Woodward, Okla. —
By Rowynn Ricks
OnStage Woodward invites the public to join in a journey down the yellow brick road as the community theater group prepares for 8 upcoming performances of the acclaimed musical "The Wizard of Oz."
After months of rehearsals, Director Kenton Baird said his 60-member strong cast and crew is now busily making the final preparations as opening night quickly approaches.
The first performance will be held this Thursday at the Woodward Arts Theatre with additional night performances to held this Friday and Saturday. The curtain will go up at 8 p.m. each night.
There will then be a matinee performance on Sunday with curtain up at 2 p.m.
That same performance schedule will repeat next weekend, which additional night performances April 18-20, and another matinee on April 21.
At each performance, the box office and lobby will open an hour before curtain time for those still needing to purchase tickets. The auditorium doors will then open 30 minutes before the performance for seating.
Seating is not assigned, so Baird encourages patrons to arrive early to get the best seats.
He also encourages the public to get tickets for the early performances while they still can, because he thinks interest will only grow after word gets out about the play.
"If you don't see it this first weekend, then trying to see it next weekend might be difficult because I think it's going to be a sellout," Baird said.
To get tickets in advance, visit the Arts Theatre office Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Or you can call (580) 334-3048 to reserve tickets by phone.
ABOUT THE PLAY
Baird said the play will closely follow the plot of the film and should be familiar to many people who know and love the 1939 classic that starred Judy Garland.
"When I decided to do this play, the reason I chose 'Wizard of Oz' was because it was something everybody knew and could relate to," he said, noting "Everybody has a memory of or relationship with this story. You hear 'ruby red slippers,' or 'yellow brick road,' or 'Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion,' you hear any of those, and everybody immediately thinks 'Wizard of Oz.'"
But for those few who haven't seen the film, the story follows as the main character Dorothy is transported "Over the Rainbow" to the magic land of Oz, where she must then follow the yellow brick road as she seeks to find her way back home to Kansas. Along the way, she meets some new friends who help her overcome the Wicked Witch of the West and eventually find a way home.
Just like the film, Baird said his play will begin with "a lot of just drab Kansas," with characters dressed in sepia tones of beiges and browns. But then once Dorothy is transported to Munchkinland in Oz, "we'll pop it for the rest of the production with a lot of vibrant color," he said.
After Munchkinland, he said, "we'll follow Dorothy until she meets the Scarecrow in the corn field, then meet the Tinman in the field and the Lion in the forrest. "
Baird said there will be a lot of set changing, made possible by his backstage crew, which should help to keep the play exciting.
"This is not just one stationary set," he said, adding that additional scenes include the poppy field, the Emerald City, the wizard's chamber, and the witch's castle.
In addition to the colorful and changing scenery, Baird said the play will also feature some exciting special effects.
"There will be some special effects that a lot of people have never seen on stage before in Woodward," he said.
For example, he said OnStage Woodward contracted with ZFX Flying out of Louisville, KY to modify the Arts Theatre's rigging system and train a backstage team and the actors on how to use the harness system and other equipment to allow the Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch to fly.
"You'll have to show up to see the rest of the surprises," Baird said. "I don't want to give all the magic away."
But he did add that "I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the makeup, because it ties in with the costuming and special effects. We just tried to tackle the whole package."
Naturally as a musical, OnStage Woodward's upcoming production will also feature all the beloved tunes from the motion picture, including "If I Only Had a Brain/Heart/Nerve," "We're Off to See the Wizard," "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead," and of course, "Over the Rainbow."
"The songs are spectacular," Baird said, noting "all my main actors have great singing voices."
Dorothy is played by Eryn Brooks with Hannah Shoaf serving as understudy. The Scarecrow is played by Charlie Burns, Tinman by Brandon Wheelock, and the Cowardly Lion by Greg Nuse.
And in the songs where the larger cast as a whole sings together, such as in "The Merry Old Land of Oz," he said, "their voices all sound pretty good as they come together on the stage."
He applauded the musical direction of Judy White in helping to make the play really sing.
A 'PROFESSIONAL' AND 'WONDERFUL' PRODUCTION
Baird said countless hours have gone into making this musical production possible.
"All the cast has worked so diligently," he said, noting "I don't think I can count the hours they've put in."
That investment has gone beyond just the hours spent practicing lines.
"There's the time the support staff spent making munchkin costumes and Emerald City costumes," Baird said, adding, "A lot of the cast rallied around to help backstage, building things and creating things."
Some of his main cast members have also done double duty with Eryn Brooks serving as the costume designer, and Charlie Burns handling a lot of choreography.
All in all, with the effort that everyone has put into the production, Baird said, "while we are still a community theater group, I think our production will come off with an air of professionalism that is refreshing."
He said his goal is to also make it an entertaining and "immersing" production.
"Our goal is to have everyone who comes into our audience to travel down the yellow brick road with the cast and feel like they're there, they're part of it and immersed in it," he said.
Overall, Baird described the play as "two-and-a-half hours of just a wonderful story that we all know and love."