August 1, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
79°F

Behind the curtain: Theater group brings ‘Oz’ to Medina

The Wicked Witch of the West, played by Carey Knox, confronts Elena Hoffman as Glinda the Good Witch and Carleigh Spence, who plays Dorothy, as they celebrate with the Munchkins during a Sunday rehearsal for “The Wizard of Oz.” (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

This summer is the 10th year of CAMEO’s musical productions at the Medina Performing Arts Center, and producer Mike Sferro wanted to do something special: a musical adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“This is the most ambitious project we’ve ever attempted,” he said.

The Cooperative Alliance of Medina Entertainment Organizations, or CAMEO, is a community theater organization that produces musicals each summer at the center. It is part of the Medina County Arts Foundation.

Sferro said the “Wizard of Oz,” which opens Friday, is challenging not only because of the size of the nearly 50-person cast, but because of flying effects by ZFX Inc., the company that does flying for the Broadway productions of “Wicked” and “Spider-Man.”

Yes, the Flying Monkeys actually fly.

“We wanted to find something that would include families, kids, that people know,” Sferro said. “We worked hard to keep ticket prices low.”

The show, based on L. Frank Baum’s novel about a girl flown to the magical land of Oz by a tornado, was adapted by Jim Eiler, with music by Eiler and Jean Bargy.

Chris Rusen directs the production with musical direction by Andrew Lipan and Zack Pytel.

The cast includes Carleigh Spence as “Dorothy,” Elena Hoffman as “Glinda the Good Witch” and Carey Knox as the Wicked Witch. Twenty-five elementary school students will play the Munchkins.

“Toto” is played by a dog from the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Even though a June 26 fire at the fire at the Performing Arts Center did not delay performances, the extensive cleanup made rehearsals more difficult.

“It threw our whole timeline off,” Sferro said Sunday. “We couldn’t get in here, really, until last week.” For a Sunday afternoon rehearsal, actors were not in costume yet because the air conditioning hadn’t been turned back on because of issues with the ducts.

The shows run begins this weekend with shows 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Performances continue July 25-28.

Advance tickets cost $10 per person and $12 at the door for adults. Students and seniors pay $10. Advance tickets are available at Buehler’s stores and online at www.cameo-medina.org.

“Oz” is the first of two planned summer shows at the Performing Arts Center. The next one will be “Songs for a New World,” a contemporary “song cycle” by Jason Robert Brown that’s geared more toward adults than children.

“Songs for the New World” has no dialogue and will be performed with only 100 seats each night on the center’s stage, which will turn the ordinarily 1,100-seat space into a more intimate setting.

The show will run Aug. 9-11 and Aug. 16-18.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.