The Wizard of Oz Heads for Houston and Yes, Toto Is Live Onstage!

As far as Danielle Wade -- the lead in the touring The Wizard of Oz musical -- is concerned, the two dogs who play Toto are some of the best aspects of the show. "Nigel is the lead Toto, Loki is the understudy. It's really cool to hear the audience's reaction when they come out for the first time."

Wade won the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for a Toronto stage production after voters across Canada picked her as the best Dorothy in a CBC reality TV show called "Over the Rainbow."

Now she's coming to Houston (not a new experience; she has family in Texas) thanks to Theatre Under the Stars in a touring production of the classic story of the girl, Toto her dog and her pals on the way to the Emerald City.

Yes she sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" just as Judy Garland did but there's four new songs in the show thanks to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Asked if the runaway success of Wicked with its different take on the goodness/badness of witches and Dorothy had any effect on the traditional version of the story, Wade said, "I think some of the costumes are a little bit inspired by Wicked, our Emerald City is actually quite similar to the Wicked production.

"Having the other side of the witches' story might have an effect; our Glinda is a little goofy and the Wicked Witch you feel our a little bit. It's not the same; our Wicked Witch is still very very wicked but she does have a song now and so does Glinda."

Other tweaks are that yes, while Dorothy wears her signature dress, she also gets to wear overalls (were we the only ones who didn't understand why she wore a dress to slop the pigs?).

For your chance to take a trip along the yellow brick road, join TUTS at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $24-$121

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