Follow 'the yellow brick road' to the Playhouse
Two local girls are sharing their dream role, playing Dorothy Gale in The Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
The production, which began at the downtown Hagerstown theater last weekend, runs through Dec. 22.
The 80-year-old classic tells the story of young Dorothy, who lives on a farm in Kansas where a large tornado picks her house, and her dog up and deposits them in the land of Oz. Things in Oz are strange and beautiful, but Dorothy just wants to get back home. She’s helped by the Good Fairy of the North, but she’s also in trouble with the Wicked Witch of the West, who seeks revenge because she blames Dorothy for the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. While searching her way home she meets a Scarecrow who needs a brain, a Tin Man who needs a heart, and a cowardly lion who needs courage.
“It’s a family favorite and a classic and it’s the 80th anniversary of the film,” said Director Laura Martin. “I think the audience will love the childhood memories of seeing the movie, although the stage version is slightly different than the movie. I think they will enjoy seeing the classic characters brought to life in such an intimate venue.”
Martin, who co-owns the venue with her husband Shawn Martin, double cast Emma Allee, 16, of Chambersburg, Pa., and Torrence Brown, 16, of Newville, Pa., in the lead role of Dorothy. The rest of the cast of 25 is mostly adults with the exception of the Munchkins that are being played by children.
“I have acted with both of them since they were very little. They are both extremely talented actors and singers and I wanted to give them both the opportunity to play the role,” Martin said.
Martin divided the shows up so that both young actresses have an equal number of performances. She said the young actresses will alternate shows, but there are a couple of nights when one of them will perform back to back.
“I feel like it’s a different show depending on which night you come see it because we each bring our own personality and we interpret the character in different ways,” Brown said.
Both girls have appeared in productions of Wizard of Oz twice before. The last time they were crows and jitterbugs together.
“It was really nice to have another young actress to share this with. When she was doing lines or learning a dance I could work on homework. And Torrence and I are great friends and have been friends for seven years now, so it’s really great to have someone I know there with me,” Allee said.
Playhouse audiences may remember Brown as Patty Simcox in the theater’s production of “Grease” last winter.
Brown said Dorothy is definitely a role she has wanted to do for a long time.
“The role of Dorothy is very iconic and she is a character that everyone knows from people clear back in 1939 when it was first done, you just say Dorothy Gale and everyone knows who that is,” Brown said.
The best part of playing Dorothy, for Brown, is being able to play such a loving character.
“She definitely has moments where she is very connected to the other characters and the scene at the end when Glinda tells her she can go home and she has to say goodbye and leave everyone. I had real tears rolling down my cheeks my opening night and I love to convey that to the audience,” Brown said.
This is Allee’s first show at the theater but she has performed in the Playhouse’s theater camps and its Theater for Young Audiences productions. Audiences may remember seeing her in the production of “Snow White” last March when she played the role of Timid.
She described Dorothy as a young girl who is just really trying to find what she wants in life. Allee said the difference in age between herself and the character was the biggest obstacle for her to overcome when playing the role.
“It is a challenge going from being a 16-year-old in high school all week then going to portray a 12-to-13-year-old on stage on the weekend and making her look and sound younger,” Allee said.
Shows are held on Friday and Saturday evenings and select Sundays. The performance, preceded by a buffet meal, is appropriate for ages five and up. There is one Sunday matinee show performance appropriate for ages 3 and older on Sunday, Dec. 15.
Tickets, which include dinner and show, cost $53.50 for adults and $43.50 for children ages 5 to 12. To purchase tickets, visit washingtoncountyplay house.com or call 301-739-7469 Tuesday Through Friday during telephone box office hours.
The Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children’s Theater is celebrating it’s 35th season in downtown Hagerstown’s Arts and Entertainment District where it has operated continuously since 1985. The Playhouse is located in the rear of 44 N. Potomac St.
Martin said the couple has people come to the theater who say they remember their grandmother bringing them or their parents bringing them there and they are hoping people will continue that tradition.
“My husband and I want to have a place for people to come with their families and friends, and what we are hoping will happen with the Wizard of Oz is that they will come this holiday season and bring their family and friends,” Martin said.