Kevin Ryan, vice president of Island Theatre Workshop, had one more round of auditions to do. The principals had been cast, as had most of the other roles for ITW’s upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz. Just one group remained: the munchkins.
A group of five children varying in age from second to sixth grade gathered around an out-of-tune piano to rehearse the chorus from Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead. Learning to pronounce the right words and follow the melody is key for the part. Some bravely belted out the tune while others sang shyly looking at the floorboard.
Casting for The Wizard of Oz was completed almost two months early, an unprecedented feat for community theatre, Mr. Ryan said. With auditions out of the way, it’s time to start rehearsals. The shows run August 24 through Sept. 1. Principal roles will begin rehearsing next week, according to Mr. Ryan, and the other groups of actors will begin rehearsals at intervals following that.
“It’s such a big cast that the only way we can rehearse is if we do it in separate groups,” said Jesse Seward, who will be playing the role of the Cowardly Lion.
Mr. Seward, who has been with ITW for six years, said that although he initially wanted the role of the Scarecrow, he now feels that his role as the Cowardly Lion is a natural fit.
“I’m bigger, I’m gentle and I’m kind of hairy,” he said. “It’s a role that I can relate to.”
Another unexpectedly natural fit is the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, which will be played by Felicity Russell. Mr. Ryan said that she initially read for the role of Glinda the Good Witch but, at the end of the audition, he also had Ms. Russell read for the Wicked Witch of the West. It was a perfect match.
“She transformed herself,” Mr. Ryan said. “If ever someone could conjure up the underside of the Wicked Witch, it’s Felicity.”
Although the casting is complete, ITW still has a long road before The Wizard of Oz hits the stage. Mr. Ryan estimated that they are about 15 per cent finished. Mr. Seward said that despite the challenges they will inevitably face — such as coordinating rehearsal times that work for everyone — he’s looking forward to the rehearsals.
“It’s about doing something together and learning from each other,” Mr. Seward said. “It’ll be bittersweet when it’s over.”
Mr. Ryan said that this summer’s production is a special occasion because for the first time ITW will be performing at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center. The PAC features more seating and a larger stage than any of ITW’s previous locations, which, according to Mr. Ryan, they plan on using to their advantage.
“We’re so blessed to have the high school’s Performing Arts Center,” he said. “We’re going to try to recreate Oz on the stage.”