By RITA CHARLESTON
For 21st Century Media
Click your heels together and join Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy and her little dog Toto as they journey through the magical land of Oz and end up June 3 to 8 at the Academy of Music as part of the Broadway Philadelphia season presented by The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The show is the first North American tour of the new stage adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Danielle Wade was chosen as Dorothy by the Canadian public to play the role through CBC TV’s reality show “Over the Rainbow.”
Wade says this show is much like our “American Idol,” where contestants have to sing a different song every week while the audience votes.
“I couldn’t believe it but I made it to the end and eventually won,” Wade said. “Because of that I got to play Dorothy in the Toronto production of the show, and was chosen to take it on tour.” Developed from the ever-popular MGM screenplay, this new production contains all the beloved Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg songs from the Oscar-winning movie score, all the favorite characters and iconic moments, plus a few surprises along the way, including new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
For Wade, playing the part of Dorothy is both challenging and exciting.
She says, “Everyone has seen Judy Garland in this role, including me, so the most difficult part was how to make this role my own. I would never try to do an impression of Judy Garland because that would only let everyone down. So I’ve tried to make her my own.
“And she’s such a relatable character,” Wade continues, “that was easy to do. Dorothy is a young girl who doesn’t yet know where she fits in and is trying to figure it out. She’s very much attached to her little dog, and her world turns upside down when someone tries to take it away from her.”
Having completed two years in the fine arts program at the University of Windsor (Canada), Wade says she is thrilled to have this chance to show off her talent in her first professional production since graduation — adding that she’s thrilled but a bit homesick at the same time.
“I still live at home with my parents. I’ve been on tour now for six or seven months, and I didn’t realize how much I would miss home.”
But, unlike Dorothy, Wade can’t click her ruby slippers together and get back home. So she does the next best thing: she thoroughly enjoys playing this iconic role.
“I love playing Dorothy,” Wade says. “It’s not often you get to play a strong female lead like this. Actually, I do enjoy being in the theater and the fact that I can be somebody else every time I step on stage. It’s also cool that I can help the audience engross themselves in what’s going on and forget their troubles and enjoy themselves for two hours.”
And while Dorothy has captured her heart, Wade says she dreams about playing other shows as well, like “Wicked” and “Les Miserables.”
While those are dreams, Wade keeps in mind the advice her father gave her, “which was to keep practicing, and realize that you might not get every role you go after. So if not this time, maybe next time.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Wizard of Oz”
WHERE: The Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St., Philadelphia.
WHEN: June 3-June 8 at 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS: From $20 to $115.50.
INFO.: Call (215) 731-3333 or check kimmelcenter.org/broadway.