Dover becomes the Emerald City this weekend as The Children’s Theatre presents L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.”
All of the characters fans know and love are assembled including some such as the Jitterbugs that people may not be as familiar with. The story is truer to the book than the classic 1939 movie as some scenes were cut for the film.
But audiences are sure to be delighted by the tale of Dorothy and her “little dog Toto” being whisked off the magical land of Oz, where she meets the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man among others.
“Everybody seems to enjoy the story, young and old. That’s why I decided to do it,” said director Patricia Beetschen.
“I’ve never done a musical. And (longtime Children’s Theater board member and director) Sharon Crossen has been my mentor. I’ve been with Children’s Theater for 25 years and I’ve been a director for probably 20 of those years.
“It has just been something that is a joy of my life. I love seeing the children grow from being a Munchkin to having a starring role or something like that. It’s just been my pleasure being a part of this organization.”
For her first musical, Ms. Beetschen has taken on a huge task as the cast has over 50 performers. She is helped by assistant directors Quianna Nieves and Joy and Matt Truitt and student director Lee Peppard.
“The parents have been a blessing because they’ve pitched in and they’re all volunteers,” she said.
“We have some old-timers that have been with us and come back and we’ve got a lot of new people too, which is always good to get more parents involved.”
For Kaylee McDowell, 13, of Felton, playing Glinda the Good Witch is a dream come true.
“Growing up, I would always watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I always thought that she was the prettiest. My grandmother had the VHS tape and whenever I would go over to her house, we would watch it. And it got to the point where we would act it out and she’d be Oz and it was it was really fun,” she said.
“She always reminded me of the person that I wanted to be. She is very motherly and she’s graceful and she’s just so special.”
Like many of the parts, the role is double casted and she shares the part with Emma Holston, 17, of Magnolia.
This is Kaylee’s second show with Children’s Theatre and she said the experience of acting has helped her in everyday life.
“I’ve always been kind of a shy and reserved person and theater was my first choice because I know you have to be loud and have to be outgoing for that. And I’ve grown in that department for sure,” she said.
“I’ve noticed a difference somehow. I feel like when I go to school, I talked before, but I’m just overall a better person (at that now) because of what I do here.”
Sarah Falu, 14, of Camden, shares the lead role of Dorothy Gale with Lauren Fogle, 18, of Frederica.
Sarah said she was surprised to get such a big part.
“I had never gotten a lead role before. I was so surprised. I was hoping for a good part, obviously. But I was not expecting to get Dorothy. I was so surprised,” she said.
“It is a very versatile part because I play happy moments where I’m very happy that I’m home. And I also play sad moments and my part also teaches a lesson that home is where the heart is and that’s where you should stay. Because Dorothy tries to run away and then she realizes quickly that home is where she really belongs, and that’s where she stays.”
For Lauren, she too enjoys the role of Dorothy.
“The part is challenging, but it is also one of the most rewarding roles I’ve ever done. Getting to honor wonderful source material is such a blessing. It’s a lot of lines of course, but every single one holds nostalgia,” she said
“I am having a wonderful time playing Dorothy. Getting to honor what Judy Garland did has been such a pleasure. The people I get to do the show with are also beyond talented so I have been enjoying learning from all of them during this process.”
The Dorothys are ably assisted by 8-year-old Ivy Radziewicz, who plays Toto.
“She’s just a wonderful Toto. She comes here every day with a smile on her face. She’s just so happy and she’s really just an inspiration,” Sarah said.
“She has the most screen time out of any other character. And she comes and she does her best every single day.”
Cassidy Elaine, 16, of Wyoming, plays the Scarecrow. She loves the freewheeling nature of the part.
“It’s a little challenging because you’re on stage with a group of people the entire time and I have different arm movements that I have to do and I have to remember keeping my arms limp and making sure that I’m not a person because I’m not a person in the show. I’m more of a persona,” she said.
“I have to be able to be limp and remember that throughout the show, while also remembering my lines and the blocking and stuff with everyone. So it’s a little difficult, but we’ve had enough rehearsal time that I think I’m pretty confident,” she said.
For Brodie Sapp, 16, of Harrington, the part of the Tin Man is near and dear to the heart his character is seeking.
“My mother really, really loves ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ That’s all that she watched as a kid. And so I had to go back and watch it. But I’ve seen it a lot of times,” he said.
Brodie said he has taken a bit of a cue from Jack Haley’s characterization in the film.
“The soft spoken nature of the character you kind of have to know, because he wants a heart so bad that you kind of have to be emotional with it. Physically though, I’m a bit different. I tried to do something different with the way I walk and the physicality,” he said.
Brodie shares the role with Emily DeMarie, 16, of Dover.
For a group of performers, the production is bittersweet as it will be their final one with The Children’s Theatre before they move on.
Ace Clark, 18, of Dover, shares the role of the great and powerful Oz with Brandt Stevenson, 15, of Milford.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to while I was here. I’ve learned a lot of stuff throughout. So it’s almost my graduation from Children’s Theatre,” he said.
“I love acting. It’s only thing that stimulates the mind for me. I love being on stage and having the audience hanging on every word you’re saying.”
He can still remember the first time he auditioned at 12 years old.
“I was going to start earlier, but I was scared. I almost walked out of the audition for my first one because I was so scared. I like looked around. I was like ‘All these people look like they know what they’re doing.’ But I stuck through it and I got the lead role in that one,” he said.
Rachel Hammond, 18, of Felton, and Manuel Nieves, 17, of Magnolia, play Auntie Em and Uncle Henry in their final roles.
“It’s going to be emotional. We’ll get to see everybody because we’ll obviously come back but it’s just going to be very emotional,” Manuel said.
“It’s emotional for the last people who are leaving. But when the good ones leave, there is always a batch of good ones who come in right behind them.”
“The Wizard of Oz” will play three shows at the Schwartz Center for the Arts over the weekend — Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 6 p.m.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite.com or at the door. The Schwartz Center is at 226 S. State St., Dover.
Captain Blue’s Grass
Tonight, Delaware Friends of Folk will present the final event in their 2021-22 Old State House concert series, inside the Old State House on The Green in Dover.
This month’s show features local acoustic trio Captain Blue’s Grass. Hailing from Sussex County, they strive to keep classic American culture alive through their lively picking, heartfelt vocals, and soaring harmonies.
Armed with acoustic instruments and their voices, Captain Blue’s Grass is carrying their music across the peninsula with their own foot stompin’, funky blend of Americana, Bluegrass, Folk, and Rock n’ Roll.
The one-hour performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. Doors open at 7 and seating is limited. Reservations are no longer required.
‘Classics & More’
The Ballet Theatre of Dover joins other artists in raising awareness and promoting peace in our world through dance in a pair of performances of “Classics & More” Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the studio, Tudor Enterprise Park, 522 Otis Drive, Dover.
The performance features dances from the classic French ballet, “Paquita.” In “Paquita” divertissement, performers celebrate the power of music and dance with a distinct cultural flairs and style.
A contemporary suite of performance follows as “Gods and Mortals” explores life’s tenuous experiences through Greek mythology themes.
Special guest artist, Izabela Parsons, violinist and native of Poland, will play the poignant melodies of Chopin’s “Prelude in A Minor,” Brahm’s energetic “Hungarian Dance,” and an original composition “Winds of Change.” A duet with a solo dancer in “Prelude” is a plea for peace and unity.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students, and are available through Eventbrite.
Donations to Timbella Foundations’ Mission Work, including Ukraine, can be made during the event or online.
For more information, call the 302-734-9717 or visit www.dancebtd.com.
New this weekend in theater is the remake of the horror film “Firestarter.”