Follow the yellow brick road to Draper Historic Theatre’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’Aug 30, 2021 11:39AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” The Scarecrow (Roman Southwick), Dorothy (Sasha Southwick), the Cowardly Lion (Starr Christensen) and the Tin Man (Gabe Alger) pause on their way through the haunted forest in the Draper Historic Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz.” (Photo courtesy Draper Historic Theatre)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
Draper Historic Theatre aims to transport audiences over the rainbow this month with their musical production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The show, which pays homage to the iconic 1939 movie based on the story by L. Frank Baum, will be presented Sept. 10-25.
“I like to do things from the movie that you’d expect to be in the show,” explained director Marc Navez. “But also approach it creatively so it’s not like other productions you may have seen.”
“It is a classic but we present it in our own way to make it seems like the first time you’ve seen it,” added Cory Schaepperkoetter, one of the actors who is playing the Scarecrow.
As with most productions at Draper Historic Theatre, “The Wizard of Oz” has been double-cast. The “Ruby” cast and the “Emerald” cast will take turns performing during the run of the show.
The Draper Historic Theatre production seeks to immerse the audience in the magical realm of Oz. “The audience will have to participate in the Emerald City scenes,” said Navez, adding that he didn’t want to divulge too many details. “We’d love to make it more immersive.”
Paul May, who plays the Wizard and Professor Marvel, spoke of the importance of bringing a touch of magic to audiences, especially now. In discussing his character, May noted, “I like how even though he is not a real wizard, he still knows how to make things happen. It’s like magic.” He added thoughtfully, “Bringing some light to people’s lives, that’s magic that we all need.”
The actors are modeling their characters after their movie counterparts. “It’s like they walked right off the movie screen,” said Navez. “It’s so fun to see these characters come to life.”
Starr Christensen is closely modeling her take on the Cowardly Lion on Bert Lahr’s iconic performance, down to replicating his Brooklyn accent in the songs. “He is such a character, so silly!” said Christensen. She sees more depth in the role, though. “The fact that the Cowardly Lion is really scared but pretends to be so brave is something that everyone can relate to,” she explained. “You have to be really brave to do the things he does.”
Karlie Parrish is excited to be tackling the role of Dorothy. “I grew up watching ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” she said. “Any movie about a young girl making a journey and coming home, I was drawn to.”
Parrish played Dorothy once before in an Off Broadway Theatre Co. “Oz” parody. She explained that she found the tempo of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to be surprisingly challenging to sing. One of her favorite songs in the show is perhaps a bit obscure. “I love the ‘Jitterbug,’ the big spectacle!” Parrish said.
The “Jitterbug” scene, a song and dance number from the 1939 film that was left on the cutting room floor, will be performed in the Draper Historic Theatre production. In the scene, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are on their way to the witch’s castle when they are set upon by “jitterbugs,” mosquito-like insects that give one the “jitters.” The scene was cut from the movie when producers felt that the film was too long.
The jitterbug dance number is one of many choreographed by DaMelly Alderete. Rather than copying the dances in the movie, Alderete explained, “I do like to change it up. I like to expose the dancers to different styles and work with the skill levels of the actors. It challenges me to be more creative and think outside the box. I want to make something that is fun to watch but not overwhelming for the kids.”
Alderete added that she finds working at Draper Historic Theatre to be deeply rewarding. “It’s been one of the most wonderful experiences working at this theater,” she said. “There is a culture of inclusivity as well as dynamite talent that wants to do their best.”
“Community theater is made by your friends and family, the people you see in the grocery store,” Alderete continued. “You are seeing a passion project.”
Family is of course a key theme of “The Wizard of Oz,” as anyone who has ever watched Dorothy click her heels and murmur, “There’s no place like home,” understands. “She didn’t realize how much she missed her family until she was away from them,” Parrish said, rehearsing in her ruby slippers.
Sarah Schaepenkoetter, who plays Glinda the Good Witch, in “a very pink, very sparkly” gown, feels that the whole theme of the show is about family. “Dorothy is trying to find her family. The show is about appreciating the family that we have or finding the family that appreciates us,” Schaepenkoetter said.
Draper Historic Theatre will present “The Wizard of Oz” Sept. 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. with matinees on Sept. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 12366 S. 900 East in Draper. For tickets and more information visit drapertheatre.org.