Cheryl Connelly needs the Wickedest Florist of the West.
Standing over a group of kids in a make-believe field of flowers, Connelly, as a geographically specific Wicked Witch, seeks to conjure up a spell, desperately searching for something to use against that pesky Dorothy Gale. Something “with poison in it but attractive to the eye and soothing to the smell,” she says, her voice rising and falling with enough inflections of malicious intent to make lesser witches green with envy.
Her eyes spring to life as an idea takes flight – “Poppies! Poppies!” As in the flowers in the aforementioned make-believe field, this time used to send Dorothy, et al, into a witch-induced sleep.
Connelly’s floral request is part of the hustle and bustle during rehearsals of a production of unprecedented magnitude – with more than 75 cast members, it’s the most ambitious project Georgetown Community Theatre has put on to date, not to mention the special effects, including one rather important tornado. It’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of activity on the road from Georgetown to Oz.
And while the road might not be paved with yellow bricks, it is filled with good intentions as the cast and crew works to bring to life a treasured memory for many while still making it their own production.
“What I love about this musical version, which originated with the Royal Shakespeare Company, is that while it has all the familiar music made famous by the MGM film, it still holds true to many of L. Frank Baum’s original concepts of the characters and land of Oz,” director Alyssa Curry says. “Baum’s book was written in 1900, so clearly this has been a story told for many generations, but most of our audience might not be as familiar with Baum’s story as they are the movie.”
All the usual Oz suspects will be involved in this stage version (to be held 7:30 p.m. July 18-19 and 2:30 p.m. July 20 at Scott County High School), and on this particular Monday evening rehearsal, the practice room at Cardome teems with colorful characters.
“We’ve got some poppies and flying monkeys,” assistant director Joanna Jerome says, looking around at the makeshift stage (blue tape outlined on the floor), “and we have a Dorothy.”
Ah, yes, Dorothy, the girl who got what she wished and more when she was whooshed off to Oz in the powerful twister. GCT’s Dorothy is played by 15-year-old Rebecca Keith, a junior-to-be at Scott County High School, who has played small parts in previous productions but nothing near this level.
She shows no signs of anxiety, though, as she alternately dances around off stage, warming up for scenes or sits quietly by herself, slipping on a pair of shoes, which for now, unfortunately, are not ruby slippers. She’s quiet, perhaps even a bit shy, in the role of “Rebecca Keith,” but as “Dorothy Gale” she’s a commanding presence – her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” prompts actual goose bumps and strong applause both times she sings it during this rehearsal.
Keith loves being part of the show, she says, mainly being around all the talented people, “including the munchkins because they’re shorter than me … most of ‘em.”
From the shortest member of the Lollipop Guild to the towering sight of Jim Miller as the great and powerful Oz, the cast is, well, pretty much perfect. During rehearsals, lanky, loose-limbed Tim Stewart as the Scarecrow and newcomer Victor Attard as the Tin Man radiate warmth and humor, even in their street clothes. (John Campbell, who will play the Cowardly Lion, was on vacation at the time of this practice but has apparently already gotten into character, sending Curry a simple, one-word e-mail wishing the crew luck: “Roar!”)
“The caliber of this cast is amazing,” Curry says. “I’m not sure anyone has more fun at rehearsals than me. It’s a pleasure to work with these folks. The audience will undoubtedly be entertained from the opening scene to the last.”
She’s right. This version of Oz is awesome (Ozsome, perhaps?), and Scott Countians need to mark their calendars for mid-July to make sure they’re off to see The Wizard.