowbrickroad (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_%282011_musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (additional music and new songs): http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Sir Tim Rice (additional lyrics and new songs): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Jay Brazeau (Professor Marvel/The Wizard): https://www.facebook.com/jay.brazeau (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/TheBraz (Twitter page), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0106319/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Brazeau (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)