The yellow brick road leads to the Scotiabank Convention Centre in December.
For its annual musical, Linus Hand Productions is bringing The Wizard of Oz out from behind the curtain. The classic musical opens Dec. 5 for six public performances to go along with matinees for local schools.
As always, the show is a mix of professional actors and students from Hand’s acting academy for kids on Thorold Stone Rd. While most of the major roles are filled by veteran stage talent, a trio of Niagara teens will take turns playing Dorothy.
Alternating shows will be Morgan Hilliker (14), Olivia Shad (16) and Erica George (13).
“I didn’t want a 26-year-old acting 15,” says Hand, who has been producing major musicals in Niagara Falls for the past decade.
In recent years, he’s brought Annie and Oliver! to the stage. But few children’s roles carry the workload of Oz’s Dorothy, who is in virtually every scene and requires vast energy (and vocal chops) to pull off. Hand says all three actresses filling the ruby slippers are up to the task.
“Not only can they sing and dance, I know they can handle the pressure.”
“It takes a lot of work memorizing the lines and choreography, but it’s all great,” says Hilliker. “It’s really fun to be doing it.”
“If we want to do this with our lives when we’re older, it helps us.”
“Something like this doesn’t come along every day,” adds George. “Usually this is cast as an adult, but they’re trusting us with this part.”
For Shad, it’s more than just a good rendition of Over the Rainbow – The Wiz is nonstop energy.
“The show requires a lot of stamina, because not only is (Dorothy) in every scene, she’s also high energy in every scene.”
The show also stars Alex Dvorak as Scarecrow, Andrew J. Hampton as the Tin Man, Brian Duffy as the Cowardly Lion, Michelle Nash as Glynda, Jennifer St. Ange as the Wicked Witch and Mark Hand as the Wizard.
Director Molly Atkinson-Powell, who also did last year’s production of Oliver!,’ says it’s always a challenge bringing something new to The Wizard of Oz. Without a large budget, it’s up to the cast and stage design to make the audience feel they aren’t in Kansas any more.
By John Law, Niagara Falls Review
“The story’s so iconic,” she says. “Kids ask if we’re going to do things like in the movie. I tell them no, we’ll create it on our own.”