Invited to magical land of Oz

Laura Dand plays Dorothy and Elija McKellar plays the Wicked Witch of the West in the upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz, which opens at the ACT on Friday. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Laura Dand plays Dorothy and Elija McKellar plays the Wicked Witch of the West in the upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz, which opens at the ACT on Friday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Just like Dorothy, there are times when Ashlyn O'Shea would like to click her heels together and transport herself back home.

It usually happens at the tail-end of vacations, when she's missing her family, her shower and cozy bed.

"I'm really close to my family," says the 19-year-old. "Whenever I go on vacation, I get really home sick."

As one of two Dorothys cast in Bergthorson Academy's production of Wizard of Oz, O'Shea has been tapping into those feelings of home-ness since she began rehearsals in September.

She has loved L. Frank Baum's story about the girl from Kansas and her dog Toto lost in the land of Oz since she was a child.

She knew most of the song from the movie starring Judy Garland before she auditioned.

"I've always loved Judy Garland," says O'Shea, admitting she's got pretty big, red shoes to fill.

"I try my best, but it is really hard to live up to Judy Garland."

O'Shea loves everything about the Wizard of Oz – the characters, the setting and its unusual story.

"It's not a love story, but a story about friendship," she says.

"Dorothy always sees the best in people and tries to help her friends."

O'Shea and the cast also share the stage with a real dog - Princess - who hasn't acted out on stage.

"She doesn't bark or anything," says O'Shea, with relief.

"This has been the funniest role I've played. Dorothy is feisty but she's also really sweet. I think she's a strong person."

The production also features the Ridge Meadows Orchestra, which now boasts a full string section.

Tasked with scaring Dorothy and retrieving her squashed sister's rudy slippers is the Wicked Witch of the West.

For Cosette Meynders who plays her, the role has been somewhat cathartic.

A musical theatre novice, Meynders first production with the Bergthorson Academy was Iolanthe, where she played a senator as part of the chorus. She picked up the courage to audition for a lead role after a little encouragement from Rayne Beveridge, who is also directing this production. Beveridge is sharing conducting duties with local musician Peter Tam.

"She's someone everybody loves to hate," says Meynders.

"She is fun to play."

Meynders is trying to mimic the witch in the MGM classic - a cranky, cackling hag who hounds Dorothy until the very end.

"I'm trying to follow the movie a little bit and be the lady who I was scared of as a kid," she says.

"It is therapeutic because I can be silly and crazy and still have positive feedback."

Meynders though wants to point out that she only has one thing in common with the Wicked Witch - the fact that she too dislikes little dogs.


The Wizard of Oz, accompanied by the Ridge Meadows Orchestra, plays The ACT in Maple Ridge on Friday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. and 7p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. A pack of four tickets is available for $40.

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