Harvest Rain has announced that Australian stage and screen legend, Simon Gallaher, will play the much-coveted role of The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz – Arena Spectacular when it tours across Australia throughout 2019 – 2020.
Simon Gallaher is much-loved by audiences around Australia as a singer, pianist, concert performer and one of our most successful theatre impresarios, having produced record breaking sold out national tours of The Pirates of Penzance, The Merry Widow, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. This is not the first walk across the boards for Simon as the Wizard, as he previously played Oz in Wicked when it toured Australia.
After an exhaustive nationwide search, newcomer Carly Bettinson will don the ruby red shoes in the coveted role of Dorothy. At 19 years of age, Carly is a recent graduate of the Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre (BAMT).
Growing up in Brisbane, Carly started out as an audience member attending Harvest Rain shows, and that’s where her love of theatre first blossomed. “I think it was always a dream in the back of my mind to be in the cast of a Harvest Rain show one day,” says Carly. “So this really is a dream come true!”
Joining Carly and Simon on the journey down the Yellow Brick Road will be Chris Geoghegan in the role of Scarecrow, Michael Nunn as the Tinman and Josh Whitten as the Lion. Aurelie Roque will play Glinda the Good Witch, and Bil Heit will strike fear in the hearts of children all over Oz when she plays the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Rounding out the principal cast will be Matty Johnston, Zane Powell, Joanna Nash, Bethany Wilson, and Kamara Henricks alongside a large mass ensemble of over 500 young performers who will play Munchkins, Poppies, Emerald City Citizens, Winkies and Jitterbugs throughout the show.
This all-new arena production will be directed by Tim O’Connor and choreographed by Callum Mansfield, with Music Direction by Dennett Hudson. The show features state of the art technology, including a 9-metre tall LED Imax screen that will bring the land of Oz to life in the arena, with wall-to-wall interactive animations by Optikal Bloc, the award winning team whose work was recently seen in the national tour of American Idiot.
“Our vision for this production is quite different to the Oz we’ve seen on stage before,” said Director Tim O’Connor. “The original 1939 film is one of my favourite movies of all time, but we don’t just want to replicate the movie on stage. Playing in the arena gives us the chance to full re-imagine the land of Oz, so our interpretation is a bit grungier and more moody, a little less pantomime and little more steampunk.”
“The technology we’re using to bring Oz to life for this production is state-of-the-art and totally breathtaking. There’s 9-metre tall LED screens wrapping around the entire set playing wall-to-wall animations throughout the whole show so we really will feel transported into the fantastical land of Oz.”
The Wizard of Oz – Arena Spectacular opens at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre in April 2019, before heading to Brisbane Entertainment Centre in July 2019, Adelaide Entertainment Centre in October 2019, Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney in January 2020 and Canberra in April 2020. Dates for Melbourne and Perth are to be announced. For more information, visit: www.wizardofozarena.com for details.
Image: Josh Whitten (Lion), Simon Gallaher (The Wizard), Carly Bettinson (Dorothy) Michael Nunn (Tinman) and Chris Geoghegan (Scarecrow) will star in The Wizard of Oz – Arena Spectacular (supplied)