This weekend, fans of Oz can see local children and teens sing and dance their way through the Batavia Players Summer Youth Theatre production of The Wiz.
The show, which tells the well-known story of Dorothy and her adventures in the magical land of Oz, features familiar characters such as the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Glinda and the Tin Man.
However, The Wiz is a far cry from the original Wizard of Oz. There are several twists, such as Dorothy's magical shoes being silver instead of red, and an extra witch named Addaperle (played by Katelyn Rogers, above left). But the main difference is that the music and dialogue are in an African-American style.
"It's a much more lively show," says Maureen Edwards (above right), who has the role of Dorothy. "You just want to get up and dance. It's like the funky motown version of the Wizard of Oz."
Edwards, who is 12, is one of the 85 cast members that range in age from 3 to 22. This is her third Summer Youth Theatre production and her ninth production overall.
"Everyone is super supportive," she says. "I've been really lucky because in every show I've been in, I've been treated with a lot of respect. But I do think that with the younger cast, the friends I've made are a lot closer."
Director Patrick Burk says that he tries to give the cast members experience not only onstage, but behind the scenes as well:
"I want them to have a full experience. So they learn about acting, singing, choreography, etc., but they also help with props and sets and cleaning up. It's very important to teach them about tech roles, too."
Burk, who has directed the past 14 summer shows as well as numerous other local community theater productions, says that the cast began rehearsals in mid-May.
"Mr. Burk has a great vision for the show," Edwards says. "He yells sometimes but it's because he loves us and wants us to be the best that we can be. He's a lot of fun to work with."
The original Broadway stage production of The Wiz debuted in 1975, winning seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has had revivals in New York, London, San Diego and the Netherlands, and a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Russell was released in 1978.
"Everyone should come see it," says Edwards. "It's going to be a great show."
Performances are Aug. 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 22 at 2 p.m.. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at www.bataviaplayers.org link to www.showtix4u.com or at Batavia High School, 260 State St., during evening rehearsals and prior to each performance. For more information call 585-343-9721.