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'The Wizard of Oz'

LIT and Lakewood Playhouse team up to produce all-time favorite

Emily Saletan as Dorothy and Waffle as Toto. Photo credit: James Venturini

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The Lakewood Institute of Theatre and Lakewood Playhouse are teaming up this year for a joint production of their annual all-ages show. This year's show, their fifth annual, is the perennial favorite of kids and adults alike, The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum as adapted by Robert and Willie Beale. What's truly different about this adaptation is that it is a steampunk reimagining of this American classic. How contemporary can you get? Plus, since it is a collaboration between the Lakewood Playhouse's main stage and its education department, it brings all the production elements of a main-stage show and combines them with the even bigger sense of wonder and adventure brought by the youth and educators.

The show is directed by The Lakewood Institute of Theatre's education director, Jeremy Thompson.

"When we were selecting a title for this season's annual LIT/LP mash-up Spotlight show, the entire staff came immediately around to the idea of presenting Oz," Thompson said. "It had never been produced on the LP stage and with the previous productions of A Year with Frog and Toad and Treasure Island, we proved that the equation of putting less experienced actors of all ages on stage with seasoned veterans, also of all ages, and giving them a big, main-stage production experience with education along the way was a sure-fire winner."

Thompson said that the title holds "a special place" in the hearts of all familiar with it - the movie is immediately recognized worldwide, so when he approached such an iconic piece of culture, the job became to make it his own.

"We approached it with a fresh script that takes the known elements and develops them slightly, giving a chance for new characters and relationships," he added. "We assembled a top-notch design team and incredibly talented cast of twenty artists ranging in age from 8 to 47. We approached it with a fresh aesthetic and created a unique Oz while giving a nod to the elements we simply can't do without. It has been a director's, designer's and actors' dream to bring it all to life. We can't wait to share the countless hours of work by this fantastic team with our community - a perfect way to kick off the holiday season with the entire family."

Performing are returning actors Karly Dammel (ensemble), Isaac Gutierrez (Pocus), Lydia Helt (Glinda), Gabi Marler (Gatekeeper), Andrew Redford (Tin Man / Mr. Woodman) and Tony L. Williams (Lion / Mr. Lyon).  The show also introduces a number of new faces such as Kyla Alphier (ensemble), Sky Gibbs (ensemble), Diane Johnson (Aunt Em / ensemble), Ellie Johnson (Hocus), Ethan Jones (ensemble), Hunter McCann (Ozma), Ed Medina (Uncle Henry / ensemble), Crystalann Meyer (ensemble), Zenith Ortiz (Scarecrow / Mr. Crowe), Nate Schmidt (The Wizard), Kate-Lyn Seimers (Ogma), Kyle Yoder (ensemble) and introducing Emily Saletan (Dorothy) and Waffle (Toto).

The show needs no introduction or synopsis. It's the story everyone has come to know and love about Dorothy, the silly Scarecrow, the lovable Tin Man, and the hilarious cowardly Lion and their harrowing adventures in the Land of Oz. And need I repeat that this time it takes place in a Steampunk setting?

There are nine performances only. Warning: some scenes may be scary for younger children.

The Lakewood Institute of Theatre nurtures students of all ages, at all stages, by offering a variety of educational and performance opportunities; and it empowers life skills through the experience of theater.

The Wizard of Oz, 7 p.m., Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday through Nov. 13, special performance Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $15, 253.588.0042, lakewoodplayhouse.org

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