We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore!
Certainly not, this is Oz, The Circus of Oz!
This year Alice trades her Wonderland for Dorothy’s Oz in CircusWest’s reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale. From page to stage to screen and back again, Dorothy and Co. have seen Broadway’s stage and Hollywood’s silver screen but that’s old news, this May the cast of characters join the circus in CircusWest’s stunning presentation of The Circus of Oz.
Led by Artistic Director Jay Nunns, featuring CircusWest’s Performance and Centre Stage students, The Circus of Oz marks yet another astounding production. With past productions including adaptations, Around the World in 80 Days and A Circus in Wonderland along with original productions , A Circus in Time and Kaleidoscope, this year we’re headed to The Emerald City and The Circus of Oz is sure to beguile the masses.
When a ferocious tornado engulfs Dorothy and her canine sidekick Toto and transports them to Munchkin Country, a whimsical land surrounded by desert, the pair have never been further from home. Dorothy soon learns that her only way out rests with the illusive Wizard of Oz and with that she sets out along the yellow brick road with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion in tow.
A Carnival Past
Many may not be aware of ‘the great and terrible’ wizard’s carnival past but Oscar Diggs or The Wizard of Oz as he is more commonly known, hails from a good old fashioned sideshow where he skillfully hoodwinked the public performing magic tricks and stunts to ruse and amaze.
Using the expertise gained from life on the road Oscar succeeds in duping the citizens of Oz. Arriving aboard a hot air balloon he masquerades real magic with illusion to position himself as the mighty Wizard of Oz.
When he is eventually found out following the splintering of his protective screen, the Wizard is revealed as a tired old man, a lost traveler. Exposed as a fraud, he is relieved having grown weary of his cloaked existence, longing to return to circus life (how could we blame him!) Now, CircusWest is proud to make Oscar Diggs’ dreams a reality.
Charley Grapewin, the actor who played Uncle Henry in the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book, began his career in the late 19th century as a circus trapeze artist.
MGM’s version of the story sees even more circus innuendo and the introduction of new characters including Professor Marvel, the traveling showman whom Dorothy encounters just before the cyclone strikes. An itinerant swindler, he represents a profound likeness to the character of The Wizard, his real-life counterpart so to speak. Concerned for Dorothy’s fate he turns to his crystal ball and encourages her to return to her Aunt and Uncle’s house almost premeditating the events to follow.
The shabby coat that Professor Marvel wore in the film was a thrift store find. It was discovered later that it used to belong to Oz author, L. Frank Baum (his name was sewn into the garment). Baum’s widow and tailor confirmed the find.
Circus runs in and around the entire tale, even the munchkins are reminiscent of circus. The term ‘midget’ was conditioned by P. T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The midgets were used to create spectacle and provide entertainment in all of the Barnum & Bailey shows. The munchkins in The Wizard of Oz contribute to the story’s mystic setting by creating a sense of curiosity and wonder as Barnum’s midgets did for circus all those years ago.
See it Live
In our circus re-telling of this extraordinary tale we see Dorothy soar over the rainbow on aerial straps as the cowardly lion conquers his fears using acrobatics and contortion. The Tin Man regains his heart in a spirited balancing act while the Scarecrow’s brain is found amidst a juggling conundrum.
A Word from the Creator
The concept of ‘daring to dream’ which is prominent in L. Frank’s story offers an ideal platform for circus storytelling as circus is a place where you can dream big, push limits and defy gravity. The Circus of Oz takes the audience to a magical place where individuals can fly and accomplish amazing things .The show narrates the traditional Wizard of Oz story with scores of breathtaking surprises thrown in to delight audiences and challenge the artists.
We asked Mr. Nunns, if you came face to face with the Wizard, what would your wish be?
More hours in a day and more days in a week!
It takes a village to mount a production of this magnitude! CircusWest coaches meet in October to formulate ideas and start the casting process. Act development begins in January and by March, props are made, the final show order is developed and the music is selected. Then, April comes along and the show is rehearsed and refined for an opening in May.
The Circus of Oz runs from Thursday May 7th to Sunday May 10th with performances twice daily at 12:30PM and 7:00PM at the PNE’s Garden Auditorium.
Don’t miss out on your chance to experience Oz in a circus arena, buy your tickets now and Dare to Dream!