By Casey Neill
A Hallam man is the mayor of Munchkin City in the latest Wizard of Oz stage show.
Darren Tyler is in the ensemble for the production, which is touring Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
“It’s a fun little role. I get a cute little costume,” he said.
This is the 20th musical he’s performed in.
He discovered his love for the craft growing up in Endeavour Hills, where he moved at age six.
“I went to high school at Hallam High, which was the Eumemmerring Secondary College Hallam Campus back then,” he said.
Mr Tyler also started dancing at age six and trained at Helen Alcock School of Dance in Hallam, now TJ Dance Studio.
“I didn’t really know I could turn it into a career until I was about 13, 14,” he said.
That was when industry professional Anne Marie Brazier came to the dance school.
“I thought ‘I could actually get paid for this’,” he said.
Mr Tyler started taking more dance classes, and added singing and dancing lessons to the mix.
“I started working as a dancer at 16 years old,” he said.
“My school was very supportive of my career.
“I split Year 12 into two years.
“I was touring with an illusionist at the time and also doing dance classes in the city during the day.
“I got my first show at 21 years old.”
He’s also pleased to see the region embracing arts, through Narre Warren’s new Bunjil Place arts and community space and Dandenong’s Drum Theatre.
Mr Tyler has landed roles in the likes of Saturday Night Fever and Cats.
“I loved the Phantom of the Opera as a kid,” he said.
“I just loved the extravagance of it all, the costume and the lighting, but it’s not really a show that I’m right for.
“There’s never really been a show I wanted to do except Cats, and I’ve done that twice now.
“I’m just happy to work.
“There’s more and more shows in Australia now, but with more shows there’s more people who want to audition.”
He teaches dance when he’s not involved in a show.
“A lot of the gigs I was doing before I got into musical theatre, they were corporate events,” he said.
“The people that were in the audience weren’t coming necessarily to see dancers.
“I think with music theatre, people are coming to see a show and that’s what I loved about it.”
Mr Tyler also loves the family feel of the theatre world.
“You become a huge family when you’re working with the same people six days a week for months on end,” he said.
The Wizard of Oz features all the movie tunes plus five new musical numbers “to freshen it up”.
Like the 1939 film, the stage show starts out in sepia tones and “a burst of colour” marks Dorothy’s entrance to Oz.
“The twister is a 3D projection,” Mr Tyler said.
The Wizard of Oz opens at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne in May.