Mining takes to the Toronto stage

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Are you ready for this?  The 2011-2012 Ross Petty pantomime at the Elgin Theatre featured a mining motif.  It is not often that mining takes a bow on stage but the new rendition of the “The Wizard of Oz” not only had miners doing a song and dance routine to “Macho Man” and other numbers but Donnie, one of the main characters was a miner.  Never mind that the Wicked Witch threatens to turn him into “a heap of scrap metal.”

Ross Petty has been producing a Christmas pantomime for 16 years and it has become a popular fixture on Toronto’s theatre scene.  Past productions have included “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella” (who can forget Celine and Shania as the evil step sisters?),”Robin Hood,” “Snow White,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Aladdin,” which featured renowned wrestler Bret The Hitman Hart. 

The pantomimes are in the tradition of the old British shows, which included a lot of physical humour and music along with witty social commentary and criticism.  Audience interaction is encouraged and regular ad libbing by all the actors ensures no two performances are exactly alike.  The farce reigns supreme. “The Wizard of Oz” included some good shots at Toronto’s professional hockey team, bicycle paths, libraries and the city’s municipal leadership among others.

The Ontario Mining Association asked Ross Petty about the mineral industry motif.  “The mining inspiration came from the fact this fractured fairy tale ends up in the land of Oz, in this case, Australia,” said an e-mail response.  “Australia’s mining industry is crucial to its economy and it gave us a chance to show off some studs hard at work!” 

In Ontario, mining is a $10 billion per year industry employing about 25,000 people directly.  In Canada, the mineral industry contributes about $32 billion to the country’s gross domestic product.  Mining accounts for 19% of Canada’s exports and contributes more than $5.5 billion in taxes to government coffers annually.  Mining is a vital industry, which is also crucial to the Canadian economy and society. 

In getting back to “The Wizard of Oz,” Donnie is asked why he doesn’t speak with an Australian accent.  “I keep telling you guys, I am French.”  Donnie is a French-Canadian miner who has career aspirations to be a magician and ends up being turned into the Tin Man.  He goes on his expedition with the Lion and the Scarecrow but has his heart stolen by Dorothy, a snowboarding star.  The ruby slippers and Toto also appear and think Toronto blizzard instead of a Kansas tornado. 

Mining appreciates its moment in the theatre and many thanks to Ross Petty, his creative team and all the performers in the company for staging another successful pantomime.  “The Wizard of Oz” is a great way to start the 2012 theatre season and a great way for the mining industry to kick off the year.