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The Wizard of Oz'

Alliance Theatre stages production July 29-30, Aug. 3-6.

Sixty children and 18 adults go "off to see the Wizard" in Alliance Theatre's lively and colorful production of "The Wizard of Oz" in Centreville High's theater.

Centreville Drama Boosters are sponsoring it, and showtimes are Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30, at 7:30 and 2 p.m., respectively; Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 3, 4, 5, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 6, at 2 p.m. Order tickets at 703-834-0200 or at www.thealliancetheatre.org.

IT'S DIRECTED by Elaine Wilson and Susan McCarthy, with music direction by Cheryl Price. Choreographers are Megan Meadows, Tara Mitchell and Michelle Murgia — who won a 2005 choreography Cappie for Westfield High's "Fiddler on the Roof."

"It's amazing, the number of people who've grown up with 'The Wizard of Oz,'" said Wilson. "And our production has lots of special effects, great scenery and costumes, and audience participation throughout. We have technical people from all three high schools, and the families involved are just wonderful. The actors are doing a great job, and I think the community's going to love it."

Sharing the role of Dorothy are Avery Hobbs, 13, of Stone Middle School, and home-schooled Emily Price of Chantilly. "Dorothy's shy, but imaginative; and even if people are mean to her, she tries to be nice to them and encourage them," said Avery. "She runs away from home because nobody understands her."

Avery likes getting to interact with the other main characters, and her brother Chase and sister Breana are also in the show. She said it's tough memorizing all her lines, but she enjoys being with both adults and children. Her favorite song in the show is "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

"A lot of the songs I sing are upbeat," said Avery. "But this one is just me and [my dog] Toto being sad and talking about how this wonderful, magical place will be better than home. But it turns out not to be."

Emily says Dorothy's a "fun and exciting part to play" and she's impressed with the set's creativity. For example, she said, "I like how the yellow-brick road is made. Girls dressed in yellow dance around and we follow them. I also like the Munchkin Land scene because the songs in it are fun to sing."

With a green face, pointy hat and black dress, Shelley Kramer of Fair Lakes plays the Wicked Witch of the West. She's been in all four previous Alliance productions and, like the other adults in the show, has extensive little-theater experience.

She describes the witch as both evil and funny. "She wants the ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet, so she conjures up schemes and plots to get them," said Kramer. "But she sometimes does silly things." Kramer loves her character because "I get to cackle, screech and laugh and act way over the top. And it's a fun role physically, filled with lots of movement and grandiose gestures."

She's also thrilled to work with Alliance's Summer Stars program — which teaches children to act — because "I get to share my love of theater with children." Kramer said the audience will love the show's "beautiful music, gorgeous visuals and the incredibly entertaining performances by the entire cast."

CENTREVILLE'S Jim Mitchell, also well-known in local theater, portrays the Cowardly Lion. "He's a ferocious-looking, chickenhearted beast," said Mitchell. "He looks macho, but he's a big sissy. It's fun because I usually play somebody macho or the bad guy; this time, it's somebody silly."

And he loves working with adults Mike Cash and Billy Clay — the Scarecrow and Tin Man, respectively. "The three of us get to clown around together on stage," said Mitchell. "And I get to sing two songs, 'If I Only Had the Nerve' and 'If I Were the King of the Forest' — my big number. I get to really ham it up."

He said "Wizard" will be a crowd-pleaser because "everybody knows it because of the movie, and the big dance numbers are just adorable, with all these kids on stage. And there's something for everybody."

Mike Cash, of Franklin Glen, says the role of the Scarecrow is perfect for him: "No. 1, I don't have a brain; and No. 2, it's my favorite movie. When I was 20, someone said, 'How many times do you think he'll make his kids watch 'The Wizard of Oz' before he'll say it's enough?'"

He said the scarecrow is lovable and really can think but, "like Dorothy, he doesn't know what he's capable of. He comes up with ideas all the time, but doesn't take credit for them until they meet the wizard. I'd do this part for free."

Cash said his knees don't bounce the way they used to when the Scarecrow faints, but he calls this his "role of a lifetime." But still, he added, "The best line belongs to the wizard, telling the Tin Man, 'Remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.' That's the show in that line." As for the audience, Cash said, "The show will touch everyone — they'll want to see it twice."

Playing the Tin Man is Virginia Run's Billy Clay, in full costume. "He was in love with a Munchkin maiden who didn't like him and had the witch cast a spell on him," explained Clay. "Now he's a tin man but, when the tinsmith re-created him, he forgot to give him a heart."

He absolutely loves his part. "Last year, I had one of the lead roles in [Alliance's] 'Honk,' and I thought it would be my swan song," said Clay. "But when they decided to do 'Wizard,' I couldn't turn it down. The challenges of working with so many people in the cast are overwhelming at times, but it's all coming together."

He also gave kudos to the show's costume designers — moms led by Jerri Wahdan. "They work nonstop during every practice, sewing and cutting 80 costumes," he said. "They're also stars of this show." Since his sheet-metal costume is so confining, almost every move Clay makes must be choreographed. But he loves being with all the other actors.

"They make it fun," he said. "And many of them who've had major roles in other plays have taken lesser roles just to be in this play." Clay's favorite song is "The Lollipop Guild," in which the sight of a whole group of grown men holding lollipops while welcoming Dorothy to Oz is just hilarious. Overall, said Clay, "The audience will love the colors, songs and the fact that, since they've seen this as kids, it'll remind them of their childhoods."

John Totten of Clifton's Cavalier Woods plays the wizard. "As long as he's behind his curtain, he's great and powerful," explained Totten. "But when he's not, he's just an average, everyday person and kind man. He runs Oz and everybody does what he says, without question."

CALLING IS a neat role, Totten said he also plays Professor Marvel in the show, a fortune teller at a Kansas carnival, who's also a bluff. "So I do the same thing in both settings," he said. "And I later wrap it up and tell people the moral of the story — that they already have everything they need at home; they don't have to go looking."

Totten said some of his lines are real tongue twisters, but he's delighted to play the title role. He says the number of children in the cast is a big plus, and the actors portraying the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow are very talented and do "excellent jobs."

Amanda Mason and Katelyn Reimer, both 10, play Dorothy's Yorkshire Terrier, Toto. Both dress in brown, but Amanda wears a headband with ears on it and Katelyn uses her two ponytails as floppy ears. When they go to Oz, said Amanda, "Toto doesn't bark. Everything there can talk, even trees, so he talks, too." Added Katelyn: "He's a happy dog who loves being with Dorothy and protecting her. It's fun playing an animal, instead of a person."