JAMIE Mercanti, aka Slim Jim, is no stranger to music theatre and his role as the Wizard in APAN Entertainment production The Wizard of Oz is certainly his most poignant.
“Max Kay was actually touted for the role of the Wizard before his passing,” Mercanti, of Kingsley, said.
“I was a great fan and friend of Max. It’s great impetus for me to have the opportunity to perform as the Wizard and hopefully honour Max at the same time in a small way.
“No matter whether it was a rock band, theatre, music theatre or opera, he was one of the greatest advocates the WA entertainment industry ever had.
“I do feel a lot of us will feel like Max is looking over us on this job.”
Growing up in Nollamara and Karrinyup, Mercanti attended Trinity College on a singing scholarship, performing mostly classical music with St Mary’s Cathedral Boys Choir.
A double major in journalism and theatre arts saw Mercanti work a brief stint as a drama teacher at Melville SHS and various performance roles before the cut to State Government arts funding in 1986 prompted him to start band Slim Jim and the Phatts.
His introduction to APAN Entertainment producers Marina Del Basso and Hamish McSporran came in 2016 when they invited Slim Jim and the Phatts to perform as the pit band in their production of Grease.
Since then he has also appeared in their seasons of Beauty and the Beast and Legally Blonde which have all featured an adult cast with professional experience alongside young artists.
“They always say they have people like myself and other pros in this show to help the kids see how they should prepare themselves and the professional etiquette required to work in a large ensemble,” Mercanti said.
“But the quality of these teenagers is extraordinary. They’re all triple threats who can sing to a very high standard, their dance skill is extraordinary and their acting is phenomenal.
“I’m 55 now and I certainly feel it the day after because you get caught up in the momentum of their youthful energy.”
Mercanti said The Wizard of Oz was one of those great classic stories that evoked fond memories for everyone, no matter their age.
“The songs are so beautifully written and not just Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which for me is in the top three songs of all time when it comes to a synthesis of melody and lyric,” he said.
“I do feel all the other songs in there are so catchy and provocative. People will walk away singing them.”
What: The Wizard of Oz
Where: Regal Theatre
When: August 17 to September 1