Authentic Community Theatre stages 'The Wizard of Oz' on downtown stage
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown this weekend for Authentic Community Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 21, and Saturday, July 22.
Shalisha Kerr plays the Wicked Witch of the West, and she said the show is quite true to the 1939 big-screen adaptation starring Judy Garland, but with a few embellishments. “The live stage version is based on the movie, so a lot of stuff is the same. It does add a lot of things that maybe didn’t make it into the movie, or that they just expand on, and so one of those things is the script itself does have a lot more jokes. The movie was already very humorous and had a lot of fun lines in it, but the script goes even a step further and has just even more little spots in it where they try to incorporate humor,” she said.
There will also be more music than the movie version. “There’s also a couple of songs that were expanded or new songs that weren’t in the movie. But for the most part, it really does stick pretty closely to the original story that everybody remembers from the movie,” said Kerr, who is also president of ACT.
Kristen Davis, who plays Dorothy, said the music remains relatable to audiences. “The whole song about ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was this place far away that’s perfect, and it’s a place that we all dream of and hope to see and you know, someday get there,” she said.
Davis’s character, who, along with her faithful dog Toto, is whisked away to the magical land of Oz from their Kansas home during a tornado, said we all have a little bit of Dorothy in us. “Dorothy is a dreamer. Obviously, I think we all have dreams and things that we want to accomplish, and we can all relate to her in that way,” Davis said.
Playing the iconic Dorothy is a highlight for Davis, who previously did choreography for ACT. “It’s really a dream come true. Yes, I’ve watched (the movie) growing up, and the more I got into theater and performing, this has always been a role that I wanted to play, and something that I’ve worked very hard to be able to do. So getting able to perform it is, again, like a big goal that I have accomplished in my life,” she said.
Kerr said she’s having fun embracing her role as the Wicked Witch. “I always thought she was kind of fun,” she said with a laugh.
“But I think that’s just because the movie has a lot of humor in it, a lot of puns and even the witch herself. .. she has a lot of jokes and things like that,” she said.
The jury is still out, though, on whether Kerr’s rendition of the Witch is as scary as Margaret Hamilton’s version in the movie. “The little kids who are playing the Munchkins in this production have given me mixed opinions. They say, ‘the witch isn’t scary, she’s just silly,’ and some people say, ‘I really thought you were a witch and you scared me,’” she said with a laugh.
“Basically the idea for me as I’m playing the witch is trying to come up with the idea of why the witch is so nasty. And obviously the combination of the fact that the other witch, her sister, has accidentally been killed by the house that Dorothy came in, that’s one reason, but also because she’s a dream that Dorothy’s having. The witch herself is actually just a dream projection of the mean Miss Gulch lady that is in Kansas that wants to kill (Dorothy’s) dog, so in a way it’s just like a fun character to play because you don’t have to take it too seriously and you’re just able to have a lot of fun with it and just imagine the possibilities,” she said.
Producer Robbie Soto, who also plays the Cowardly Lion, said that campiness aside, ACT’s version of “The Wizard of Oz,” is a Broadway-level production. Kerr agreed. “For a nonprofit community theater to be able to get enough good actors and singers and talent to be able to pull off a show like this in this area is something that we’re really proud of. Obviously, we wish we had the budget that Broadway has, but for what we’re able to pull off here in Hagerstown, I think that people are going to be really pleased with the group that we’ve compiled and what they’re going to be able to bring to the table,” she said.
Davis, who is the reigning Miss Washington County, also said the audience won’t be disappointed. “It’s going to be such a great quality of production. There are some really talented people in the show, and also directing, and music directing and things like that. So altogether, it’s going to be a really great production to see,” Davis said.