Wizard of Oz

Rainbow Connection: New Webber-Rice Broadway tour of 'Wizard of Oz' landing in Chicago

2014-04-27T00:00:00Z 2014-04-30T13:44:07Z Rainbow Connection: New Webber-Rice Broadway tour of 'Wizard of Oz' landing in ChicagoBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

After being cast on stage in the role of the Tin Man, Broadway actor Mike Jackson realized an interesting musical detail about beloved 1939 film classic "The Wizard of Oz."

"The movie has all of these wonderful songs that still capture the hearts of new generations today," Jackson explained, chatting by telephone last week from Clearwater, Florida during a break in performances for the new "re-imagined" national tour of "The Wizard of Oz."

"But actually, when you think about it, all of the songs are in the first half of the film. The scenes for the second half of the story really don't feature any big song numbers."

Jackson soon discovered the drought of favorite song numbers for later scenes of Dorothy's adventures over the rainbow resolved for this new tour of "Wizard of Oz," which not only contains the beloved Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg songs from the Oscar-winning movie score, along with all the favorite characters and iconic moments, but also a few surprises along the way, including new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

"With this telling, now, the Wizard gets his own song, so does Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West, all given their own big song moments," said Jackson.

"I'm always quick to explain that none of the classic components of the legendary tale have been altered for audiences. It's all there, with the bonus of some new favorite song and scene moments."

Broadway In Chicago is hosting a two-week run of "The Wizard of Oz" for a limited engagement Wednesday, April 30 through May 11, 2014 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, in Chicago.

In addition to Jackson, who originally hails from Toronto, playing the Tin Man, it stars Danielle Wade as Dorothy, the young actress chosen by the Canadian public through CBC TV's reality show "Over The Rainbow." The production, which already played London, was developed from the ever-popular MGM screenplay from the original film.

This national tour features the same award-winning creative team from London and Toronto with direction by Jeremy Sams, Robert Jones' set and costume design, Arlene Phillips' choreography, Hugh Vanstone's lighting design, Mick Potter's sound design, Jon Driscoll's video/projection design, David Cullen's orchestrations and Graham Hurman's musical supervision. This U.S. tour is produced by Bill Kenwright, The Really Useful Group, David Mirvish, Troika Entertainment & Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.

Jackson, who towers at 6-feet-3-inches, said the casting process for this much-anticipated tour started in 2012.

"I still remember being called in for the Tin Man role to audition before 16 people," Jackson said.

"I had previously worked with choreographer Arlene Phillips for some other productions like 'Starlight Express.' And with my height as an actor, it's hard to forget me for the roles I'm cast to play. I'm the usual lumberjack kind of guy."

Once cast in his role, Jackson soon learned about the costume and make-up process for transforming into the Tin Man, and how to do it in what seems like breaking-speed.

"You have to remember that for the three major Yellow Brick Road characters, we also pull double-duty as the Kansas farmhands who are Dorothy's pals," said Jackson, also referring to his stage counterparts Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow and Lee MacDougall as Lion.

"So during the twister scene, the three of us have to quickly get out of our farmhand clothes and into our Oz characters very quickly."

He said the same is true for actress Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, who must quickly morph into the guise of the Wicked Witch of the West after just appearing on stage in an earlier scene as grouchy Miss Gulch.

"My costume as the Tin Man is certainly involved, since it's a combination of plastic, hard foam and leather sectioned into 15 pieces, including microphones in my shoes and a piro-pack connected to my funnel crown to shoot puffs of smoke," Jackson said.

"The folks who created all of this make-up design and costuming for the original production in London came over to help us with our needs for this tour. I'm fortunate that I can do my own silver make-up, since I just rub it on. But for the Witch to get her green skin, she has to be sprayed, which is much more of a process. And even after I have to quickly remove my make-up for that final scene to return back to my farmhand alter-ego, I still find myself discovering smudges of silver here and and there on me long after our final bows."

Jackson said some of his most rewarding moments of this tour come from the children in the audience and the moments of awe.

"It's not unusual to have families attend together and they represent three generations," Jackson said.

"And once, we even had a four-generation family in the audience, which is incredible and demonstrates the across-ages appeal of this story."

Of all the scenes of the production, Jackson said it is the twister scene that always garners the most "wow-factor."

"Because I'm always backstage changing into costume at the moment of the twister, I could only hear all of the reaction from the audience and always wondered just how incredible the effect must be," he said.

"And then finally, one afternoon we had understudies doing a run of the show for rehearsal and the rest of the cast got to sit out in the audience to see the entire display scene after scene. And now, I realize just how amazing these moments really are to behold."

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