The Yellow Brick Road beckons as the Chambersburg Community Theater mounts a spectacular production of the much-loved musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” with a cast of almost 75 performers and, in a major departure from previous productions, technology that allows the use of background animation.
“We wanted to do a major show that would bring in a lot of people,” said Rachel Kern, director, “and bring it back on a large scale.”
CCT has presented two previous productions of the play, in 1989 and 2011, but this will be the first using advanced special effects, created by Theater Effects, which produces Hollywood-style theatrical pyrotechnics.
“Basically, it’s like having a moving background,” said Kern.
This “Wizard” will feature the usual characters: the young, homesick Dorothy, played by 18-year Samantha Lamar, a freshman at Shippensburg University; the Scarecrow looking for a brain, acted by 14-year-old Sofia Robinson (a girl in the role, why not); the Tin Man seeking a heart, played by Luke Hockenberry; the Cowardly Lion, wishing for courage, by Rich Knight; along with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry; the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch; and, of course, the Wizard.
Toto, a Cairn terrier, as was the dog in the original film, will also add his presence.
Among many extras will be 28 Munchkins, crows, wicked tree nymphs, Ozians, winkies, and flying monkeys — who, in this case, will be gymnasts tumbling on stage.
This is non-stop entertainment at its best, performed by a cast drawn from the local area — Chambersburg, Newville, Carlisle, Hagerstown, Mt. Holly Springs and other locales.
“The Wizard of Oz” was written by L. Frank Baum, and it is said that he came up with the name “OZ” from looking at the filing cabinet in his office which ran from A-N and O-Z. Whether true or apocryphal, he created a world that has filled imaginations of all ages to this day.
The story line is familiar to many from the movie, if not the book. Young Dorothy Gale lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. One day she is riding her bicycle with her dog, Toto, when they are caught in a tornado. In the original movie version, the film opened in black and white; it was only when Dorothy found herself in the land of Oz that the screen came ablaze in full color. Likewise, in this play, thanks to the technology involved, the show will move from sepia to color, with the background animation lending more versimilitude.
Dorothy asks everyone, from the Munchkins to Glinda, the Good Witch, how to return to her home. All respond that she should go to see the Wizard of Oz and to do so she should follow the yellow brick road. Along this path she meets the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. Each is seeking help from the Wizard to fulfill their special need and they join forces for the journey to the Emerald City where he lives. When they are finally brought into the presence of the mighty Wizard...well, to say more would spoil the plot.
Director Kern is a CCT board member and serves on its fundraising committee. A Juniata College graduate, in her other life she writes federal contracts. She will bring her previous stage experience to this production as she directs her first show.
“I brought the idea of sending a proposal to Kickstarter — a fundraising website — a couple of years ago for a production of Peter Pan,” she said. This time around, although a little wary of donor fatigue, CCT again approached Kickstarter and were pleasantly surprised to find that they had raised close to $700 more than expected.
“Donations have come from around the country,” said Sally Herritt, executive director of CCT. The competition is tough, as currently Kickstarter has 105 live theater projects in its pipeline.
Ventura Foods of Chambersburg sponsored the show and the company’s name appears on the program and the theater marquee. The production also received support from the Gilmore-Hoerner Endowment and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
“We also received some nice donations from more than 50 supporters, some as modest as $20,” added Herritt.
“We have an annual campaign, but we always accept contributions which can be as small as $5 or $10,” she said. “Although we are the resident theater company for the Capitol Theater, we are a separate organization and we have the usual expenses.”
CCT’s ‘Wizard’ includes one canine thespian
One of the stars of “The Wizard of Oz” is a small Cairn Terrier named Toto. Chambersburg Community Theatre’s production was fortunate to find a local “Toto,” a male Cairn mix weighing about 10 pounds, who has the traditional black and grey mix of fur.
Cricket, the real name of CCT’s Toto, was a rescue from one of the area animal shelters, said Roger Sackett, who, with his wife Barb, owns Craig’s Victorian Bed and Breakfast, 756 Philadelphia Ave., Chambersburg.
“He is actually a mix of Cairn terrier and Yorkshire terrier,” Sackett said. “When we went to his first rehearsal, I didn’t know what to expect, but he was all right and let ‘Dorothy’ carry him all over.”
Renee Sharpe, assistant director of the play, is a neighbor of the Sacketts. She saw the dog and suggested him for the part.
“He has quite a following among the guests at our bed and breakfast,” said Sackett.
The Wizard of Oz
159 S. Main Street, Chambersburg
• 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6
• 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7
• 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8
• 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14
• 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15
Tickets: Adults $18; students (age 13 through college with ID), $13.00; and children (up to age 12) $8
Purchase online at www.cctonline.org or call 717-263-0202 or visit the box office at 159 S. Main St., Chambersburg. There is a $2 service fee for online orders. Seating is limited.