Yellow Brick Road leads to the rec center this weekend
The Jamestown Community Theatre, now celebrating its 21st season, will present a production of “The Wizard of Oz” with performances over the next two weekends. The musical will be directed by Mary Wright, who serves as artistic director at the community theatre.
“JCT’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is sure to delight audiences young and old alike,” said Wright. “There is something for everyone: a beloved childhood tale, a villain, some lessons to learn, magic, and of course, a few surprises.”
Wright said the cast will include island residents as young as 7 and as old at 83. “It’s a family musical,” she said, “yet the show will bring out the child in all of us.”
“The Wizard of Oz” musical dates back to 1902. It is based on a book by L. Frank Baum called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which was published in 1900. The original musical included music by Roger Tietjens, but much of that music has been forgotten. It is the subsequent film version that generations of people cherish.
There were two earlier film versions, but it was the 1939 MGM film version of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy, a young girl who is transported from her home in Kansas, along with her dog Toto, to the magical kingdom of Oz. The film chronicles her adventures on the Yellow Brick Road as she seeks the wizard who can get her back home to her family.
The film is also remembered for the music of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, including the Academy Award-winning song “Over the Rainbow.” A sterling cast of munchkins, and the early use of Technicolor in film, also served to make “The Wizard of Oz” a classic.
Wright, who has lived in Jamestown for more than 20 years, is cofounder of the Jamestown Community Theatre. She was involved in theater from an early age, appearing at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, and also doing commercials and a soap opera. However, teaching is her first love and Wright has taught for 40 years.
Wright, who has no training but a great deal of experience as a director, loves the work. “I think as a teacher I love directing creatively,” she said.
“The Wizard of Oz” was the second play ever presented by the community theater, 20 years ago. Wright felt it was a good time to revisit the timeless classic. “At that point we had very few adults in it,” she said. “We’ve had more adults join us along the way. I felt that it’s a show that everybody knows, it’s a family show, it’s fun, and I know it very well.”
The cast for “The Wizard of Oz” was chosen during the summer by a committee based on an audition process that included two stages. One stage was for people interested in major roles, the other for lesser roles and chorus parts.
The cast includes Anza DiGasper as Dorothy, Valerie Tarantino as Auntie Em, Tom Wiggin as Uncle Henry, Joshua Brown as the Cowardly Lion, Patrick Driscoll as the Tin Man, Matthew Bolles as the Scarecrow, Clayton Carlisle as Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz, Dana Larkin as Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and Ringo Starr Wolfe as Toto.
Hayley Carlisle has the key roles of Miss Almira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West. The 13-year-old Hayley is a freshman at La Salle Academy in Providence. She is primarily a dancer, and thought the opportunity to be in the play would help her rehab process from recent knee surgery.
“I’ve been doing some theater because I haven’t been able to dance because of my knee,” Hayley said. “I heard about ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ so I auditioned. I practiced by watching the movie five times beforehand.”
Although the role of Dorothy gets top billing, Hayley is happy with her place in the cast. “I like the role of the Wicked Witch,” she said. “I think it’s a more interesting character.” Hayley does admit to being terrified of the Wicked Witch when she watched the film as a young child.
Hayley hopes a lot of people will come out to see the play. “There are a lot of good actors, and they’re all from Jamestown,” she said. “It’s a community play. We have really good music.”
Abigail Hirsch, 10, has several roles in “The Wizard of Oz.” She’s a munchkin, the Jitterbug Kid and a member of the Emerald City Ozians chorus. She is also the understudy for the lead role of Dorothy.
Although she also watched the movie for inspiration, her task is made a bit more difficult because the role of the Jitterbug Kid was cut out of the movie, leaving her with little to base her performance on.
“I think it will be exciting,” Abigail said about the play. “We’ll have some new stuff that the movie doesn’t have, like the Jitterbug Kid.”
Performances of “The Wizard of Oz” will take place at the Jamestown Recreation Center over two consecutive weekends: Friday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m; Sunday, Nov. 13, at 4 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 4 p.m.
Tickets purchased in advance are $13 for adults, and $8 for seniors (65 and older) and children (17 and under). Ticket prices at the door increase to $16 and $11, respectively.
Tickets can be purchased at Baker’s Pharmacy, Cathryn Jamieson Salon, Secret Garden and the Conanicut Marine Services Ship’s Store.