The Wizard of Oz, the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical starring a young Ontario woman in the role of a lifetime as Dorothy, had its official opening Sunday to tepid reviews.
Danielle Wade, the 20-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., was chosen by Canadians through CBC reality show Over the Rainbow.
And she admits it’s a tall order stepping into such a large role, performing live eight times a week.
"For theatre, you have to perform to the back wall, to that person sitting in the back seat, because they paid their money and they came here to see the show," said Wade, who was helped to her Over the Rainbow win by voters from her hometown.
"It's a very, very different style, so that audition process for the TV show is so different from this, compared to this."
In a review in the Toronto Star Monday, Richard Ouzounian had great praise for the cast, saying there was plenty of talent on display.
"Danielle Wade is a sweet and natural Dorothy, singing with emotion, acting with honesty and giving it all she’s got," he wrote.
But he criticized production as a "visual mess," often twee in its effect, with overbright colours and songs by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that don’t match up to the original ones by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg in the 1939 movie.
"At the risk of starting an international incident, I have to repeat my long-held conviction that when it comes to musicals, the British like them the way they like their high teas: long and sweet, with the crusts cut off each sandwich and clotted cream on all the pastries," he wrote.
The Globe’s reviewer Kelly Nestruck found the production occasionally dazzling, but was not convinced Wade could carry the role of Dorothy.
"In scene after scene, Wade keeps hitting the same note — whiny rather than yearning," he wrote.
"The 20-year-old from LaSalle, Ont., has adopted a girlish voice for Dorothy that often feels very put on. This impression is only increased by her poor posture: She’s always slightly hunched over, as if she’s worried that she’s too tall for the part."
The National Post approves of Wade as Dorothy, saying she plays the part as "a troubled teen rising above her troubles, and does much to keep the show on the Yellow Brick Road."
Post reviewer Robert Cushman was unhappy with some of the dance numbers and the garish costumes, though he approved of some of the new songs.
The journey from reality show to theatre star may be no yellow brick road for Wade, who broke off her studies as a theatre student to take on the part of Dorothy.
She admits she may have to pay her dues and face plenty of rejection.
"It is a very unorthodox way of going about getting a role like this — but it's happened so I have to take it, and I have to do everything I can with it!" Wade told CBC News.
The Wizard of Oz from Mirvish Productions is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.