Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. Neither is the touring cast of the "The Wizard of Oz," which will bring the stage production of the much-loved movie to the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Saturday. The stage show features all the songs and classic characters from the 1939 film, from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to "We're Off to See the Wizard" to "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," complete with a tornado and a yellow brick road.
The musical is a Technicolor dream not just for audiences, but for the cast as well. Actor Brian Maxsween, who plays the Tinman, has a personal connection to the movie's history. Maxsween was raised in upstate New York, not far from Chittenango, NY, where author L. Frank Baum lived and wrote the original book.
"I grew up on the movie, I've been to Chittenango many times, I've met some of the original munchkins," Maxsween said. "So when I got the show, it was a super exciting thing for my family."
Maxsween drew inspiration for his character from his father, who knows every line of the movie and would often do impressions of the Tinman for his son. The actor said the Tinman's strength and spunk drew him to the character.
"He really had the biggest heart in the world, he just didn't believe it," Maxsween said. "Finding that belief is what I focus on every night."
While the main actors of the cast travel with the production, the "The Wizard of Oz" auditions children from the city they're performing in each night to play the munchkins. Four boys and six girls, age 9-12, from the Vail Valley will represent the Lollipop Guild for the show on Saturday. Maxsween said the kid's youthful exuberance brings a much-needed energy boost to the show's cast and crew.
"Watching them perform reminds me that all of us are living a childhood dream," Maxsween said. "When it's your job every week you can forget about it, but seeing their faces reminds us that we're all very lucky, and the kids are so talented."
'Reliving their childhood'
In an interview with the Press Enterprise, actress Laurie Pascale, who plays the Wicked Witch of the West, said the best part of the stage show is the audiences' connection with the story.
"Our audiences have grown up with the 'Wizard of Oz' movie," Pascale said. "They're bringing their children or their grandchildren who may or may not have seen the movie. For some, it may be their first experience with live theater. So you've got all ages in one room, with most reliving their childhood. It's a really great experience."
Maxsween said that audience members often show up dressed as their favorite characters. When asked why the "The Wizard of Oz" still resonates with people today, Maxsween spoke to movie and musical's underlying message.
"As a kid growing up you always feel like you don't have something, you're not funny enough or smart enough," Maxsween said. "Everybody at one point or another feels like an outcast; Dorothy is a very quiet girl but also a very smart girl who gets lost in Oz. She finds these friends who aren't very happy with the person that they are ... but they all learn that everything they ever needed or wanted is inside of them."
Rosanna Turner is a freelance writer based in Vail. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.