By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Pictured above are Dorothy (Gabrielle Madia) and her dog Toto (Peggy) at the Meadowbrook Mall promo performance.  Photo courtesy of Silver Shutter Photography.

Who can’t recall being enamored as a child by watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’, widely considered to be one of the most popular films in cinema history?  The stage adaptation of this movie production will be performed by the Robert C. Byrd High School Theatre Department this week, and it is not just an exciting opportunity for the students involved in the production, but for the community to witness as well!

RCB High School theatre teacher and producer of the show Emily Moore calls it a ground-breaking presentation of singing, dancing, special effects … and flying!

“For the first time in school history, we are flying one of our productions through the ZFX Flying Company.  Attendees will see many characters – Glinda, the Wicked Witch, the Flying Monkeys, and others soar through the air across our stage!” Moore noted.  “Budget-wise, this is a huge production, coming in at close to $50,000.  Having the capability to allow so many of the characters to fly added a $10,000 price tag to the show.  It will truly be something thrilling for the audience to see!”

Auditions were held in December and rehearsals began in early January. Over 100 students are part of the cast and crew, with involvement from not just RCB High School students but “munchkins” from WI Middle, Nutter Fort Intermediate, Norwood and Nutter Fort Primary Schools as well.

Dorothy (played by junior Gabrielle Madia), a farm girl from Kansas, wonders what is “Over the Rainbow” and ends up running away from home after her precious dog Toto is threatened.  Peggy, a rescue dog handled by Olivia Wodnicki, has been cast as Dorothy’s dog Toto.

Dorothy lands in Munchkinland after a tornado hits her Kansas home and she meets Glinda, the good witch (played by junior Abby Schorr), who tells her to “follow the yellowbrick road” and look for the wonderful Wizard of Oz before the Wicked Witch of the West (played by freshman Langston Wolfe) can get her first.  Dorothy meets characters who become her friends – the Scarecrow (played by junior Franky Satterfield) who laments “If I Only Had a Brain”; the Tin Man (played by sophomore Ryan Longerbeam), who worries “If I Only Had a Heart”; and the Cowardly Lion (played by senior Andrew Richards), who wonders “If I Only Had the Nerve”.

These characters make their way to the Emerald City and meet the Wizard of Oz (played by senior Dylan McCullough), who sends them on a mission to bring back the Wicked Witch’s broom.  Just like in the movie, Dorothy discovers “there’s no place like home”!

Artistic Director David Cotton said, “The Wizard of Oz has been a huge challenge for us creatively because it is so iconic.  But we managed to translate the spirit, style and timelessness of the movie onto the stage in a way that will bring the audience a nostalgic reflection of their childhood.”

Moore added, “This musical production is such a historical show and it is the first time in our school’s production history that we have added aerial flying!  Producing this show has been a real team effort of many people.”

Those involved, in addition to those previously mentioned, include: music director Duretha Mayle, choreographer Kim Bell, play sponsor and prop master Rebecca Mearns, set designer and decorator Larry Cotton-Zinn, master carpenter Jonathon Dolan,, technical director Tony Bell, sound director Carol Harvey, costuming designers Jason Noland and Karen Bisset, student director Tyanna Singleton, and head stage manager Nina Wagner.

Langston Wolfe, who is cast as the Wicked Witch, rehearses flying above the stage at an RCB rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Silver Shutter Photography.

Moore continued, “Some people may not know that when filming the original 1939 MGM movie, a scene was cut from it.  However, that scene will be included in our production, so it will be something audiences have never seen before.  We think the audience will be impressed as well by the video projection that will simulate the tornado in the show.  It is truly something the public will thoroughly enjoy!”

Last Saturday, March 31st, the performers offered a show “preview” at Center Court at the Meadowbrook Mall.  Six performances were offered this week for students from RCB feeder schools as well as other schools in the county.  Moore noted that these shows were completely sold out a couple of months ago.  And this weekend, the public performances begin at the RCB High School Auditorium.

Showtimes are April 13th at 7 p.m., April 14th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and April 15th at 3 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased online by visiting  https://25963.smallvenueticketing.com with premium seating at $15 and reserved seats at $12.  Moore says that advance online ticket purchases are encouraged.

“Ticket purchasers will find that this is very user-friendly and easy to navigate,” Moore explained.

Tickets at the door will be $15.  However, she cautioned that because there has been so much interest in seeing this production, there is no guarantee that tickets at the door will still be available.

“This is such a wonderful kids’ show, but even adults are anxious to revisit their childhood and see it again.  It is a production that never outlives its popularity!  Our spring productions have garnered such a good reputation for delivering quality shows, and we certainly expect this one in particular to draw huge crowds,” Moore concluded.