Star turn for amateur scarecrow, tin man, cowardly lion

Twenty-one Torontonians are not in Kansas anymore.

Way Off Broadway is a new documentary airing on Bravo. The show follows 21 amateur performers as they try to perfect a performance of the Wizard of Oz in only eight weeks.

The cast is an eccentric group of community members including a grandmother, a dentist and a yoga teacher. Of those 21, several are East Yorkers.

And the show is set and filmed around East York. Director Sarina Condello said they chose the area because it “had a great community feel.” She even described going out for drinks with the cast after rehearsal.

“We would literally walk out the church and we’d be at the coolest community bar and pub,” she said.

Condello has put on community-based theatre productions for five years, and in an epiphany at a red light, she realized the musical process could make a great reality show.

Condello noticed the popularity of reality shows, and their catty, mean-spirited nature. She hoped Way Off Broadway could combine behind-the-scenes drama and the inspirational, motivational struggle of achieving an almost impossible goal.

“Even though the drama is high, it’s about people pulling together to put on a great show,” Condello said. “My challenge as a director was to breathe life into it, and create an interesting portrayal of not only the characters but also getting my supporting cast involved in an entertaining way.

The only performance, held at the Danforth Music Hall in December, sold all 1,100 tickets. The $2,500 raised went to Condello’s charity, The Big Little Caravan of Joy, which facilitates performing arts camps for underprivileged children in Africa and First Nations communities.

Although ratings for the show are average, Condello maintains it has a solid fan base.

“Anyone who watches the show absolutely adores it,” she said.

Currently, there’s no word on whether a second season will be filmed. Condello’s next production would be Grease. She is friends with the actress who starred in the movie version, Olivia Newton-John, and would love to have her talk to the cast.

Way off Broadway airs Friday at 8 p.m. on Bravo. The show’s run is 13 weeks, with the finale airing on May 25.