This weekend at Maplewood Elementary School’s auditorium, chase away the blues of a dreary March with an upbeat, optimistic childhood classic, "The Wizard of Oz," being performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday by French Creek Community Theatre.
Tickets are $10 and may be obtained from cast members or reserved in advance online at fcctheatre.com or by calling 373-8892.
Author L. Frank Baum first introduced midwestern preteen Dorothy Gale and her amiable pals from “over the rainbow” in 1900 via a novel, but it was the 1903 Broadway musical that sparked the franchise’s revolutionary eruption. There have been a large number of recently-released spoofs, spinoffs and retellings of Baum’s tales of Oz, most likely too many to even count, including kids’ books, Disney movies, young adult books, animated cartoons and even more musicals.
However, they all go back to one moment, the pivotal release of the 1939 movie musical. Some call it the turning point for a new wave of movie musicals in Hollywood, while others dub it a historical movie of legendary proportions. But all can agree that it is one of the most-watched movies of the 20th — and 21st — century. And what’s even better is seeing the plot, songs and characters of that very same beloved classic live on stage, and audiences through many years, many theaters and many productions around the world can’t get enough of how the dynamics of such a powerful show remain timeless throughout the trials of history.
In this version, the influential grasp dancing and music holds on the show are magnified even further, keeping the characters parallel to the level of other internationally-known popular culture legends. Seldom a single scene passes by without upbeat choreography and a song worth singing along to.
There are some new spins on a few of the old songs made into classics by the passing of time, including the well-known speaking trees joining in with the Tin Man and the crows of the Scarecrow’s field tagging along with his number. Despite that, the show is brimming with new songs as well, including the conflicting but catchy song the Wicked Witch’s Jitterbugs dance along to.
The traditional songs people around the world have grown up with are still eminently present in a showstopping way, though, such as Dorothy’s tearful presage “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the Cowardly Lion’s valiant yearn “If I Were King of The Forest” and the Munchkins’ repetitious well-remembered ode of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
The story of "The Wizard of Oz" follows optimistic young Dorothy (portrayed by Belle Snyder), who is torn away from her home in Kansas when a tornado sends her house to what at first appears to be the very place she has been dreaming of. What follows next is a fantastical journey where she meets a variety of characters who are all reminiscent of the very friends and family she left behind.
Her adventure ignites with the advice from Glinda (Jennifer Chamberlain), known as the Good Witch of the North, to seek out the Wizard of Oz to be sent back to her home. She is helped along the way by three well-known cinematically-introduced characters, the Scarecrow (Zach Hansen) with his lighthearted jeremiad “If I Only Had A Brain,” the Tin Man (Jonathan Merritt) who mournfully laments for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Dustin Steiger), a talking predator with just one problematic enigma, no courage, all while being followed and tormented by the Wicked Witch of the West (Amber Burchard), who is desperate for revenge against Dorothy.
Director Tabitha Reagle feels this show could not have come together without the teamwork of a hardworking and talented cast with kids ranging from 2 to 18 years old. The younger kids entertain as endearing Munchkins and beguiling poppy flowers, while the older kids and teenagers tackle choreographically-explosive ensembles, the majority of them bouncing back and forth between dawning the roles of crows, trees, tap-dancing Emerald City citizens, the Witch’s flying monkeys, Winkies or the jitterbugs, who can only be found in the stage musical and put some zest into the second act with their jazz-inspired high energy dance number.
Emilie Weaver is a cast member of "The Wizard of Oz."