Ottawa Theatre Review: Orpheus Musical Theatre Presents The Wizard of Oz!

The 2023-24 theatre season is wrapping up this month, and to kick-off June, Orpheus Musical Theatre is presenting The Wizard of Oz at Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe. This is their third and final show of the season, and after a disappointing run of Showgirls, they’ve returned to form with a vengeance and put on an incredible show! As I mentioned in my last Orpheus review, I had high hopes for The Wizard of Oz, and I was not disappointed!

The Venue

If you’re new to Meridian Theatres, I can tell you that it’s an excellent venue for theatre. It offers plenty of free parking, a decent bar service, and very friendly staff, always ready to help you out when needed. The bar is situated in the lobby area, and there’s a reasonable amount of space to mingle before the show, during intermission or afterwards. On the technical side, the lighting and acoustics are top-notch, and the stage is versatile, allowing for a variety of shows. Lastly, the seating is quite comfortable, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

The Show

The Wizard of Oz is a classic story which certainly doesn’t require a synopsis in a community theatre review. However, Orpheus, in true Orpheus form, brought an entirely new vision to this beloved tale. The style of this show is perhaps best described as “steampunk.” And while you might be skeptical as to how well that might work given the era of the original, I’m happy to report that it wasn’t overboard, and added the perfect amount of artistic creativity to the costumes, makeup, the props and set. It was exceptionally well done!

The costumes, designed by Sandy Goldsmith, were incredible! Goldsmith achieved the steampunk aesthetic impeccably. The props design by Hannah Gorham-Smith were also fantastic, and set the tone for the look and feel of the show. It seems to me that the props, costume and set designers really worked well together, collaborating to create a magical experience that draws the audience in for the entirety of the show. The choreography, by Debbie Miller-Smith was also very good; despite the extensive real estate required for the set pieces, and a few crowded scenes (Welcome to Munchkinland), Miller-Smith made excellent use of the space available. The movements perfectly conveyed the emotions of the scene without being overbearing or too large. In regard to the hair and makeup, designer Tiara Wallace and her team were excellent, as usual! The designs really complemented the steampunk theme; the hair styles were remarkable, and Scarecrow’s makeup in particular really stood out as being exceptional.

Standout Performances

If you are familiar with my reviews, you know that I like to acknowledge the aspects of the show that really made it a great experience; given that most members of Orpheus productions are volunteers, I think it’s important to offer congratulations where deserved!

The first standout is the set design. There were many “wow” moments for me during this show when it came to the set. Orpheus often has elaborate sets which excel both functionally and in their overall eye-catching appeal. But the Wizard of Oz set is next-level amazing! Speaking with Orpheus General Manager J.T. Morris, I learned that set designer Gillean Denny Bernier is new to Orpheus, but boasts an impressive resume, with over one hundred productions under her belt, including international projects! The set is simply unbelievable! There are so many moving parts! I was amazed throughout the entire show; it was just awesome!

I’d like to congratulate each and every cast member of this production on a job well-done! There isn’t a single performer who wasn’t exceptional; it was perfect all-around. That made it quite difficult to select just a few individuals who stood out, but even in a cast this strong, there were some that really shone.

Likely not surprising for those who’ve seen the show already, the first standout performance is Corgand Svendsen, who plays Scarecrow. Their ability to leave their skeletal system in the dressing room and master the required limp body movements of Scarecrow was breathtaking! I truly don’t know how an individual can even pull that off, let alone maintain it for the entirety of a show! They also demonstrated impressive singing and dancing skills. They were so funny, and truly captured the audience’s attention. Svendsen was a major contributor to the excellence of this show.

My selection for standout number two is Toto’s puppeteer, Alianne Rozon, who had the audience in stitches! Her facial expressions really captured the emotion that little Toto was experiencing throughout the show. Her stage presence with Toto was superb; she was always there, always performing. Often this was only in the background sniffing around at the set or other performers, but she was always fully engaged in the role of Toto. The audience loved it! I didn’t know what to expect from Toto going into the show, but was not disappointed!

Finally, I have to give a huge shoutout to Marlayah McLeod (Dorothy). She was absolutely perfect in this role. I loved loved loved her accent! McLeod is a fantastic performer and singer, who was seemingly unfazed by the pressure of taking on such a huge role! From the beginning, her rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” demonstrated her singing abilities. Maintaining Dorothy’s mannerisms (and accent!) for the entire show proved that she is also a talented actor. She was magnificent; you’ll have to see it for yourself!

As I mentioned, the entire cast was perfect! I almost feel as though I could write a paragraph on each and every one of them.

I won’t say that this was the best Orpheus production that I’ve seen, as I think I say that about almost every one of their shows as I’m walking out of the theatre, but it certainly was amazing and maintains the high caliber that one expects from Orpheus shows!

The Wizard of Oz is running until June 9th, with evening shows Tuesday – Saturday, and a matinee on Sunday. I do believe that as word gets out about how great it is, tickets will become scarce. So follow the yellow brick road to Meridian Theatres and get your tickets quickly while you still can. (Or really, you can do it online too!)

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