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Way Off Broadway, the finale: there’s no place like home

Way Off Broadway, Episode 12

It’s finally time for the big show. After eight weeks, over a dozen four-hour rehearsals, four celebrity guests, seemingly endless inner turmoil and moments of pride and shame, Sarina Condello’s production of The Wizard of Oz is about to be fully realized by 21 amateurs. It feels like it’s been a long road for director Sarina, musical ingénue Sheila and their cast of hopefuls, but, in fact, this play has been developed at warp speed. The lease is up on the church basement and they’re hauling everything down the street to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall where, in two days, they’ll perform for a sold-out crowd of 1,000-plus friends and family.

Needless to say, no one feels prepared. (Probably because very few actually are.) Bailey, Sarina’s assistant and last week’s silent hero, has the flu and is still working overtime, helping the cast run through lines at Rick’s house before full dress rehearsal. She’s wearing a mask to keep any contagions at bay, and she’s not taking guff from anyone—not even the few cast members that are starting to let their nerves get the best of them.

While half the cast is finding their footing on stage, Michael and Siobhan volunteer to create the playbill for the show. Across town, Matt is at his restaurant creating a signature “Ruby Slipper” cocktail for the cast party. (Our guess is that drinks will be very important when this is over.) But before the cast can celebrate with alcohol, the show must go on—and no one is having a harder time than costumers Gail and Rosario. A few episodes back, when they were scouting locations, the idea was to turn the theatre’s back lot into a tented costume room. But, of course, it’s raining, so the tents aren’t working. The ceiling is pooling, there are electrical wires everywhere and Gail is a little sparkplug with a trucker’s mouth. Things are not running smoothly, that’s for sure.

As the dress rehearsal begins, the microphones go on, the make-up is plastered and the costumes are final. It’s thrilling to see everyone’s characters come to life, except there’s some debate about LeeAnne’s Dorothy: Taz thinks she looks like a “really slutty Dorothy” and Jodi thinks the costume looks “a little whorish.” Sandra looks radioactive as the Wicked Witch; Michael, the Lion, looks adorable with painted whiskers; and Sean, the Tin Man, is covered in glitter (and needs help getting into his costume by his mother). The gang’s all here.

Here are the highlights: Bernie, who initially had a lot of trouble emoting and harnessing his stage presence, pulls off his Professor Wonder character, and it even garners a few laughs. We totally forgot that “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” comes early in the show, and LeeAnne pretty much kills it. Rebecca’s voice isn’t so bad either, which is a surprise to us, since we’ve rarely heard her sing at all since the Dorothy auditions. The crows look like Grease’s Danny Zuko, and they’re hilarious. Sean’s Tin Man has an endearing tap solo with Toto, and he doesn’t look nearly as terrified singing as he did when he played the role as a kid. As for the others? Michael, the Lion, looks like he’s finally opened up and is actually having fun moving around stage; Jodi, our favourite of the season, manages to deliver her one line and make the crowd laugh; and Taz gives a great performance, proving she has finally gotten over herself.

Although we didn’t get to see many “mistakes” (or the Wicked Witch die), it has been a terrific—and sometimes perilous—journey. The entire cast of this season of Way Off Broadway deserved their round of applause. We’ll catch you all over the rainbow. Or next season.


Tonight, Sarina raised $25,000 for her charity The Big Little Caravan of Joy, which provides creative arts camps for Canadian aboriginal children and orphaned children in Africa. She’s helping change lives, both at home and abroad, which she couldn’t have done without Sheila. Congrats, ladies. You did some good.

  • Leslie Fruman

    Paul, I’m the producer of WOB and just want you to know how much we loved your weekly installments. We posted them immediately on our private WOB facebook page where all the cast gathered every Monday to see who got an Ozzie and either crow — or cry (depending on your choices. Your reviews have been a huge highlight for all of us who were part of the show — It great to have this kind of support and to see that you totally got it. Thanks for sticking with us. I’m pretty sure I can speak for the whole cast and crew when I say we’re a bit sad you won’t be writing about us next week….

  • Rick Poetker

    Well said Leslie and I couldn’t agree more…Rick Poetker (aka Uncle Henry )

  • Libby Lennie

    I too loved the commentary. I was a huge fan of the show in the way the stories revealed themselves, in the way Sarina chose to find the sparkle in each performer, in the honorable intention of the project, and your comments, so harsh in the beginning, grew more and more engaging and entertaining. I am so glad you finally ‘got’ Sarina and what she is so tirelessly working towards. She’s a force of nature and she has given 21 individuals a chance to realize a dream. We should all be so lucky!

  • Sarina Condello

    Paul, there are no words except thank you for your humour, insight and commitment to our show! I absolutely LOVED every article and laughed out loud so many times with your interpretation! Thank you for gift in writing and investment to the cast and journey that we all experienced for 2 months. Thank you again fine sir!! I will miss Mondays now without your edge and wit!

  • Siobhan Sweeny

    Thank you Paul!
    It’s true what Leslie said, your reviews have been the highlight of my week and will be greatly missed. When you gave Kathleen and I that shared Ozzie I literally jumped up and down on my computer chair. Thank you thank you!!

  • Ruth

    I too want to thank you for following the show with pith and vinegar. I enjoyed reading your take on each segment even when I did not agree with you. I loved this series and followed it with wonder at how everyone evolved through the process. Thanks again. I will miss both the Friday night shows and your Monday articles.

  • Sandra McKinnon

    I’ll chime in too – I am going to miss Monday’s. I couldn’t wait for 2:00 when I thought you’d have your posting up. You were right, I did start to lose my shine near then end. I was frightfully ill with Kidney issues and fever. It was iffy if I was going to be in hospital or the show about a week before the end. You should go on our facebook website and see the entire show! We nailed it!
    There was a comment in the show that one of us was the glue that held us together I disagree! It was all of US! We were a team. We all worked really really hard together and busted our butts together; in the end; without one of us, it would not have been as good as it was!!
    Some grew more because they had that growing to do; some learned how do hit different notes; to enunciate; to dance; to play; to rise above illness to the stage; to overcome stage fright; to befriend strangers; to relax; to project; to concentrate; to prioritize; to do ballet; to step in if needed; to let go of self; to step into another persons shoes;that it’s ok to grow up;to go for your dreams; and to be a little naughty. And you observed it and chronicled it for us :) Thank you.. Until the other side of the rainbow..

    W.W. Sandra McKinnon

  • Devon

    Show looks pretty great, but they should have definitely searched for a better dorothy character. This girl doesn’t do the role much justice. Her voice is annoying. Aside from that, great play. Well done