The Saint John Theatre Company is off to Oz this week as they present the classic story of “The Wizard of Oz”. Running November 12 to 15, this production honors the traditional tale with universal themes of family, love, and acceptance that leaves both old and new generations of theatre-goers with something to enjoy.
The cast of over thirty includes two UNB Saint John students: Victor Szymanski and Hannah Wallace. Wallace, whose performance marks her first with Saint John Theatre Company, is thrilled and ready for audiences to see this show: “I don’t think I could be any more excited!”
Wallace says, “The most exciting part of the show for me is being on stage again! This is my first musical since I was in high school, but being back on stage feels like being home.” Wallace holds a fifteen-year background in ballet training at Port City Dance Academy and began performing musical theatre in high school. She is playing five different roles in the ensemble. “I have never been in a show where I have had so many characters to play and so many dance styles to do,” she says, but is quick to add “I really love the challenge!”
Szymanski, who plays the Tin Man, has been performing in theatre all through middle and high school and this is his third performance with the Saint John Theatre Company following “The Sound of Music” and “The Great Gatsby” last season. As a full-time student, Szymanski embraces the challenge of performing in a major production. “I find it difficult to juggle lectures and labs with rehearsals, but there’s so much fun in that too!”
“The Wizard of Oz is more than just a fairytale; it brings up these universal parts of the human experience,” Szymanski says. “I don’t know anybody who hasn’t felt dumb like the scarecrow, heartbroken like the tinman, scared like the lion, or lost like Dorothy.”
Delighted for audiences to experience the show, Szymanski continues: “The story tells us that true affirmation comes from within, a message that I think is very important today considering the amount of societal problems experienced, like low self-esteem, crippling perfectionism, and the strange idea that we need to be productive to have worth. It’s important to know that our minds are our homes. That being said we have to take care of ourselves, because as Dorothy says, ‘there really is no place like home’.”
Wallace and Szymanski are both happy to be working with the Saint John Theatre Company. Wallace says “The people that have worked on and are in the show are amazing people to work with,” and she adds that she “would love to do more SJTC productions!” Szymanski echoes these statements, saying “There are actors and dancers of all ages performing and I think it’s a beautiful thing that the age gap has never proved to be a barrier to our camaraderie.” He adds, “The Saint John Theatre Company and the production team for the Wizard of Oz really strive to articulate what the story really means and how to connect that message to the audience.”
The Baron attended the preview night of “The Wizard of Oz” and echo many of these statements. Propelled by exquisite projection and set design by Corwin Ferguson and lively direction by Jennifer Mabey, Saint John Theatre Company’s “The Wizard of Oz” breathes new life into the classic story.
“The Wizard of Oz” runs November 12 to 15 at the Imperial Theatre. Tickets are $10 for students and are available in-person at the Imperial Theatre Box Office, online at imperialtheatre.nb.ca, or by phone at 506-674-4100.