The splashy opening production number is "Born This Way" (including choreography cribbed from Mother Monster) and, delightfully, it just gets gayer in the family-oriented production of The Wizard of Oz
. Ross Petty's productions are hit-and-miss depending on one's tolerance for puns, penis-size jokes, satire and sight gags, but basing the show on a seminal gay text and giving it an unusually linear storyline makes for a fun evening.
A lovably lisping Jessica Holmes transports Dorothy, a spunky Elicia MacKenzie, from Toronto to Oz and the hijinks begin. The addition of a love story between Dorothy and the Tin Man, the suitably handsome Yvan Pedneault, doesn't slow the action and provides an opportunity for two showstopping big ballads -- and a heartwarming ending. At least the romance, while resolutely het, is cross-species.
The overarching theme of acceptance of differences is a great one for children and probably didn't hurt for many of the parents. My nephew was puzzled before the show by the fact that two of the female characters were being played by men -- Ross Petty as a deliciously evil Wicked Witch and the sublime Dan Chameroy (right) as Aunt Plumbottom Von Botox. Not ready to commit to a discussion of gender roles, I bought time by stating authoritatively, "It's a British thing." Whether The Wizard of Oz
is just following pantomime's crossdressing tradition or seriously satirizing gender foibles becomes utterly irrelevant as the two dragsters sing Donna Summers' "Hot Stuff" while attempting to seduce the Wizard -- a moment that seriously fucked with my head before I just surrendered to it as the rest of the audience already had.
Most of the music, excluding the Wizard as Ozzy Osbourne singing Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite" (which is twistedly camp in its own right), is disco classics: "Macho Men" sung by miners, "Funkytown" as the theme song for easing on down the yellow brick road -- if the writers or Petty had gone for the blatantly missing Wicked
gag, the show would have been a total triumph and sealed its status as blissfully gayer than Priscilla
Also extremely gratifying were the cacophonous catcalls and boos that marked every visual representation or mention of our illustrious mayor. The audience of this heavily, but hilariously, corporate-sponsored production was certainly not composed totally of leftwing pinkos, and let's hope that Ford's upcoming walk-on in The Nutcracker
gets the same reaction from the more staid balletomanes and dowagers. When even small children recognize Ford as a villain, there is hope for the future.
Dear Mr Petty, cast and creatives, much thanks for, intentionally or not, sliding so much wonderful subversion and education into a consistently entertaining "wickedly wacky family musical."
The Wizard of Oz runs till Fri, Jan 6 at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St. rosspetty.com