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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All Aboard To Oz - The Star


By SHARMILLA GANESAN
entertainment@thestar.com.my

It takes more than magic and munchkins to bring The Wizard Of Oz to stage.

IT all began with a kid watching The Wizard Of Oz on television. Having directed the much-lauded Cabaret last May, Nell Ng was on the lookout for a new project for her Pan Productions to take on. But after working on that dark musical, she dearly wanted something “fun and colourful”.

“And then I saw a child watching The Wizard Of Oz, how delightful the experience was, and I thought, why not?” Ng says. And from that moment on, there was no stopping her following that yellow brick road (not even when executive producer Alizakri Alias pointed out how expensive staging it was going to be!).
Pan Productions is presenting a stage adaptation of the 1939 screen classic The Wizard Of Oz.

The homegrown production tells the tale of Dorothy, who is carried off with her dog Toto to the magical land of Oz by a cyclone, where her house crashes on the Wicked Witch of the East. Desperate to get home, Dorothy is sent to see the powerful Wizard of Oz by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Along the way, she befriends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, each of whom have a wish they want to ask of the Wizard too. But hot on their heels is the Wicked Witch of the West, who wants to avenge the death of her sister and get the powerful ruby slippers that Dorothy is wearing.

“It is our biggest production so far, and especially when you consider that our first show two years ago, Always In Wonderland, had sets made of recycled materials, we’ve really come a long way,” says Ng, pointing out that besides the elaborate costumes and makeup, the show will feature the various setpieces central to the story, such as Dorothy’s house, Munchkinland and the Emerald City. Bringing these to candy-coloured life are sets by Melissa Teoh and costumes by Rickyy Wong, coupled with makeup by M.A.C Cosmetics.

“When it comes to the creative aspects, my team gives me exactly what I want. And I think I have a dream cast!” adds Ng.

Adapted for the stage from the beloved 1939 film musical, Pan Productions’ offering brings together some of Malaysia’s finest performers to bring the iconic characters to life, including Stephanie Van Driesen as Dorothy, Tria Aziz as the Wicked Witch of the West, Suhaili Micheline as Glinda and Mano Maniam as the Wizard.
The Wizard Of Oz will see Stephanie Van Driesen playing Dorothy and Tria Aziz as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Of course, the show would not be complete without the unforgettable trio of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, which are played by Peter Ong (who also serves as executive producer), Radhi Khalid, and Zalina Lee, respectively.

Featuring a live orchestra, an ensemble cast of 17, and 27 children playing various roles – not to mention the adorable Wolfgang as Dorothy’s dog Toto – The Wizard Of Oz is set to completely immerse you in the world of Oz.

Ng says she isn’t too worried about her version being compared to the movie.

“There’s no right or wrong to the characters, and I let my actors create their own interpretations. That way, they can emote better because they can relate better to the roles,” she points out. “Of course, certain elements from the movie which are extremely memorable, will be there in our show too, but certain things will also be different. For example, while we’ve maintained the essence of the character, you’ll be in for a very different Glinda. Tria’s approach to the Wicked Witch too, is rather wacky and different, but it really works.”
Nell Ng directs the production while Alizakri Alias (seated) and Peter Ong are playing parts.

Of course, every true-blue fan ofThe Wizard Of Oz knows that the songs, such as We’re Off To See The Wizard and Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead are as much a part of the story as the characters; and who can forget that classic numberSomewhere Over The Rainbow? Fleshing the movie script out into a full-scale musical, however, required the addition of new songs, composed for the show by Eric Hah with lyrics by Ng.

“Obviously, the songs had to fit into the script and tell a story,” explains Ng. “We’ve done one more song for Dorothy, and Uncle Henry and Professor Marvel each have a song. Tria sings beautifully, so we’ve come up with two songs for her, and I really wanted a pretty song for Glinda, so we did that too.”

Much like twists and turns of the tale itself, Ng says every day brings something new to the production.

“We’re just taking it one rehearsal at a time at the moment. But we’re already flying, so I think the audience will definitely be in for a magical time!”

The Wizard Of Oz will be playing at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) from April 28 to May 6 at 8.30pm, with additional matinee shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets, priced at RM85, RM105 and RM125, are available at KLPac (03-4047 9000) and The Actors Studio @ Lot 10 (03-2142 2009). For more information, search for “The Wizard of OZ comes to KL!” on Facebook. A Charity Gala Night in aid of Yayasan Sultanah Bahiyah will be held on May 1 (visitysb.org.my for details).

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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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