‘Wizard’ arrives in Omak

Two-weekend run begins Friday; show includes ‘Jitterbug’

— “The Wizard of Oz” blows into the Performing Arts Center on Friday for its first weekend of a two-weekend run.

The annual musical, presented by the Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus, will run May 2-4 and May 9-11.

Shows are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Audiences can expect some very special sets for the play, which closely follows the 1939 movie.

“There’s hours and hours of blood and sweat poured into this thing, and probably a few tears,” said master builder and back stage manager Doug Leese.

There’s also magic along the way, including a musical number, “The Jitterbug,” that was cut from the film.

“It’s going great,” said Ugo Bartell, who is portraying Tinman in search of a heart. “We’re moving along with our set. It’s going to be a spooky forest, a very spooky forest. Lots of Munchkins in the Munchkin set.

“We (cast) are thankful for all the work being put in these last two weeks for the production,” said Bartell, 44, of Omak.

Crews and cast members spent all Saturday putting in backdrops.

On Sunday, final touches were being put on the set, with actors spending all day and into the night perfecting the lights and set movement so that the play goes off without a hitch.

Alexis Olmstead, 20, of Omak, plays Dorothy in her first-ever OVOC musical.

“I wanted to be involved with OVOC since doing acting when I was 8 or 9,” Olmstead said. “I definitely did want to be Dorothy. I wanted to be involved with the community play.”

“The show is going great,” said Jim Richards, who plays the lion in search of courage. “It’s a great group of people, an amazing group of people to work with.”

Richards, 43, of Okanogan, said he considers himself a goofball, so it was easy to relate to the lion.

“It’s a goofy role,” he said.

Richards has past experience with interesting characters, including the sidekick (Patsy) of King Arthur (played by Bartell) in last year’s “Spamalot” and Billis in “South Pacific” the year before.

“’Wizard of Oz’ has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid,” Doni Phillips said. “Scarecrow was my favorite character.”

When Phillips, 54, of Tunk Valley, heard the play was coming, she practiced the part of Scarecrow, who is in search of a brain, for several months prior to auditions in November.

“I knew they would not cast me as Dorothy,” she said of another reason for wanting to be Scarecrow.


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