“I played the audition very seriously and they, a panel of 15, but not Sir Lloyd Webber, stopped me to say, ‘Remember, he’s all heart,’” says Mike Jackson, who plays the coveted part of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. It was a complete change of motivation for Jackson, who had just spent three years gleefully playing at being heartless in Chicago.
Three songs have been added to the classic film’s score, including the “Red Shoes Blues” for the Wicked Witch of the West, but Jackson can’t wait to dig into his big number, “If I Only Had a Heart.” “The technical aspects of the show are huge; the twister is fantastic,” he says. But what really makes the show click is the natural dialogue: “It’s totally real, not MGM-speak and not too sentimental. The three friends of Dorothy bicker throughout the show and are always vying for her attention. And the final scene and number is so poignant.”
Over the rainbows and yellow brick roads have been co-opted into the gay lexicon. “There is the odd nod to the gay subtext — ‘I’m a friend of Dorothy’ is uttered,” Jackson laughs. “Kids will love and get lost in it, but there are a lot of adult references. It’s respectfully done, but the film is a basic text in the gay experience.”
Jackson, a choreographer as well as an actor, wears tap shoes throughout but admits that the ensemble does the heavy hoofing. Alas, he doesn’t get to fly or be carried off by the flying monkeys, but still, “It feels like winning the lottery. To be in this great show and get to work and live at home. The show is about home being where your heart is and not a geographic place. And I get to live that every day.”
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