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Director brings enthusiasm to ‘Oz’

— There’s a young director with a ton of enthusiasm at the helm of this year’s Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Janelle Cutuli, 25, of Brewster, brings a variety of experiences to the region’s annual spring production May 2-4 and May 9-11 in the Omak Performing Arts Center, 20 S. Cedar St.

“She’s got some exciting ideas for capturing the mystery and awe of Oz,” longtime organization director and set and lighting designer Judy Johnston said Monday.

“Janelle has been just absolutely wonderful to work with,” stage manager Carrie Zachow said. “She’s a fresh face to the production team. It’s great to work with someone with such a passion for theater. She’s doing great.”

The organization seeks directors each year, with each providing a list of plays they would like to direct.

Cutuli submitted “The Wizard of Oz” and “Cinderella,” which could not be done since it’s still on Broadway.

“She’s done a wonderful job,” producer Kim Harriman said. “This dovetails nicely into what she wants to do for a living.”

Cutuli opted to do a play based on the movie, with characters with which she and others are familiar.

There also is a 1940s play based on the book, but there are major differences. For instance, Dorothy wears silver slippers and not ruby slippers as in the movie.

“I wanted to take on the challenge of creating that sense of wonder that I had seen in the movie and trying to recreate that on the stage,” said Cutuli, who also loves the show’s music.

This year’s play includes a Jitterbug scene that was cut from the movie.

“I think we are doing really well,” Cutuli said of practices that have gone on for several weeks. “I am really excited for everybody to see it. I think we have a really great cast.”

Cutuli’s first stage opportunity came when she was 8 years old and played Sprintze, one of Tevye’s young daughters, in “Fiddler on the Roof.” She worked the set for “South Pacific” two years ago.

“I got a part when I was very young, and I so loved being on the stage,” she said. “It’s quite a rush. Being in that community, being with other people that are acting and being in plays gave me a lot of excitement and enjoyment.”

Cutuli, a graduate of Brewster High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in education with an endorsement in theater from Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Shows are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

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