Following the yellow brick road will feel a little different in the upcoming “The Wizard of Oz” play from the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. In fact, most of the scenes will feel a little different than other depictions of Oz you may have seen over the years.
With the help of Larry Cook, scenic designer for the play, the stage will come to life with a new revolver, a friction-drive turntable machine, enabling the show deck to spin. Think of it as a record player with castor wheels underneath and the revolver putting it all in motion, turning at different speeds and in different directions when needed.
The show is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6, through Nov. 17 at Brenau’s Hosch Theatre. Although tickets are sold out, guests can be put on a waitlist.
“One of the things that we talked about early on was how we were going to give a sense of journey to this on a solid stage,” Cook said. “So we had this piece of equipment over here and we had just gotten OK’d to buy another one.”
The new setup from Creative Conners Inc. cost $30,000 — Cook had already built one for about $5,000 for another show, but that system lacked the control needed to bring “Wizard of Oz” to life, prompting the purchase of the more sophisticated setup.
There’s a lot of gear that will go into making the play the best it can be.
The new revolver, along with the Stagehand Apprentice machine that controls the automation for lateral movement, the Showstopper 3 Consolette that controls all of the cues and the Spikemark Licence, the software that makes it all work, spins the outer disc of the show deck while the older one Cook built spins the inner disc.
“They’ll turn together, they’ll turn in opposition to each other, they'll turn at different speeds,” Cook said. “It really gives us a lot of versatility in what we can do.”
The speed is set to a maximum of 4 mph.
“I wish we could go a little faster, but you know, you don’t want to get much faster than walking speed.”
Apart from making the stage spin, Cook said the show has quite a bit of other moving parts to it. It's the most technical show he’s ever been involved in. There’s flying, projections, small pyrotechnics — all intended to give a little more juice to a plot that will be far beyond familiar to audiences.
“Almost everybody has seen the movie, and we can’t even come close to it,” Cook said. “We can’t hope to match MGM. And so we wanted to capture enough of it that people would recognize it for its spectacle, but at the same time, do something a little different.”
Having the revolving stage deck also gave Cook an opportunity to change scenes while another was happening. All that has to happen is the stage needs to spin to reveal the next scene. In order to do that, he had to create large shutters, stretching from the ground to the ceiling, that are pulled out so the changing scene in the background wasn’t distracting.
“They travel back and forth on the stage to kind of subdivide it,” Cook said. “So basically, I can close off one place, change the scenery and then they open up and that scenery revolves down.”
With all the moving parts in the Alliance’s first performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” Ali Hooks said there’s a lot riding on all of the moving parts working properly.
“It just means we’re going to have to be on our toes with this show,” said Hooks, assistant technical director and run crew chief. “There’s very little room for error. But that’s what makes theater magic. What we’re going to try to achieve is, we want to hit every single mark every time so that once you’re in the play, you’re never taken out of it.”