‘The Wizard of Oz’ brings fun to BTE stage

BLOOMSBURG — Even theatergoers who don’t have a pair of ruby shoes to click together will be thoroughly entertained by a visit to “The Wizard of Oz.”

Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s holiday attraction “The Wizard of Oz” playfully sallies forth for 7:30 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays, now through Dec. 29 at the Alvina Krause Theater, 226 Center St.

Based upon the very familiar 1939 MGM classic movie, the successful staging of “The Wizard of Oz” can pose certain obstacles. But BTE’s Richard Cannaday tackles this ambitious undertaking with zest, drawing loads of laughter and applause.

Cannaday, with well paced direction, notes that “The Wizard of Oz” was selected because of its bona fide classic status, its departure from traditional holiday fare, and because “We all really love it.”

Young Dorothy Gale, having run away from her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in an effort to retrieve her beloved dog Toto, gets swept away to a magical kingdom when a cyclone touches down on their Kansas farm.

Sent off to Emerald City by good Witch Glinda to enlist the help of the Wizard, the orphaned teenager encounters a trio of friends along the way, each also looking for some assistance from the all-powerful Wizard of Oz.

The Scarecrow doesn’t have a brain, the Tin Man needs a heart and the Cowardly Lion seeks some courage. So, Dorothy and her friends head “Down The Yellow Brick Road.” Along the way, they must face some nasty apple trees, a field of sleep-inducing poppies and, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West.

For the ensemble, which for many years alternated versions of “A Christmas Carol” and Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” mounting this large-scaled musical was a merry departure from its usual holiday fare. Plaudits to the principals and the highly-effective tech team which re-create this well executed production.

Incorporating nearly three dozen community actors, often youngsters playing munchkins, monkeys and other Emerald City residents, no doubt add an extra box-office punch.

Heading the cast is BTE intern Morgan McKenzie Kauffman as Dorothy, smoothly singing and dancing her way to Emerald City. There is both a four-legged Toto in the early scenes, plus a pleasing two-legged Toto, who barely controls her urge to relieve herself upon the Tin Man.

Eric Munsch plays the farmhand Hickory and the Tin Man with ease and agility.

Another BTE intern Jacob Tarconish plays Hunk and the Scarecrow. Daniel Roth is uproarious in his portrayal as Zeke and the Cowardly Lion, afraid of his own tail.

There was also effective doubling from ensemble members Laurie McCants as Aunt Em and good witch Glinda; and Elizabeth Dowd as mean spirited Miss Gulch and the menacing, cackling Wicked Witch of the West.

James Goode has a solo and also plays multiple roles, while Andrew Hubatsek played Professor Marvel and the Wizard. Special note should be given for the projection of “The Wizard of Oz” at the show’s beginning, and when he is handed the Witch’s broomstick.

The message is simple for Dorothy and her friends — “Everyone has their own value and self-worth.” With this special show, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble again shows its worth as a community asset, and as a haven for treasured theatrical productions.

Played in two acts with a running time of approximately two-and-a-half hours, “The Wizard of Oz” is a holiday treat that may captivate certain family members. And as Dorothy’s footwear clearly shows, if you don’t have ruby shoes to click together, a pair of red sneakers will do.

For more information, call 570-784-8181 or visit boxoffice@bte.org.

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