Masquerades's Wizard of Oz at Sivakami Petachi ASuditorium, Chennai

On Friday, 20th May 2011 my daughter and I watched the Wizard of Oz. I remember reading the Puffin
version of the story to my daughter when she was a little girl and the checked dress of Dorothy made
quite an impression on her. She even set aside a green Magyar sleeve frock aside as her Dorothy dress
and named a white stray dog which she persuaded us to adopt as Toto. So Wizard of Oz was a must see
for both of us.
The Chennai Theatre Group called Masquerade put up an adaptation of this story in Chennai recently. A
simple and innovative set design was the main feature of this production. The props were kept to a bare
minimum and the stage lighting was excellent. The yellow brick road was realistically done with a sliver
of light on the stage. Obviously Harshavardhan Ganesh is talented and it showed. The costumes were all
well designed and suited the character. The ‘Cowardly Lion’ played by Shankar Chockalingam was
dressed in a yellow suit complete with tail and all. Rahul Murali, the Tinman, looked metallic with silver
grease paint on his face. It was Neetha Srikanth as the Wicked Witch of the West who took all the
honours for acting. Her performance was electric and there was a certain menace in her demeanor. She
seemed a perfect witch and her sidekick the “cat” looked pathetic as he suffered at her hands.
Frank Baum’s classic tale set in the corn fields of Kansas is really a parable dressed up as a fairy tale: a
story of self discovery and realization. If the yellow brick road is the magic path to self awareness
offered by religion, a straight path to certitude, the four travelers in our play find out that all the
knowledge they sought was within them. Thus the Cowardly Lion discovers that he is brave, the
Scarecrow finds out that he is brainy afterall and the Tinman finds out that he has a heart at the end of
the adventure and even Little Dorothy has within her the ability to return back to her farm in Kansas.
The director has taken some liberty with the text and the innovations such as the Mylapore Mami, could
have been avoided. I am not opposed to innovation as such but a classic text such as the Wizard of Oz
cannot be amended to suit the taste of a contemporary audience. The dance movements introduced to
represent movement and change of scene and tempo derived from Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk was
stunning. Chennai does have talent in the field of theatre.
I enjoyed the play immensely for two reasons. To a large extent it recaptured the lost wonder of
childhood and the innocence of a era long gone. Second the screen adaptation and the script was tight
and well organized leaving few loose ends. And Mitra Vishvesh as Dorothy was the icing on the cake. She
delivered her lines like a seasoned professional and she will go a long way in Theatre.
After a long time I saw a play that I really enjoyed