Off to see ‘The Wizard’ for Wamego’s Oztoberfest

By Maura Wery

Dorothy’s house has just been picked up by the tornadic winds circling outside her home. In the window over her bed, a small farm dangling from strings appears. Next, a car flies past. The terrible Miss Gultch follows.

All of this happens while the home built on the stage for the Colombian Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” stays completely on the ground.

Wamego’s Colombian Theatre is bringing the iconic 1939 movie to the stage for a three-week run beginning today, just in time for the the city’s annual Oztoberfest.

The musical is directed by T-Shane Roberts and features a cast full cast of adults and children. At Thursday’s final dress rehersal, Roberts praised his cast, telling the crowd that they were amazing, working hard for countless hours to help bring the show together since the beginning of August.

The show uses set pieces that pull double-duty, bringing both Kansas and the magical world of Oz to life. The white picket fence that is outside Dorothy’s farm, for example, turns into the walls and backdrop of Munchkin Land.

It’s not just the set pieces that have a dual role. Most of the characters within the production play multiple rolls.

Daniel Myers-Bowman, Randy Rhoten and Roberts play Hickory, Hunk and Zeke who then transform into Tin-Man, Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion. The mailman in the first scene transforms into the mayor of Munchkin Land. The exception, of course, is Dorothy, played by Krysten Day.

The show also gets inventive with scenes from the movie that are hard to re-create in live theater. The Scarecrow’s field features actors who dress up like cackling crows. Dancers glide on and off stage to represent the poppy field that the Wicked Witch puts a spell over.

The four main characters, Dorothy, Tin-Man, Scarecrow, and The Cowardly Lion, all follow the style of their counterparts in the 1939 movie down to the small details, like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and Tin-Man needing oiled after each time he cries.

The iconic production holds a special place in the hearts of many people, including the director. Roberts said that he dedicated the production to his grandmother Dorothy. Roberts said that he remembers sitting in his grandmother’s home watching the movie and asking if she was the Dorothy in the movie.

“She would always play along,” Roberts wrote in the program. “It has always been fun to say, ‘I’m from Kansas, and my granny is Dorothy!’”

Interim executive director of the Colombian Theatre Clint Stueve said that this is the sixth year the play has been at the Colombian.

“We did the play every year but last year,” Stueve said. “We wanted to give the Oz fans something different last year, so we put on a production of ‘The Wiz’.”

Stueve said that the theater is predicting a crowd of at least 1,000 people over the weekend.

The production runs for three weekends: Sept. 29-30, Oct. 5-7 and Oct. 12-14. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children and students.

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