Audiences can follow the yellow brick road to the land of talking scarecrows, munchkins and ruby slippers as “Wizard of Oz” opens today at the Lewiston Civic Theatre.Just as in the Broadway classic, Dorothy is carried via tornado from her Kansas farmhouse to that imaginary place over the rainbow, but the show is adapted to better suit a younger cast. That means Dorothy’s adventures with the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion and Toto take only an hour to watch, plus intermission, versus the usual two hours or more of a traditional Broadway musical.
The show, performed by nearly 50 kids between the ages of 4 and 16, includes the musical favorites “Off to See the Wizard” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but the pared-down lines and song selection is not only easier for the young cast to put together within six weeks’ time, but it also has an appeal to younger audiences who might not enjoy shows that are longer and get out later.
And it’s these enthusiastic audiences that are responsible for this year’s addition of a third weekend of showtimes. Past children’s productions have only had one or two weekends of shows, said Mel Syverson, who is directing the production.
“It’s awesome because it’s a supply and demand issue,” Syverson said. “The shows have sold well.”
Simple effects bring the show to life. It opens with a black-and-white film effect as the cast wears only black and white and gray before their transformation to the colorful world of Oz. Original video media was created by Matt Robinson of Normal Hill Productions along with the cast and is used during the tornado scene. And there is a jitterbug dance number that is an “amazing and extremely fast-paced standout scene,” Syverson said.
All this in addition to what Syverson called a talented cast, made up of both new and experienced actors and actresses. Around 100 kids auditioned for the show, with the youngest being a group of “adorable” 4-year-old munchkins.
“It’s hard work as much as it is talent,” Syverson said, regarding what makes for success on the stage, adding the cast has plenty of both.
An opening weekend gala will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday. The event is free of charge and includes a photo booth, raffle, silent auction and refreshments.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Wizard of Oz: Young Performer’s Edition”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6, 2 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 7
WHERE: Lewiston Civic Theatre, 805 Sixth Ave., Lewiston
COST: $16 adults, $13 seniors age 60 and older, $11 student with ID, $8 children 12 and younger. Tickets are available at www.lctheatre.org or by calling the box office at (208) 746-3401.