Review Fix Exclusive: Inside ‘Toto Talks’

Review Fix chats with “Toto Talks” director Joey McKneely to find out what inspired this fun Wizard of Oz Spin-Off.

About the Production: 

In “True Hollywood Story” style, Randall David Cook brings us the behind the scenes life and times of Toto … no not 80s rock band … the DOG from the Wizard of OZ.  We meet Toto … ready to spill the tea on all the goings-on when the cameras were off in OZ. 

Angry that Judy got movies and the witches are STILL on Broadway, she’s ready to make this downtown appearance a chance to set the record straight … that’s right Toto is a SHE!

If you’re friend of Dorothy, you’ll LOVE Toto. That goes for hypersensitive theater critics and dog lovers as well!

This uproarious 60-minute soiree with the celebratory pooch features a triumvirate of talent.

Toto Talks Four performances only!  Tues., Feb. 26 @ 10:30 p.m. Wed., Feb. 27 @ 5:30 p.m. Fri., March 1 @ 6:50 p.m. Sat., March 2 @ 3:20 p.m. At one of downtown’s most cutting-edge spaces … THE KRAINE @ 85 E 4th St, NYC Ticket at www.horsetrade.info or directly HERE.

About Joey McKneely:

Stage and film professional, Joey McKneely, joins forces again with Cook after a triumphant run with the new musical Shadows, whose run at the Connolly Theater garnered high praise and full houses. McKneely is a two-time Tony-nominated Broadway Choreographer (Smokey Joe’s Cafe and The Life) and the international Director and Choreographer of West Side Story. Other Broadway credentials include Twelfth Night, The Wild Party, The Boy From OZ and the West Side Story revival.

He directed/choreographed the U.S. National Tours of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie Get Your Gun, Crazy For You and Smokey Joe’s Café. Internationally, he directed/choreographed the world premieres of Love U Theresa, Ah, Kuling! and Jiu Gan Tang Mai Wu in China; The Beautiful Game, Thoroughly Modern Millie, West Side Story in Japan; Evita and Dusty in London. On film, McKneely is known for his work on Zoolander, The In Crowd, and Far East.

Review Fix: What was the inspiration/reasons for doing/writing this play?

Joey McKneely: I was attracted to the play because of its outrageousness. I mean it’s Drag Race meets The Wizard of Oz! Having the language of Drag Queens spoken through the mouth of Toto the dog from The Wizard of Oz was something I just couldn’t resist!  But something started to happen in the process. I very meaningful theme of identity started to emerge. By listening to the undertones of all of this kiki coming out of Toto’s mouth, a very dear message was coming through. One of acceptance, non-judgment, gender discovery and equality. In the end, the play is about being true to yourself. And this starts with self-discovery. It just seemed like a very timely piece to bring to the stage. 

Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?

McKneely: It’s all about listening on this one. I mean, I didn’t have a script in hand until the three days before the actor sat down to read it. What’s wonderful about working with Randall David Cook, is his ability to collaborate. If I say, I don’t understand something or question his motives at a particular section, he opens up his mind and starts to find solutions to problems I have pinpointed in the script. And low and behold, he delivers beyond my expectations! ‘Cause I’m a tough cookie. I don’t let things just slip by. And with the actor, it’s given him the freedom to discover who this character is. I mean, it’s a dog. He’s just discovered his true gender. That’s quite a jumping off point, wouldn’t you say?

Review Fix: What makes this different or special?   

McKneely: It’s just a unique way of doing a one-man play. It’s just fun to sit there and listen to Toto’s stories from his point of view, spoken as a member of society today. The whole idea of it was special to me. 

Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?  

McKneely: Trust. To trust the actor to find all those little moments in the piece. Sometimes I think I have to deliver all the choices to the actor, but no…you must allow them to find it. Of course, you need to keep them on track and sometimes there are choices which I need to give to the actor in order for something to land. However, Jamison is such an inventive actor who captivates me to no end, that since it’s just him on stage, I have got to let him fly. And boy, does he!

Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production? 

McKneely: Um….not sure. It all came about so quickly. I would like to see if it can have a life beyond this one festival. It’s all about how the audience reacts to the material. Maybe continue on the festival circuit, like Edinburgh. Maybe a sit down in some downtown club. Maybe an international tour starring Bianca Del Rio. Dunno?

Review Fix: What’s next? 

McKneely: I am actually about to get on a flight down to Oz. (Australia). Go figure?
About Patrick Hickey Jr. 8417 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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