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Wizard of Oz Celebrates the Human Spirit
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Thursday, September 21, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Holy Munchkins! It’s time to don your ruby red slippers and follow the Yellow Brick Road, otherwise known as Sun Valley and Dollar roads, to Kansas and The Emerald City.

St. Thomas Playhouse is staging “The Wizard of Oz,” complete with Munchkins, Winged Monkeys and an adorable Cowardly Lion tonight through Sunday at Sun Valley Community School Theater.

And you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t end up tapping their feet and humming along to such familiar tunes as “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

“My personal favorite is the "Merry Old Land of Oz,” said Ida Belle Gorby. “The musical is a lot of fun. And it’s got such an affirmative message about believing in yourself—that you can do things no matter what others tell you.”

The musical is based on L. Frank Baum’s beloved 1900 story of a young girl who links arms and hearts with three unusual characters as she tries to find her way home after a tornado rips through her homeland of Kansas rendering her temporarily unconscious.

Ida Belle Gorby plays the scarecrow, who thinks she doesn’t have a brain despite being the one with all the ideas. Even the crows look mesmerized by her loosey, goosey performance that depicts choreography and physical prowess at their best.

Gorby’s mother Sara Gorby is both the director and choreographer, having played Dorothy in a St. Thomas Playhouse production of “The Wizard of Oz” 20 years ago.

“She told me stories about it and showed me pictures so it’s definitely cool we’re doing it again,” said Ida Belle Gorby.

Andrew Schiers, a Blaine County Sheriff’s deputy, presents the perfect stiffness to the Scarecrow’s floppiness in his role as the Tin Man. He thinks he lacks a heart, even though he’s so emotional that his tears keep rusting the body of an amazing custom-made costume made of stiff foam.

“He’s a very caring soul, even if he thinks he doesn’t have a heart,” said Schiers. “Personally, this is wonderful for me because it’s something I can do with my wife and son and daughter. It’s something we as family all enjoy.”

Ward Loving is perfectly cast as the Cowardly Lion who, when push comes to shove, knows how to roar.

“I love ‘The Wizard of Oz’ because the score is incredible and the lyrics clever,” he said.

Annabelle Lewis plays Dorothy: “This journey brings me back to childhood. It’s every girl’s dream to be Dorothy. “

Though four very disparate characters, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion form community as they encounter various challenges. And, by the end of the play, they realize everything they think they need is already inside them—that they don’t have to look to the Wizard to supply it.

“It’s a lot about friendship and helping one another,” said Lewis. “It’s about having family and community to support you.”

“It has a message of hope,” added the Rev. Jonah Kendall, who plays the Emerald City guard. “It shows  that there’s a place for all of us in the world.”

“The Wizard of Oz,” which features music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, will be staged at 7 p.m. tonight through Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Sun Valley Community School Theater. Matinees will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept.23 and 24.

 Tickets are $15, $25 and $35, available at https://www.stthomasplayhouse.org/

 https://ci.ovationtix.com/35974/production/1178575.

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