(Contributed) Clockwise from left the Wicked Witch of the West is played by Celeste Ramsey, the Tin Man by Gus Logan, the Lion by Pauline De Silva, the Scarecrow by Jamie Umpleby, Dorothy is played by Maria Buganska and Toto by Natalie Geddes in SPECC-tacular Productions Theatre Group’s upcoming pantomime

Dorothy and Toto are not in Kansas anymore, they’re in Maple Ridge

SPECC-tacular Productions Theatre Group presents the pantomime The Wizard of Oz

The beloved story about a little girl named Dorothy and her dog Toto flies into the ACT in an off-the-wall comedy with over-the-top characters.

SPECC-tacular Productions Theatre Group will be presenting a pantomime of the magical world of The Wizard of Oz just in time for Christmas.

Dorothy, who lives with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry on a farm in Kansas, gets into trouble after Toto bites a neighbour. Fearing that her dog will be put down she takes Toto and runs away from home. A fortune teller convinces her to return home just as a tornado hits the farm. Dorothy is knocked out by a flying piece of debris and enters the alternate world of Munchkinland in the Land of Oz.

Here she is welcomed as a heroine after her aunt’s house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East killing her. When the Wicked Witch of the West arrives to claim her deceased sister’s ruby slippers the Good Witch of the North gives them to Dorothy and tells her to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where the Wizard will help her get home again. Along the way Dorothy meets the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow who, with the hope of getting a brain, a heart and courage, help Dorothy in her quest to get to the Emerald City. But the Wicked Witch of the West has vowed revenge for her sister and goes after the group in an attempt to get the ruby slippers back.

This production, though, is going to be a little different from the original.

“We did the Wizard of Oz six years ago and we did it as a normal musical. We managed to find a pantomime because our specialty are pantomimes. We do musicals, but every Christmas is a pantomime,” explained Christine Olorenshaw with the theatre group.

A pantomime is a live stage musical comedy that was developed in England and is traditionally performed during the Christmas and New Year season.

There are rules that govern a traditional British pantomime including the principal boy being played by a young woman, the role of the Dame that is a female role played by a man in drag and the role of an animal being played by a person. The norm is also for a fairy to always enter from stage right and a villain from stage left.

A panto also includes bad jokes, gags and slap-stick humour. Children and adults are encouraged to cheer and boo as the scene unfolds.

“This one is different because it’s funny and it has a lot of dance numbers and singing. And a lot of audience participation,” she said adding that is what makes it perfect for the whole family.

Olorenshaw also noted that the company has had an addition of three new actors, all of which have amazing voices.

“It’s not the same kind of makeup or costumes. It is kind of a little different. You don’t have a fully green witch, you know. We’ve made the characters a little different. A little more humorous,” said Olorenshaw.

There is going to be a black light number performed by the Maple Ridge Dance Circle.

“The black light is the introduction to the garden in the Emerald City. It is going to be all done with shining green leaves. It is all going to be done in black light. We’ll see dancers dancing but you don’t actually see them. You just see butterflies going through the air,” said Olorenshaw.

Auntie Em is the Dame in the production whom Olorenshaw promises will be over-the-top clown-like.

“Toto is fabulous, she is really good. She is one of the kids. Toto is sometimes a dog and sometimes a human,” laughed Olorenshaw.

The 12 principals will also all have a song to perform including One Short Day from the Broadway show Wicked, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, It’s a Beautiful Day by Michael Bublé and a modern bluesy version of Over the Rainbow.

“We’ve taken popular songs and modern songs that kids and people can recognize and then some of them are parodies,” said Olorenshaw.

The Wizard of Oz panto is an adaptation by Adrian Barradell and runs Dec. 14 to 16 at the ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple Ridge.

The performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. all three days with an additional two matinées at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 16 only.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors and $15 for children under 12-years.

• To order tickets call 604-476-2787 or go to theactmapleridge.org.

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Dorothy is played by Maria Buganska, left, and Toto is played by Natalie Geddes in SPECC-tacular Productions Theatre Group’s upcoming pantomime The Wizard of Oz. (Contributed)

The Wicked Witch of the West, centre, is played by Celeste Ramsey, and her assistants Wotchet, left, played by Lynsey Teasdale, and Witchet played by Bianca Salazar in SPECC-tacular Productions Theatre Group’s upcoming pantomime The Wizard of Oz. (Contributed). (Contributed)

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