'Wizard of Oz' set for Phoenix Theatre

At 14 years of age, Emmie German is already a veteran of local youth theatre, but feels she has found the perfect part this summer in the rubber-legged, frequently falling Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz,” which opens this Friday with a young presenters version at Monticello’s Phoenix Theatre.

“I am naturally more of a clumsy person, so I don’t look stupid when I fall in this. It looks like part of the show,” said German, a soon-to-be high school freshman who has acted in six Monticello Theatre Company productions.

“So I can just let my goofy side loose with being the scarecrow. It gives me an outlet,” she added.

Kayleigh Wittig is enjoying her role as the Tin Man for a different reason – she gets to portray something outside of what she considers her natural demeanor.

“I need to be stiff, which is different for me, because I am usually pretty loose,” said Wittig, who has also been in several local productions.

“Well, you’re walking around in a trash can,” interjected Rin Culpepper, who plays Professor Sage, the name used in the book that was renamed as Professor Marvel in the film.

Director Sherrie Hildreth makes sure as many children as possible take part in the play, utilizing dual casts and assigning others in backstage roles like costume design and working in the house.

That means there are 47 kids between the ages of nine and 17 taking part in the Monticello Theatre Association production, which runs the next two weekends.

“That’s something that’s important to me is that lots of kids get the opportunity to participate,” said Hildreth, who has headed up MTA summer youth camps for six years.

Describing the on-stage version as closer to the book than the well-known 1939 Judy Garland movie, Hildreth enjoys some of the differences, which include the Jitterbug song and dance scene, which will be part of the local presentation.

“That was actually cut from the Judy Garland version, which is very sad because it’s a lot of fun. It’s a 1930s dance routine, essentially,” added Hildreth, who also directed Charlotte’s Web, Jungle Book and Annie in past summers at MTA.

Despite the wide disparity in dance training among cast members, she has also challenged her cast by adding more choreography.

“We’re a little crazy here – in good ways,” chuckled the director.

Set design was a challenge due to limited stage space, so three-sided set pieces on wheels were constructed which can be moved and changed quickly. For example, one piece serves as a backdrop as the farmhouse, forest and a wall in Oz.

The pieces are not only flexible, but provide movement needed in the opening scenes where a twister invades Dorothy’s Kansas farmstead.

“We really wanted to give the impression of that cyclone, but to make that happen things have to move. So by having things on wheels we can create that movement,” added Hildreth.

When pressed on what her favorite part of the musical is, “it’s really hard to pick, but I really enjoy the Winkies. You know, ‘oh-ee-oh; oh-eeee-oh,’” she commented, noting the low-register chant the wicked witch’s guards sing while under her spell.

While some of the cast have already seen their share of production time in the past, others are stepping on the stage for the first time. Like 10-year-old Quinn Gleason, who is one of the actors playing the dog Toto.

“I’ve watched the movie, so why not be in the play?” he said.

Wittig said she considers her cast mates “family.”

Culpepper concurs.

“I’ve enjoyed watching it come from nothing, and all the friends I’ve made,” she added.

The curtain drops on “The Wizard of Oz” at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10-11 and Aug. 17-18, with 2.:30 p.m. matinees scheduled for Sundays, Aug. 12 and 19.

The cast
Director – Sherrie Hildreth
Producers – Gil Younka, Faith Rund
Cast – Alison Wiltgen, Alexus Brown, Alyiah Ellison, Amelia Patterson, Annie Clifton, Avery Menacher, Brayden Brock, Callie Poynton, Campbell Phillips, Charlie Johnson, Cody Ball, Ella Scott, Ellie Tanner, Emily Steffes, Emmie German, Estella Miller, Grace Stapf, Hailey Culpepper, Hailey Kline, Hannah Klay, Jackson Heck, Jacob Wenke, JayLynn Todd, Katey Quick, Kayleigh Wittig, Ken Merriman, Kyndal Cafin, Lucas Madera, Lukas Merriman, Madi Tabor, Mae Knittle, Megan LeJeune, Olivia Ray, Olivia Rohr, Owen Heck, Quinn Gleason, Reece Clennon, Rin Culpepper, Sam Ryan, Sophie Happ, Sophie Rund, Sydney Dunham, Sylvia Miller, Tatum Wichus, Taylor Simnick, Tiger Whidden, Zoe Burris.

Tickets are available at www.monticellotheatre.org or by emailing tickets@monticellotheatre.org.



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