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Oz and Munsch a marriage made at X Fest

July 7, 2016 4:26 P.M.
Randi Edmunson as Dorothy and Wyatt Purcha as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Between the yellow brick road and one of Canada’s premier storytellers, there’s sure to be some stage magic under the trees in Prince Charles Park starting Monday, July 11.

It’s X Fest time again, this year featuring in repertory an adaptation of the century-old classic the Wizard of Oz and Munsch Upon a Time, a clever knitting together of well-loved stories by Robert Munsch.

Dusan Magdolen, X Fest producer, wanted to do the L. Frank Baum classic for some time but couldn’t find a suitable script. A full-blown musical with large cast just wasn’t feasible, so with the go-ahead from director Melissa Thomas, he tackled his own adaptation of the book, having never attempted a full-length work before.

“Daryl Cloran of Western Canada Theatre was kind enough to mentor me through it,” Magdolen said. “It’s a pretty true adaptation.”

He has tightened up the story to make the narrative flow more smoothly, but don’t expect to hear Dorothy wistfully singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This version is an adaptation of Baum’s book, now in the public domain, and not the 1939 Hollywood film that most people associate with the story.

Both plays are aimed directly at what has grown to be X Fest’s main audience, families with young children.

Munsch Upon a Time, at an hour in length, is perhaps best suited for younger children but both plays are suitable for the whole family, said Thomas, who plays one of three characters in the play. Randi Edmundson plays Patsy while Andrew G. Cooper plays Professor.

Munsch blends five of his well-known stories — The Paper Bag Princess, The Fire Station, David’s Father — plus two new ones, Give Me Back My Dad! and It’s My Room! He uses the premise of a time tunnel to link the various tales, Thomas explained.

The Munsch stories have broad appeal, said Mack Gordon, who directs. Laughter is practically guaranteed.

“I think the kids love them because he’s so willing to go in any direction,” Gordon said. “Even the parents can’t predict where they will go.”

The X Fest season begins with three nights of two-for-one previews, Monday to Wednesday, followed by opening night Thursday featuring The Wizard of Oz. Check the calendar for details at www.projectxtheatre.ca

In its 12th year, X Fest is firmly rooted in the summer calendar, happily following its own yellow brick road with many in the cast and crew returning each season. Magdolen doesn’t agree with the odd critic claiming that two plays do not constitute a full-fledged festival.

“They’re in repertory,” he countered. “It’s bigger than just the play. We’re coming into the park and we’re building a whole world.”

Besides, who says X Fest has stopped growing and evolving?

“When two do well enough, we could add more.”

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