Familiar show tunes, outrageous costumes and sets, great choreography, adorable children and a dog highlight this year’s Waupaca Community Theater production ‘Wizard of Oz’.
Not since ‘Annie’ will you have seen so many of our town folk – of all ages – on stage at one time. It’s great to see some veteran WCT actors alongside relatively new faces adding to the wonderful mix of what makes community theater what it is, even better than the sum of its already great talent.
Just to name a few stand-out lead performances; as in the movie, the extended family members of Dorothy (shared by Emma Kelley and Jessica Fletcher) each look the part; unmistakable Hunk/Scarecrow (Luke Harger), Hickory/Tin Man (Bob Telfer) and Zeke/Lion (Gene Badgley) are natural fits for these iconic roles. Lee Schultz calls on her inner witchy-woman to nail perfectly the role of Almira Gultch/Wicked Witch. If you’re like me and can’t get enough of one Marcel Van Camp on stage, here’s your first chance since ‘Oliver’ to see him (the Wizard). Jim King takes his show to the musical theater stage as a convincing Uncle Henry, while Carmen Riebel and Tammi Kenton share roles as Glinda-good witch and Auntie Em.
The chorus munchkins not only fulfill all expectations of being cute, but also can really sing well, thanks to the direction of Linda Trepasso. One performance worth mentioning, though he does not have any speaking lines per se is Matt Bonikowske as Nikko, commander of the monkeys. His ability to convey through his flexibility and athleticism is second to none.
I understand that even Toto is played by a dog named Bob from Weyauwega who brings prior experience from other ‘Oz’ productions. On opening night he was very well behaved, barring only a few untimely barks at Lion or Scarecrow. Must have been the outfits! These same characters proved it is always key when working with live animals on stage to keep on your toes for any needed improvising.
As with any Broadway musical, one expects not only great singing and acting, but also dancing! WCT does not disappoint in this production with great dance numbers choreographed by Braden Kendziora.
To leave those thankless many mentioned last…people like Schultz, Van Camp and Dave Larson (Castle Guard) worked tirelessly behind the scenes creating those great set pieces and backdrops along with all of the memory work for their lines.
Finally, Holly Saunders and John Kelley have teamed up yet again for another amazing adventure into fantasyland. See if you can contain yourself from singing along with the music too loud for those around you! Why? Because, because, because, because…
(Final shows are Thursday, Friday and Saturday 7pm at the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center)
John Hammond, Ogdensburg (veteran Waupaca Community Theater lead)