Secondary Characters takes fresh approach to Oz

Secondary Characters presents the Wizard of Oz at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, with shows running July 28 to August 7.

Secondary Characters Wizard of Oz cast rehearses a tense scene with flying monkeys. They present a fresh interpretation of the musical at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre July 28 to August 7.

Secondary Characters Wizard of Oz cast rehearses a tense scene with flying monkeys. They present a fresh interpretation of the musical at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre July 28 to August 7.

We all know the story of Dorothy Gale, an ordinary Kansas farm girl who gets swept away to the Land of Oz in a tornado.

The classic movie starring Judy Garland based on Frank L. Baum’s book is still widely viewed and loved, and Secondary Characters is proud to bring the iconic Wizard of Oz to life this summer at the  Cultural Centre.

Director Steffi Munshaw has been performing with Secondary Characters since Little Women (2010 and directing since The Last Five Years (2015), and she has a fresh yet timeless design vision for the adored musical.

“I absolutely love this story,” Munshaw says of Baum’s original work, published in 1900. “It’s so cool that 116 years later, it’s still so applicable.”

Every character, whether it’s the Scarecrow, the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion, takes a journey in pursuit of something that they feel will make them perfect. But most endearing about this story is that each character discovers what they’ve been looking for has been within them all along.

The Tin Man (played by Lyndon Shuster, 23) wants a heart, but he’s the most loving person of all. Shuster appreciates that internal paradox, and has discovered that the complexity of it is excitingly challenging to portray on stage.

“It’s one of those shows that will resonate with different people for different reasons,” Munshaw explained. “For me, it’s about pausing and taking stock of what you have as a person, and finding what you need within yourself, rather than trying to find it externally.”

Each of the 28-member cast is bringing unique, inherit value to the production.

Choreographer Shelley Wojcik had the daunting task of teaching a diverse group of competitive dancers and first-timers the moves for 24 musical numbers, combining ballet, tap, hip-hop, Charleston and more. Two of the youngest performers were designated as dance captains, reviewing the steps with their 30- or 40-year-old counterparts when they needed a hand.

“Everyone’s pulled together so nicely,” Munshaw said. “There’s adults helping kids and kids helping adults. There are no assumptions about what age means – it’s about what everyone brings to the table.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the entire cast and crew is that of mitigating the expectations that audiences might conjure up when they picture the Wizard of Oz. Secondary Characters’ interpretation is inspired more by the original story, rather than the beloved movie.

Dorothy (played by Halle Galloway, 16) noted that Judy Garland’s character portrayal, movements and mannerisms are very soft, ladylike and reserved in the 1939 film.

“But in the story, Dorothy is a person who wants adventure,” Galloway explained. She’ll portray Dorothy with more gumption and boldness. “[Dorothy] doesn’t hold herself a certain way, or mould herself to fit an image. She’s just a kid going on an adventure.”

A female Cowardly Lion (played by Karlianna DeWolff, 23) puts an entirely different spin on the character. “The Lion was kind of already an underdog to begin with, and now she’s even more of an underdog because she has to be one of the boys. She has to prove herself,” DeWolff said. She’s captured that recognizable goofy voice, and carries it through an array of powerful and sensitive scenes.

This talented crowd is even tackling a wild jazz number that was cut from the film.

“‘Jitterbug’ will be huge for people,” the Scarecrow (played by Cruze Hurley, 18) said. It’s the most complex number and the most time-consuming to rehearse, which is particularly ambitious for Hurley as he perfects the loose movements of a character without bones – or limbs, at times.

Jitterbug is “phenomenal” and full of energy, and it’s the one Munshaw is most looking forward to bringing to the Chilliwack audiences. She’s also excited to showcase the fresh design aesthetic.

The original book included stunning illustrations by W.W. Denslow which drew heavily on the Art Nouveau movement of the time. To modernize the classic tale, the team has decided to blend the beauty and grace of Art Nouveau styles with the mechanisms and metallics of steampunk design, which will be evident in costumes, props and set design.

From “spine-tingling harmonies” to “declamatory munchkins,” vocal director Carmen Harris says this musical has something for everyone. The youth chorus in particular has been so incredible that Munshaw made the unprecedented decision to cancel three vocal rehearsals, because they perfected the numbers so quickly.

Galloway is digging deep to find and exude genuine sincerity in her own interpretations of quintessential songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and to bring true emotion to whimsical, storybook lines.

“It’s such an iconic role. It’s a character that a lot of people love, and people of all ages have grown up with. Being that character is really special. I feel really fortunate,” she said.

This breathtaking show combines the familiar and the unexplored in unexpected ways, and Secondary Characters hopes everyone enjoys the surprises in store.

The Wizard of Oz runs July 28 to August 7 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre (9201 Corbould St.) Evening performances run July 28-30, August 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are July 31 and August 7 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students/seniors, available at the Centre Box Office, at or at 604-391-7469. Visit for more details about the production.


Just Posted

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Volunteers will gather at South Gate Shopping Centre on Fathers Day before fanning out to help clean up downtown Chilliwack. (Facebook photo)
Kindness Chain Chilliwack Association organizes Fathers Day cleanup

Volunteers will spend 90 minutes fanning out to gather trash in downtown Chilliwack

Folks look through some of the items for sale during the Voice of Hope giant garage sale at 7350 Barrow Rd. in Chilliwack on Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Giant garage sale today in Chilliwack supports Kenyan widows, orphans

Funds go to Chilliwack-based Voice of Hope charity to improve quality of life for impoverished Kenyans

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read