'Wizard of Oz' comes to Centennial Hall

2014-02-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T14:21:25Z 'Wizard of Oz' comes to Centennial HallBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Danielle Wade has gone over the rainbow and found the pot of stardom at the end.

Thanks to a Canadian reality show, Wade won the role of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” the new adaptation of the musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which Broadway in Tucson brings to Centennial Hall next week.

In September 2012, she was just 19, a student studying acting. Her résumé was short indeed: She had done only community theater, and never auditioned for a role.

But she heard about the Canadian reality show “Over the Rainbow,” in which the public would vote for whomever they wanted to play Dorothy in the Toronto production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

She got on the show. She won. Webber, who oversaw the show, called her “an extraordinary talent.”

“It was crazy when I heard that,” said Wade, in Costa Mesa, Calif., for a two-week run before heading here.

“Crazy is not the best word to describe it. I said, ‘Wait, are you talking about me?’ How do you take that from Andrew Lloyd Webber — say, ‘Oh thank you, sir?’ I’m going to try to live up that potential.”

Wade played Dorothy in Toronto from January to August of last year, when it closed. Then she landed the role in the tour, which took off in September.

While Wade was a bit of a stranger to professional theater, she enjoyed L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. She read the book after a friend gave it to her one Christmas, and “I’ve seen the movie a million times.”

It’s hard to separate Garland from the movie, especially if you’ve seen it a million times.

But that was her mission.

“The first thing the director said to me is, ‘You are playing Dorothy, not Judy,’ and I thought that was pretty cool. People have concepts about the characters, and that’s kind of scary, but it’s fun to bring a fresh interpretation to something that everyone’s seen.”

Webber’s “Oz” is his version of the movie, not the book. The original songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg are woven into the stage show, as are some new tunes by Webber and Rice.

But the heart of the tale remains: Swept away by a tornado, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, land in Oz and work to find their way back home to Kansas, meeting some wonderful — and odd — characters along the way, fighting a wicked witch, and learning some important lessons.

The story — both the book and film — have hooked several generations, something that Wade finds particularly appealing.

“The coolest part of the show is when the lights come up at the end and you can see three different generations of people crying and cheering,” she says.

“That it spans generations is really, really neat.”

Wade hasn’t lived at home with her family since she won the television show and set off on a whirlwind of performances. So the play speaks to her in a particular way.

“I realize how much Dorothy wanted to get back,” she says. “Having a home, family, bed is something that people really latch on to. Home can be different for every person, but I think it’s important to have something to call home.”

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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