An annual holiday tradition, Ross Petty Productions’ panto takes the stage in Toronto
This year’s Ross Petty holiday production at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz, and it does not disappoint, thanks to the endearing characters, brightly coloured costumes and set, and jabs at politicians. We’re happily taken along the yellow brick road, while we watch Dorothy (spirited Camille Eanga-Selenge) make the world a better place.
My kid’s favourite part of the show was the twister. Unlike the usual Kansas tornado, this cheeky Toronto version has things blowing around such as sharks from Ripley’s Aquarium, single-use coffee cups, an “Open for Business” sign and, finally, an image of Premier Doug Ford. Cleverly projected on the backdrop, this twister gets lots of laughs. Bravo to projection designer Cameron Davis for this local colour and eco-sentiment.
As we know, Dorothy makes friends one by one in the Land of Oz, all of whom have a quest for self-improvement: Scarecrow (Matt Nethersole), Tin Man (Eric Craig) and Lion (Daniel Williston). Sweet, ultra-pink Sugarbum (Michael De Rose) is the Good Witch, and she wishes to get her magic mojo back. The five of them make a solid team against the wrath of the deliciously evil Wicked Witch (Sara-Jeanne Hosie).
Toto (Olive) pulls his weight in the show, demonstrating ease and patience as he’s in the arms of his twirling master Dorothy. His finest moment is in the finale, as he barks along with fervour and cuteness, celebrating his return to Toronto from Oz, or maybe the end of his shift.
Randy (Eddie Glen) is the Wicked Witch’s adorable right-hand man. Sharp and nimble, this crowd-pleaser delightfully mocks her whenever he can, becoming perfectly Trump-like at one laugh-out-loud moment, hand gestures and all.
For me there was one jarring moment in the play. After Dorothy finally clicks the heels of her high-tops and says “there’s no place like home,” we were ready to revel in her reunion with family and friends. This happy-end moment was abruptly stopped when the projection screen lowered down to offer us an ad. I thought the timing was poorly calculated.
That said it is overall an entertaining, family-friendly show that has fun music like “Born To Be Alive” and “Born This Way” that are sung and danced to with great energy. It was a bit less goofy than past Ross Petty productions that I’ve seen, which is too bad, but it has the added substance of Dorothy’s anti-bullying and pro-environment actions. Back from the Land of Oz, Dorothy is empowered to run for city council, so she can remedy several societal ills.
- The Wizard of Oz is playing until January 5, 2019 at The Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street)
- Shows start at 12 PM, 2 PM, 5 PM or 7 PM depending on the exact date; see calendar
- Ticket prices range from $27 – $99, and family packs are available for $256
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 1-855-599-9090, or in person at the box office
Photo of Matt Nethersole as Scarecrow, Camille Eanga-Selenge as Dorothy, Michael De Rose as Sugarbum, Eric Craig as Tin Man, Daniel Williston as Lion by Racheal McCaig