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Friday, November 2, 2012

Multi-Media, November 2, 2012


Original Cast London Palladium Production © 2011 RUG Ltd. - Photo: Keith Pattison

Over the Rainbow
Shameless promotion or good television?
by Stuart Munro

For anyone who’s been following my coverage of CBCs Over the Rainbow (at CharPo-Toronto), you’ll know that I’ve been enjoying it immensely – or at the very least enjoyed being a bit catty about it, though I think it’s safe to say those can be one and the same thing. But the question remains: is Over the Rainbow good television or just a shameless tie-in to help promote the new Mirvish production of The Wizard of Oz? Can it be both?


The choice of songs has also been more varied than in the Maria show, showing us more range for each girl.

Over the Rainbow has followed the same pattern as 2008’s How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria? (which I can only assume used a similar format in its UK incarnation as well). Its fairly standard pattern has, thankfully, not been subject (so far anyway) to last minute rule changes or twists for the sake of creating more “interesting” television. At the end of the day, despite being a television show out to get ratings, the show is still aiming to cast an unknown girl as Dorothy, potentially launching her to stardom. Even with the irregularity of the casting process, everyone watching (judges and audience combined) is primarily concerned with finding the right girl for the part. The songs from week to week, while sometimes confusing, were almost always presented in some sort of context, probably in an effort to give the girls and the viewers something more to work with. If the settings aren’t always successful, I at least appreciate the effort. Starring in a musical isn’t about singing songs in isolation, and so the situations help to expand our understanding of the material. The choice of songs has also been more varied than in the Maria show, showing us more range for each girl.

The use of Canadian talent in a Canadian talent competition seems somehow more respectful and gives the audience a bit more of a connection with the panel.

I also think the choice of judges has been better thought out with this show. Instead of a vocal coach and two British musical theatre veterans (one an actor and one a music director), we have two Canadian theatre icons (Louise Pitre and Thom Allison) as well as someone who has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber in the past (Arlkene Phillips) and, presumably, knows what he has in mind (since he can’t be with us every week). The use of Canadian talent in a Canadian talent competition seems somehow more respectful and gives the audience a bit more of a connection with the panel. I was worried in the first few weeks that all their commentary would be a bit stereotypically Canadian and kind without really giving criticism, but very quickly the judges all took it upon themselves to not only provide constructive criticism, but to let us, the voters, know when they worried a girl might not be able to carry the role or production to success. It’s a harsh lesson, but one that needs teaching, and gives viewers at home a bit of an insight into the rejection actors face every day.

As host, Daryn Jones has been consistently charming and pleasant. His humour might not always work for everyone, but I’ve been a fan of the man for near to 10 years now, starting back when he had his cable comedy show Buzz.

All in all, I think Over the Rainbow has been an entertaining series that has, no doubt, helped publicity for the upcoming Wizard of Oz this Winter. Canada has been introduced to 10 very talented young ladies who (let’s face it) likely won’t have as much trouble finding work after this, and with a little luck, The Wizard of Oz will enjoy a run as successful (and as gorgeous) as The Sound of Music did four years ago.