‘Over the Rainbow’ winner realizes she’s not in La Salle, Ont., anymore

The Canadian Press
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Danielle Wade (right) poses with Andrew Lloyd Webber in Toronto, on Monday. Wade won the role of Dorothy in a Toronto production of “The Wizard of Oz” on CBC-TV’s “Over the Rainbow.” — Photo by The Canadian Press

Between meeting the wizard, donning ruby slippers and hugging Andrew Lloyd Webber, Danielle Wade is starting to realize she’s not in Kansas anymore.

The morning after winning the role of Dorothy in a Toronto production of “The Wizard of Oz” on CBC-TV’s “Over the Rainbow,” the 20-year-old from La Salle, Ont., was running on just three hours of sleep and excited for the tornado of activity that was to follow.

“This is like the Emerald City, being here,” Wade marvelled at the downtown office of Mirvish Productions, where she was scheduled to do several interviews and prepare to head to her first costume fitting, sign her show contract and figure out a place to stay in Toronto.

“I’m not in La Salle anymore.”

Wade won the most viewer votes to land the lead in Lloyd Webber’s new stage adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” which begins performances at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on Dec. 20. Mirvish says the show will also begin touring Canada and the U.S. after Labour Day 2013 with the original all-Canadian cast.

Wade beat out two other “Over the Rainbow” finalists — A. J. Bridel of Kitchener, Ont., and Ottawa’s Stephanie La Rochelle — and doesn’t remember much of the winning moment and what followed.

She was in a daze because she didn’t think she would win, she said, noting she thought La Rochelle would take the title.

“They called my name, I put the slippers on, I went in a balloon, cried my eyes out, looked like a crazy person, hugged my parents and hugged Andrew Lloyd Webber,” recalled the bubbly Wade.

Astonished by the words she just uttered, she then whispered: “What? WHAT? Andrew Lloyd Webber?

“Then we went to a party and that’s about it — and I haven’t slept yet but it doesn’t matter.”

Wade has already met most of the yet-to-be-announced cast who will join her in the musical that’s based on the books by L. Frank Baum. The meeting happened before the “Over the Rainbow” finale.

“I’ve met the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, the Wicked Witch, Glinda and the Wizard,” she said.

“Singing in front of them, knowing that I could be with them in a matter of days was the craziest, most terrifying, most wonderful thing in the entire world.”

Wade has also met the dogs who will play Toto (there’s one lead pooch and two understudies) and hit it off with them.

“I love dogs. I have a dog at home. I’ll be OK,” she said. “I actually was in a play at home (’Legally Blonde, The Musical’) and I had a little tiny Chihuahua that I had to carry around, so I’ve worked with a dog onstage before.”

As for why viewers picked her as the winner, Wade said she isn’t sure but added: “I hope they see someone who can do this and who’s ready for this, because I feel like I am.

“I really want to bring a bit of myself to the character and just have fun and really enjoy this whole experience, because this is never going to happen again.”

That’s exactly the advice the Oscar-winning Lloyd Webber — who wrote four new songs for the production with longtime collaborator Tim Rice — gave her after she won on Monday.

“He just said to be myself and to have fun,” said Wade.

Throughout “Over the Rainbow,” judges Arlene Phillips, Louise Pitre and Thom Allison praised Wade’s big voice and girl-next-door charm.

The eldest of three children in her household, Wade admitted she was shy as a kid but found confidence through vocal lessons, which led her to performing arts in high school.

She auditioned for “Over the Rainbow” in Toronto on the insistence of her mother.

“I wasn’t going to go at first and then my mom said, ‘Well, we’ve got the day, you might as well just go and see what happens, it’s worth a shot,’ and here we are, four months later.”

Wade has finished her second year of acting studies at the University of Windsor (she’s had to put her third year on hold for “The Wizard of Oz”) and starred in several school and community stage shows.

“This is my first real audition for anything other than community theatre or a high school production,” she said.

“I’ve never been in anything else and for it to be this, is absolutely incredible.”

Wade predicted the whole experience would sink in when she finally hit the yellow brick road.

“And it will probably be opening night, where I go, ‘Oh my goodness, this is real and you have to go onstage right now in front of all these people.”’

She’s praying she won’t be as clumsy as she was when she first walked on the stage of “Over the Rainbow” and promptly fell off the edge.

“I have a big scrape on my back, I have a scar on my back,” said Wade. “It was the first time we walked onstage to see the set, and I fell off. I was just walking.

“I’ve broken many bones, so it should be interesting.”

Organizations: Over the Rainbow, CBC, Ed Mirvish Theatre University of Windsor

Geographic location: La Salle, Toronto, Kansas Emerald Canada U.S. Kitchener Ottawa La Rochelle Chihuahua

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