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Park Wizard

Shakespeare By The Sea trods the Yellow Brick Road to summer.

James MacLean, Nathan Simmons, Jade Douris and Melissa MacGougan visit Oz. - JESSE MACLEAN
  • James MacLean, Nathan Simmons, Jade Douris and Melissa MacGougan visit Oz.

The Wizard of Oz
June 30-August 31
Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park
by donation ($25 sweet seat)

We've had a lot of conversations about, 'What is iconic? What are people going to be expecting?'" muses Jesse MacLean, director of Shakespeare By The Sea's season opener, an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. "We don't have the rights to 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' but we know that Dorothy gets sucked away in a tornado."

MacLean is thinking about all of this on what is ostensibly his day off, but he's calling from SBTS's indoor home, the Park Place Theatre, doing some painting. The Wizard of Oz is the latest in the company's series of non-Shakespeare family shows, following the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Robin Hood. "We want to choose titles that are recognizable," he says, "that generations of people can come and enjoy."

As with last season's Twelfth Night, Garry Williams has composed original music for Wizard (if you want the hits, watch the movie). "The original story was written in 1900," says MacLean, "but we've decided to set our story in the middle of the Great Depression. We've got a real bluegrass flavour, with live musicians."

Though most people are familiar with the Judy Garland version of a Kansas teen swept away to a magical land, SBTS has adapted Frank L. Baum's original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. "He intended it to be a fairytale that was just entertainment, coming out of the Victorian age where everything had to have a very hard moral, to scare the hell out of children," says MacLean, laughing.

"It does run across a lot of these stories, about dreaming big and branching out on your own," he adds. "There's all kinds of great themes of bravery and friendship and courage and heart. They're all layered in there, almost without us noticing them."

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