Even though the musical is only a little more than an hour long, Playmakers of Baton Rouge’s version of the Wizard of Oz “gets all the great moments,” according to director Paige Gagliano.
“We do it all — the tornado, the farm, the munchkins,” she said.
Besides being the fine arts chair and theater director at the Dunham School, Gagliano has directed four summer musicals with Playmakers.
Summer is great for musicals because everyone has more time.
“Parents are looking for something to do that won’t interfere with math homework,” she said.
Children will enjoy the “flexible, fun and accessible” performance.
“Every character has something that’s so appealing,” Gagliano said. The Lion is lovable and vulnerable, the Scarecrow is loyal and the Tin Man is clean and crisp.
“Dorothy just breaks your heart,” she said.
It is Playmakers tradition for younger children to sit on a carpet right in front of the stage — which in the Reilly Theatre means practically at the feet of the actors.
“I love how the seating looks down on the stage — so everyone will be able to see the yellow brick road,” Danielle Adams said.
Wearing a blue checked dress and red shoes, Adams looked like everyone’s idea of Dorothy during a recent rehearsal.
“I always liked singing and to do this show is a dream come true,” she said.
Besides seeing the characters come alive on a stage, the audience will also experience something that is not in the 1939 movie.
The Jitterbug song and dance number with the Munchkins, played by children in the Playmakers version, was cut from the film. “It’s a big dance number with the kids. It’s really fun,” Adams said.
Even though there will be differences from the famous movie, the actors agree that it is important to stay true to the familiar story.
“People have an idea of what the movie is. It’s tough to go from film to stage, but there’s adventure in that,” Jason Duga said.
In his role as the Scarecrow, Duga said that he thinks about how the play informs while it entertains.
“It teaches lessons of growing up and the idea of home. Every kid needs that,” he said.
The play is interactive, something that Robert Wilson said he looks forward to in his role as the Cowardly Lion.
“There are little asides where we talk to the audience. Sometimes you can identify a kid right away that is going to be fun to interact with and you say to yourself ‘I’m going to say my line to that kid 30 lines from now.’”
When he was younger, Wilson pictured himself as the Scarecrow.
“Dorothy says she will miss him the most,” he said.
But as Wilson got older he became more drawn to the Lion.
“Now I have friends and family tell me that he was always their favorite character,” he said.
Mercedes Wilson never saw herself as the Wicked Witch of the West either.
“Every little girl wants to be Dorothy. When you’re a kid, you never want to play the bad characters. But they’re human just like everyone else,” she said.
The Wicked Witch of the West “mirrors” Dorothy’s rule-following neighbor Mrs. Gulch, whom Wilson also plays.
The scenes on the Kansas farm that open the play portray Dorothy’s “real life,” which involve friendships with the farmhands and a dispute with Mrs. Gulch about Dorothy’s wandering dog Toto.
To approximate the switch from black and white to color in the film during the moment when Dorothy enters Oz, the costumes at the beginning of the play are sepia toned. Dorothy’s dress for the early scenes is black and white checked and the farmhands’ overalls are dull shades. Lighting is also used to dim colors at the beginning of the play and brighten them for the Oz scenes, executive director Todd Henry said.
It’s all part of making Dorothy’s world come alive on stage.
Once the magic starts, the audience will be drawn in the entire time, Gagliano said.
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