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(Posted 8:30 a.m., Feb. 6)

Local cast superb in MCT production of 'The Wiz of the West'
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

'The Wiz of the West' put on old twist on the classic 'Wizard of Oz' story with Dotty, Mooch, Tincup, Lionel and the Scared Crow. Fred Sherwin/Photo


The Missoula Children's Theatre made their annual pilgrimage to Orléans this week and the result was an extremely entertaining production entitled "The Wiz of the West" featuring 54 budding thespians between the ages of six and 17.

The play was held in the theatre at École secondaire Béatrice-Desloges in Avalon, with performances at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

"The Wiz of the West" provides a somewhat different twist on the classic "The Wizard of Oz". There's still a Dorothy and a Toto only they're called Dotty and Mooch, and instead of a tin man, cowardly lion and scare crow, there's a tinhorn, a cowardly Lionel and a scared crow.

Instead of the Wicked Witch of the West, there's Hawknose Halley and instead of the great and powerful Oz there is the big and very large Dr. Ozzy, purveyor of snake oil and hair tonic.

You get the picture.

Despite the different characters, the storyline is very similar to the original. Dotty's house gets caught up in a tornado and end's up landing on top of Kansas Kattie in the middle of Montanta where she meet's Cyclone Sam and the Munch family, also known as the Munch Kin. Get it?

Dotty wants to return home, but the only person who can help her is Dr. Ozzy, who lives in Green Glen a fair distance journey through the desert and over the mountains.

In order to help her find her way, Cyclone Sam tells her to put on Kansas Kattie's boots. But just as Dotty puts them on, Hawknose Halley arrives on the scene with her henchmen Mad Dog, Top Dog and Bad Dog.

When Halley finds out that Dotty killed her sister, she demands that Dotty hand over her sister's boots. Dotty refuses and Hawknose Halley is forced to take her leave while promising to exact her revenge.

After a pep talk from Cyclone Sam, Dotty and Munch set out to find Dr. Ozzy. Along the way they meet a scared crow; a frozen tinhorn, or minor, who they manage to thaw out; and the former Mayor of Castle Butte who was chased out of town by Hawknose Halley.

They also encounter a flock of buzzards and a gaggle of the cutest turantulas you've ever seen. Fortunately, they have a pack of coyotes watching over them and before too long they final get an audience with the great and very large Dr. Ozzy who is less than sympathetic to Dotty's predicament.

Instead of helping her get home, he tell's her to find Hawknose Halley and bring back her hawknose.

Dotty, Mooch and their newfound friends track Halley down, and after a scuffle, they eventually rip off Halley's fake hawknose to reveal a beautiful young woman. As it turns out Halley wore the nose because "no one takes a pretty girl seriously".

"I wore it to get respect," Halley claims revealing the theme of the play -- never judge a book by it's cover.

"If people knew you for what was on the inside and not the outside, they'd respect you," Dotty tells Halley, who finally sees the light.

After helping Halley, the merry band of friends brings the fake hawknose to Dr. Ozzy who addresses them through a megaphone from behind a large curtain which Cyclone Sam peels away to reveal the real Dr. Ozzy, who turns out to be a lot tinier than his persona.

Sitcking to the theme, Dr. Ozzy realizes that he doesn't need to hide behind a curtain to get people's respect. The scared crow realizes that she's every bit as intelligent as the next crow. The tinhorn minor realizes he really does have a heart afterall. And Lionel realizes that he needs to stand up for himself.

As for Dotty, she realizes that her newfound friends are her family and she decides to stay in Montana.

It's a feel good play brought to life by a terrific young cast. What made the production so remarkable is the fact that auditions were held just five days before the actual play.

Missoula Children's Theatre directors Eric Doades and Jocelyn Bjornstad were charged with the task of preparing the large cast for Saturday's performances, including the costuming and choreography. They did a remarkable job.

Kristen Leboeuf was so good in the lead role of Dotty, I thought she was one of the directors at first. It wasn't until the house lights came on and I checked the program that I realized she was one of the actors. Sara Mosher was excellent as well as Hawknose Halley, and Anne-Carolyne Binette did a standup job as the Scared Crow, as did Riley Hawkins and Matthew Schlachter who played the Tinhorn and Lionel respectively.

The most pleasant surprise of the afternoon was delivered by Janita Zhang, who played Dr. Ozzy. Zhang's solo performance was simply spellbinding. The rest of the principal cast included Eric Jones as Mooch; Amy Lowson as Top Dog; and Laurent Molino as Bad Dog.

Missoula Children's Theatre is based in Missoula, Montana. Their mission is to teach children life lessons through the magic of theatre. Each year, a small army of Missoula directors fans out across North America to spread the gospel.

Each show is produced by local volunteers who billet the directors, publicize the auditions and organize the rehearsals.

This year's production was organized by Kim Kimbell and Marcia O'Connor, who got a lot of help from former producer Heather Dunbar, Heather Dale and Scottie Sponder.

Former actor, producer and pianist Nicolas Butt also returned as the guest accompaniest.

All in all, "The Wiz of the West" is another in a long line of excellent Missoula productions, providing local youth with an opportunity to take part in the most magical of endeavours -- live theatre.

The local production of 'The Wiz of the West' featured several ensemble numbers involving the entire cast. Fred Sherwin/Photo

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

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