Mike, Cheyenne, and I went to see the Wizard of Oz this evening. The production is being put on by the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre (FMCT) at the Stage at Island Park. It was a sold out performance populated with folks of all ages and an awful lot of children.
The production has a large cast and about half of the cast members are kids. And when I say kids, I don’t mean kids from my old lady perspective wherein everyone younger than me is a kid – I mean real kids. Kids play a number of rolls in the musical, but shine as Munchkins. Aside from being talented, they were adorable in their brightly-colored costumes. They sang, they danced, they handled the stage like old pros – I was impressed.
They kids fit right in with a cast that did a commendable job capturing the iconic characters Frank Baum created over a hundred years ago. The production was filled with singing, dancing, and humorous injects (some that introduced a current cultural relevancy that the adults in the audience are more likely to catch). I really liked the sets and lighting effects and I particularly liked the way they simulated the tornado. It was clear that this was a big production filled with a whole lot of heart.
There was one thing though…one thing that did not go as planned in the production…one thing that provided the performers some unexpected angst – Toto’s distraction. Toto was played by a real dog – Charlie. When Charlie first scampered out on stage I was surprised. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to keep Toto in lockstep with the performers through two hours of singing and dancing. After all, Toto is pretty much glued to Dorothy’s hip the entire play. But there he came and he looked capable enough at the outset and the performers were clearly comfortable moving about the stage around him, so I thought to myself – bravo FMCT for securing a real Toto and making it work. W.C. Fields famously said that one should never work with children or animals, but here FMCT did both splendidly.
Well, slendidly, not withstanding the Toto distraction. You see, there was a service dog in the front row of the theater with a patron – a lovely quiet golden lab who never made a peep, but who watched the performance of Toto with great interest. Toto went through the first few numbers without noticing his four-legged fan, but once he caught wind of him Toto’s reaction became the source of additional humor for the audience and challenges for the other performers. Toto decided he would plant himself rigidly in what appeared to be standard pointer position at a certain position on stage to have a stare-down of sorts with the service dog. Never-mind that the service dog was three times his size. Apparently, being the star of a musical went to his head and Toto forgot his actual size in exuding the stage presence of a much larger dog. At any rate, watching the performers try and navigate around Toto’s fixation in that number and throughout the remainder of the show had me laughing out loud at times.
But as it is often said, the show must go on – and so it did. The performers handled Toto’s distraction like pros and that is quite a feat when you are dancing and moving about the stage in tightly choreographed numbers. Kudos to the cast for pulling it off despite the obvious challenge. Such is the case with live theater and working with children and animals – you never know what might happen and how magical it might be. 😉
Day one thousand two hundred and sixty of the new forty – obla di obla da