There’s a trend now to involve television audiences in rooting for performers who vie for starring roles in major musicals. Canada recently took advantage of that trend, spurred by Andrew Lloyd Webber (a cogent reader of publicity enhancers), as ALW prepared to launch a Canadian update to The Wizard of Oz. The show Over the Rainbow showcased 20 young Canadian women who competed for judges and votes from the television audience, all to star as Dorothy in the new production.
The young women told their personal stories in one-on-one camera moments, showed their experience (or inexperience) in auditions to be on the show, went through an intensive “boot camp” experience learning how to dance, sing and act better, and got amazing mentoring via weekly special guest stars, including Kristin Chenoweth and others. They auditioned in front of Lloyd Webber, then sang to a live audience each week with increasingly more difficult group and individual challenges.
Since Seattle gets Canadian television, we could watch it all, too! And an all-around favorite emerged, Danielle Wade. She was wholesome, but tenacious; had a strong voice; seemed to have a grounded attitude; and demonstrated a range of abilities to take on the challenging role. She won on November 5, 2012. In a phone interview, Danielle reports that she had to start rehearsals for the Toronto run the very next week!
As the run in Toronto progressed, plans were made for an international tour (Canada and the U.S.) and Danielle elected to continue on with the show. It’s set to be in Seattle at the Paramount Theatre from October 9 through 13. http://www.stgpresents.org/tickets/alphabetical/eventdetail/597/-/the-wizard-of-oz
SGS: What stood you in best stead during the “boot camp” of the tv show from your prior experiences?
Danielle: The biggest thing that I took with me is knowing I only had myself to offer and in some cases it’s good enough and in some cases you’re aren’t what they’re looking for. I tried my best to convey all that, be confident, but not too confident, but (show) that I knew who I was and loved performing and acting and singing and I tried my best. I just had to try. You’ve got to bounce back and try harder next time (if they don’t pick you).
SGS: What were some of the things you learned on the tv show that helped you to perform Dorothy on stage?
Danielle: That tv show was jam packed full of knowledge. You were learning from some of the best people in the industry. I’ve never been a dancer, so I learned a lot on the tv show. And I never conceived of myself as an actor…I was in school to learn how to act, and then I had to leave school to do this.
The tv show taught me exactly how hard this business is going to be and how hard you have to work. We had 16 hour days when we were singing at the top of our lungs from the beginning to end of the day. It taught me a lot about stamina and how difficult and how much people work to be a part of something like this, to get your dream and do all of that. I was fully prepared to work my butt off.
(When I performed in Toronto,) I moved four hours away from my family and I had never lived away from my family. All of a sudden I was a professional. I didn’t work at Tim Horton’s (coffee shop) any more. (I served coffee.)
SGS: What were some things that surprised you after you had performed Dorothy for a couple of months?
Danielle: It surprised me how quickly Dorothy’s story (of longing for home) could become resonant. It became really real that I was away from home and an adult. Stephanie (a “boot camper”) moved in with me in a little apartment together.
Also, how much you can learn from the other actors around you. When I walked into rehearsal I was very new and pretty young in this business and I wanted to absorb everything I could… and I really could. Each person offered me something. It’s amazing to look around the stage to learn from each different character and actor.
Another thing was Toto. I am responsible for another character. I have to be aware that he’s ok and that was something I never even thought to think about. And I have to keep him safe (on stage every night).
SGS: What kinds of plans do you have now for a future beyond the tour?
Danielle: As of right now, I don’t have any jobs lined up. This is my first one so I’m not really in high demand. I’m just looking to work. I don’t want to be a star. I just want to do this. I just want to sing and act and be on stage. I have to work my way up to anything else. Pay my dues.
SGS: Have you ever been to Seattle?
Danielle: I’ve never been here. I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful. I get to go places on tour that I’ve never been before and it’s cool to see how audiences in different places react. Each audience has its own sense of humor.