Wilton Children’s Theater produces The Wizard of Oz

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Sarah Bates, as Dorothy, confers with Christine Jansen as the Scarecrow. — Bryan Haeffele photo

The Wilton Children’s Theater’s fall production of The Wizard of Oz will have a three-show run this weekend, on Friday, Nov. 20, at 7:30, Saturday, Nov. 21, at 4 and Sunday, Nov. 22, at 2, all in the Middlebrook School auditorium, 131 School Road.

A cast of 55, grades four through eight, will act in the adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale. “It’s completely true to the script,”  said producer Erica Buse, “which follows the movie closely.”

“It’s a faithful representation of the story everyone knows and loves,” added producer Andrea Bates, whose daughter Sarah will play Dorothy. “If you love the movie, you’ll love the play.”

And with large musical numbers such as Over the Rainbow, Munchkinland, If I Only Had a Brain, We’re Off to See the Wizard, The Jitterbug, and The Merry Old Land of Oz, all of the actors and actresses are sure to see lots of stage time.

“This show has a pretty big production footprint,” said director Skip Ploss. “These numbers are big; you’ll see 40 kid onstage at the same time.”

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Lilly Casiraghi is the Wicked Witch, and Myra Gulch, in the Wilton Children’s Theater presentation of The Wizard of Oz. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Those planning to attend can expect original costumes and special effects, the latter having required a certain amount of creativity from volunteers at the small nonprofit theater program.

“People will enjoy to see how we incorporated the tornado,” Buse said, “and how we’ll make the Wicked Witch appear to melt and disappear,” Bates added.

A helping hand

Director Ploss, though extra busy doubling as set designer, has had some help. For this year’s fall production, 16 10th graders who have aged out of the program have returned as director’s assistants.

Everyone, it seems, however, has been helped by someone. “There’s no way we could have done it without the parent volunteers,” Bates said.

And while graduates of the program are not eligible to be director’s assistants until they’ve reached the 10th grade, eighth graders from the winter production will be ushering the performance, and ninth graders will be handling intermission sales.

“It’s a very close-knit family,” Buse said. “Even after they graduate, kids can still come back and be part of the program in a number of ways, and they do.”

Two lead actresses pose in costume before a cutout advertising the Wilton Children’s Theater’s fall production of The Wizard of Oz. Lilly Casiraghi, left, plays the Wicked Witch and Christine Jansen plays the Scarecrow. — Hayden Turek photo

Two lead actresses pose in costume before a cutout advertising the Wilton Children’s Theater’s fall production of The Wizard of Oz. Lilly Casiraghi, left, plays the Wicked Witch and Christine Jansen plays the Scarecrow. — Hayden Turek photo

Rehearsals come to a close

According to two of the lead actresses, the production, at this point, is smoothly nearing perfection.

“It’s going well,” said Lilly Casiraghi, who in addition to her lead role as the Wicked Witch of the West will also play Miss Gulch. “Most of the scenes are finished and we’ve been constantly rehearsing our lines.”

“It’s coming together,” echoed Christine Jansen, who plays the Scarecrow and Hunk. “It’s a great cast.”

Casiraghi agreed. “We all work really well together.”

Both Casiraghi and Jansen are eighth graders, making this the last year they will be eligible to perform in Wilton Children’s Theater productions.

“We’re really excited to put on the show, and we hope it’s great, especially since we’ll be leaving,” Casiraghi said.

The work that Casiraghi and Jansen and, according to them, every cast member put into this production, is something the stars take pride in.

“We’ve worked really hard,” said Jansen. “Everyone’s been practicing, and at this point, it’s as if we were the real characters.”

The actresses have faced some challenges preparing for their roles. Casiraghi had to perfect an eerie cackle to properly play the Wicked Witch, and Jansen, as the Scarecrow, had to find a way to mimic the boneless hay-man’s “floppy” movements.

“In the beginning, lines were challenging,” Casiraghi said.

“But after a while, they just commit to memory,” Jansen added.

All in all, “it’s a really fun show to see,” said Casiraghi. “There are lots of different characters, all with different makeup and costuming, and it’s just fun to watch.”

Ploss is thrilled with the efforts of everyone involved with the Children’s Theater’s fall production, but what he takes most reward from is seeing the children he has come to know realize their potentials.

“I love seeing fourth or fifth graders who maybe are shy, and scared to death of performing on stages, by the end of their time at the Children’s Theater having lead roles, and blossoming into their true selves. It really is an amazing program. I think all kids should do theater,” Ploss said.

“It’s going to be fun,” he continued. “You’re going to hear songs you’re familiar with, sung and danced with lots of energy, but mostly, you’re getting to see fruits of the labors of 55 talented young actors.”

Other volunteers involved are musical director Barbara Speare, choreographer Judy Abbatiello, costume designers Jennifer McNamara and Jennifer Kepner, and sets by Jessica Carney DeLuca and Kara Williams.

Information

The Wilton Children’s Theater is an independent nonprofit organization that provides the children of Wilton with a theatrical experience, helping them to develop acting skills, stage presence and self-esteem. It offers two 10-week productions during the school year for children between grades four and eight.

Tickets may be purchased at the door with cash or check one hour before each performance.

Prior to production weekend, tickets may be purchased in person with cash or check at the Village Market, Nov. 16-20 from noon to 2, and at Middlebrook School Nov. 16-19 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Purchasing in person allows for the selection of specific seats.

Tickets are also available for purchase online at WiltonChildrensTheater.org./Tickets.

Tickets are $12 each when purchased in person and $12.60 when bought online.

Information: WiltonChildrensTheater.org.

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