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Dust off the ruby slippers; Oz has landed in Orem

By Emily Johnson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, June 18 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

OREM — Tackling the iconic American classic “Wizard of Oz” leaves little room for error. Fans know every word of every song and every cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Thankfully, the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater has succeeded with its current and delightful production of the classic musical under the helm of director Jeremy D. Showgren.

The show centers on Dorothy, a headstrong young Kansas girl, who is forced to relinquish her best friend, Toto the dog, to the evil town grouch, Almira Gulch. After running away, a tornado transports Dorothy and Toto to the fantasy world of Oz. Desiring to return, Dorothy begins an incredible journey and meets a motley crew of friends and enemies along the way.

Jessica Sundwall, who blossomed into her role as the show progressed, stars as Dorothy. Leading cast members also included Mark Gordon as Hank and the Scarecrow; Travis Hancock as Hickory and the Tin Man; and Phillip Varney as Zeek and the Cowardly Lion. Varney channeled a variety of comedic accents in his turn as the Cowardly Lion. Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer is Toto, deftly played by Abby the dog. The children’s ensemble is an adorable accent to the production as Munchkins and Poppies, and other roles.

The stage and set crew had a tough challenge transposing Hollywood movie magic into an outdoor amphitheater, but the production crew creatively recreated the world of Depression-era Kansas and the magical world of Oz.

Kelsey Seaver created beautiful costumes for even the youngest ensemble cast member to the infamous flying monkeys. The costuming was colorful and inventive with a touch of the steampunk style currently in vogue. Kellie Messerly created choreography and dance numbers which were exciting and engaging to watch and became an integral part of the story.

The production, at times, becomes an interactive experience. As the familiar songs start to play, audience members sing and clap along as memories come flooding back from the beloved story. Audience members cheer for Glinda the Good Witch (Lauren Anderson) and boo the Wicked Witch of the West (Shoni Winkel). The crowd cheers when Uncle Henry stands up to Almira Gultch (Shoni Winkel).

Indeed, a drive to Orem’s SCERA Shell Outdoor Amphitheater with the family or friends is recommended. All aspects of the production were high quality, creative and enjoyable.

This production showcases enduring nostalgia for longtime fans. However, both longtime fans and newcomers leave smiling and perhaps manically cackling in the parking lots as they walk to their cars.

SCERA’s production of “Wizard of Oz” runs until June 23. Tickets range from $12-$14 for reserved adult seats, $10-12 for reserved child, senior and student seats. General admission for adults is $10 and $8 for children, seniors and students. Visit www.scera.org to learn more.

Emily Johnson earned her master's of professional communication degree from Westminster College. Johnson enjoys profiling unique people doing interesting things.

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