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Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!

The Wizard of Oz has taken to the stage at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni.
Dorothy applies a tune-up to the Tin Man in advance of the Wizard of Oz

Denis Levasseur says it’s all his fault that Portal Players Dramatic Society has taken on The Wizard of Oz as its latest musical.

“I came home one day and said to my wife, ‘I think we should bring Wizard of Oz to Portal Players.’ But I would only do it if she produced it with me.”

This Friday, Feb. 21, the community will get its first glimpse of Levasseur’s dream when The Wizard of Oz takes to the stage at the Capitol Theatre.

Levasseur is co-directing the musical with Elliot Drew. Although Drew is a veteran of stage productions and musicals—he and Levasseur worked together on Jesus Christ, Superstar and The Rocky Horror Show—he said they really  had no idea what an undertaking it would be when they decided a year ago to bring Oz to the stage.

“We wanted to do something bigger and better than what has been done before,” he said.

“We’re doing a lot of new things for the Capitol (see sidebar). For us, it’s new and exciting and there’s new software we’re learning, and new technology.

“We’ve put in a lot of work that will benefit new shows that come in here. We’re breaking ground on the technological side.”

There are also many new faces in the cast, as well as a good mix of veterans, Levasseur said.

Teresa Drew (Miss Gulch, Wicked Witch of the West) has played an integral role in bringing Wizard of Oz to the stage. She and a team of four including Yvette Deveau, Carrera Schroeder, Gittan Klemetsrud and Lori Shone-Kusmin was responsible for makeup; and the fantasy part of Oz was challenging, said Drew.

“We’ve literally been practicing the makeup for months,” Drew said. They used a new silicone-based makeup that actors cannot sweat off; Drew also created silicone casts of the actors’ faces and purchased an airbrush system for faster application.

Known for her handiwork with stage makeup, Drew said techniques have changed dramatically since she earned a diploma in makeup 20 years ago from the Vancouver Film School. “Airbrush was never part of the training. Silicone, makeup, they’ve all changed,” she said.

She also created the backdrops, nine of which are projected onto a screen.

“This was my biggest art project to date,” she said. “When I designed it I thought ‘colouring book’. Kansas is ‘real’.”

Join the fantasy starting this Friday, Feb. 21. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Other dates include Feb. 22 and 28 and March 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15. Sunday matinees are Feb. 23 and March 9. Tickets are available at the box office, Rollin Art Centre and