Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Emerald City - a Musical Play

I Don't Think We're Quite There Yet, Toto
by Lisa McKeown

Written by Darren Stewart-Jones, this is the story of the characters from the Wizard of Oz, who have realized that their problems haven't magically gone away, and so they make the decision to go to group therapy facilitated by the ever-absent Dr. Oz. 

It's a cute idea, and on the right track, but it could be taken much farther than it was. As written, the characters are a bit two-dimensional, and the show makes more sense if you think of the audience as being in the six to ten year old range. They take turns singing about their problems: the Tin Man is still afraid he has no heart, Dorothy is still unsure of where she's going, the Scarecrow is worried he isn't smart enough, and Lion wants courage. Near the end of the show Lion does muster up the courage to come out to his friends, a secret he's been hiding all along, and they respond warmly. But that aspect of Lion's character -  the update to suit the current cultural climate -  was halfhearted, and wasn't extended to the others, which seems to me like a hugely missed opportunity. Why not make Tin Man someone who bought blindly into capitalism, only to fear once again that he is, in fact, heartless? Why not make Scarecrow a graduate student with chronic impostor syndrome? These changes would have been clever and given the show much more interest and dimension than it currently holds. 

The musical aspect of the show is well done: the songs are entertaining and the singing was excellent. But when it came to the acting - I don't know why this happens in musical theatre, but in moments of dialogue, or in moments of downtime where the attention wasn't focused on a particular actor, most of them hit the same note over and over again, or their acting was weirdly clown-like in its execution, another element that made the show seem juvenile. A general note to tone down the vocal intonations and try to relax the acting a bit - like using a smartphone in a more realistic way - might have also smoothed this piece out and made it easier to watch. There were also a few technical design elements that could have been better - a bit of green spray paint on the metallic parts of the chairs would have made the set pop a lot more, and more attention to the costumes (Dorothy's dress wasn't hemmed, for example) might have made it much cleaner, visually. Basically, this is the seed of a fantastic show, but it's not quite there yet. 

July 2 - 13

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