Tornado, talking scarecrows, witches, and lions strike Saskatchewan farm

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Prairie Skies Musical Theatre takes on an old favourite

Paul Bogdan
A&C Editor

Prairie Skies Musical Theatre’s inaugural production is underway with the company’s take on The Wizard of Oz. New to Regina, Prairie Skies does outdoor theatre on a farm just outside of Edenwold, SK.

The production doesn’t change much from the original, and is more or less what you’re expecting from this classic. Disappointing to hear were recorded backing tracks to accompany the singers. Songs like “Over the Rainbow” which pull the melody ever so slightly before or after the beat would have benefited greatly from a live accompaniment. Recorded backing tracks may be created with live musicians, but a backing track will never be able to do the things a live musician can. Backing tracks can’t slow down slightly if the singer is really pulling on the beat; they can’t play louder or give more if the moment calls for it; they can’t repeat a part if a singer misses his or her cue. Moreover, live musicians are human and prone to error, but can often save themselves — or have a bandmate save them — quick enough that the audience may not even notice; backing tracks cannot, and if they skip or screw up (which did happen once briefly), the consequences are often worse.

At least though, the only live aspect to the music was done well. All of the singing was done rather well, but even Judy Garland would have been satisfied with actress Noelle Antonsen’s singing.


"The production of The Wizard of Oz wasn’t spectacular, but by no means was it done poorly. The whole experience is where Prairie Skies Musical Theatre excels though: a sunset drive out of the city, watching a classic story, and counting stars during scene changes."


In place of the traditional painted backdrops was a large digital screen that made scene changes much smoother and quicker. However, the backgrounds displayed on the screen looked somewhat cheesy. Oz looked like some weird alien overlord, and I’ve seen gif files with better animation.

Even if the show ended up being a complete disaster and everything had gone inexplicably but entirely wrong, it would have been saved by Pebbles the dog who played Toto. I’m not much on small dogs, but every time she came on stage, I had to resist running on stage and stealing that dog for being so damn cute. She didn’t even do anything! She had no lines and was either carried, led, or told where to go on stage, and she still managed to be a star simply because she was that adorable.

Prairie Skies Musical Theatre is a simple idea that attempts to be grandeur with a large stage, many lights, lots of smoke, and a big digital screen. The company’s first production would have had a truly grandeur performance if this simple idea of outdoor theatre been done in a simpler matter. If you’re going to perform outside, you may as well have a simple stage on the ground and utilize things like trees and shrubs instead of having an image of a tree on a screen, especially if the play is set predominantly outside.

The best part of the performance lies in the theatre company’s title. It was an absolutely gorgeous evening outside, with the sun setting behind the stage and the sky gradually fading darker until the stars decided they too wanted to come out and watch the performance. Being removed from the city also added to the play’s rural setting, but quite simply it’s hard to argue with being outside on a quiet summer evening in the prairies.

The production of The Wizard of Oz wasn’t spectacular, but by no means was it done poorly. The whole experience is where Prairie Skies Musical Theatre excels though: a sunset drive out of the city, watching a classic story, and counting stars during scene changes.

2 comments

  1. CKD 2 August, 2012 at 20:30

     
    With all due respect, I would just like to express my disagreements with Paul Bogdan's Review.

    Being a union performer myself, I must express how refreshing it was to see a show of this caliber (ESPECIALLY in Saskatchewan). It was very clear that the lead cast, all being graduates of the acclaimed Canadian College of Performing Arts, were very seasoned, well-trained performers. Though the local youth cast wasn't as well rounded, it was very heart-warming to see the company incorporate Saskatchewan’s endearing sense of community. Furthermore, they're like 9…Give 'em a break!
    I will agree with the fact that Noelle Antonsen would make Judy Garland proud with her stunning voice and trademark Dorothy mannerisms. Her youthful performance was perfect for the role with a little something different! And who couldn't love that dog! Pebbles really did steal the show!

    On toppp of that, Nilsen Teifenbach, Zane Buchanan and Francis Demontigny also proved themselves to be very solid male performers, which aren't easy to come by now-a-days. Nilsen's quirk and acrobatic skills made him perfect for the role of the Scarecrow. And Francis incorporated his French dialect into the role of the Lion which added humour to an already hilarious role. Local, Zane Buchanan was a standout with his suave performance as the Tinman that almost payed tribute to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. His triple threat abilities suited the era perfectly.

    The witches, who are usually shadowed but the four lovable leads, held their own! Kat Palmer, who played Glinda, graced the audience with her elegance and technically sound coloratura vocals. And Sarah Murphy, had a different portrayal of the which that was much more comedic than the original!

    As for the technical aspect, a live band would have been great, but it is nearly impossible to do well in an outdoor venue. Also, the run is very long and that would require a lot of funding. Now adays professional company's from the Globe Theatre to Mirvish to Broadway use tracks. And as far as tracks go, these ones were very well constructed.

    And the LED screen was far from cheesy! The animation were phenomenally made and seemed as though they belonged on stage in Toronto or New York. They often reminded me of the backdrop in Des McAnuff's Jesus Christ Superstar which was transferred to Broadway this past year.

    All in all, I respect Pauls opinion but we will have to agree to disagree for the most part. We can agree, however, on the fact that the experience was truly beautiful!

Comments are closed.

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