Off to see ‘The Wizard’: North musical puts ‘own little spin’ on weekend classic

Bella Zigler with the Toto puppet, Cage Elliott as the Scarecrow, Austin Clark as the Tinman, Colby Lovins as the Lion, and Amelia Maddox as Dorothy, sing “We’re Off to See the Wizard” during a rehearsal of the North Drama production of “The Wizard of Oz” at Judson Erne Auditorium at Columbus North High School on Thursday.

Carla Clark | For The Republic

No big surprise where the yellow brick road leads, of course.

But senior actress Amelia Maddox as Dorothy assures all that Columbus North High School’s grand musical presentation of the classic “The Wizard of Oz” opening Friday contains a decidedly different detail or two for audiences seeking the magic of a long-beloved tale. One includes Maddox’s favorite number in the whole show — a jazzy, dance number “Jitterbug” that was cut from the 1939 movie.

The performer who has immersed herself in years of dance and music can think of nothing better than moving and grooving to the song with the Scarecrow (Cage Elliott), the Tin Man (Austin Clark) and the Cowardly Lion (Colby Lovins).

“Oh, I’m a sucker for jazz,” Maddox said. “And I really like the complicated dancing.”

She’s also counting on the idea that the audience is a sucker for focusing on far more than the storyline of Dorothy and her three new friends journeying to the Emerald City to see the Wizard after a tornado transports the young girl from Kansas to fantasy land of Oz.

“Since people already know the story, they obviously don’t have to pay attention to the plot,” Maddox said. “Instead, they can pay attention to the dancing and the characters, and I think that all that overall makes the show that much more enjoyable.”

Organizers are hoping to sell out all three shows seating about 1,000 people at North’s Judson Erne Auditorium at 1400 25th St. Nearly a week ago, they already had sold more than 1,000 tickets to take people somewhere over the rainbow.

Director Robert Deirth is thus far pleased with the community response. Principal cast members recently appeared in costume at the Bartholomew County Public Library to promote the production to area families.

“This show is definitely true to the classic,” Deirth said. “But we also have put our own little spin on it.”

That includes focusing a little more on some of the minor characters — and stretching the cast enough to have some of them cast in as many as two or three different roles. Plus, 25 school show choir members perform as a field of poppies, and also as talking trees. Deirth mentioned such is possible because of a large landscape of talent on the current North arts scene.

“I can tell you that we’re making very good use of our amazing show choir,” he said.

They’re also making very good use of the creativity of cast member Bella Zigler. She’ll be wearing black as a props person mastering a rod-guided puppet for Toto.

Plus, the show will include special effects such as flying house in the early tornado scene. And the Wizard will be projected in huge holograph style during the production, with the help of Matt Harding.

“And we may or may not have fire effects (with the Wicked Witch),” said technical director Justine Lykins.

She used her own skills — and her spring break week — to paint a 45-foot by 20-foot poppy field backdrop for the musical.

“All this has been a lot for us to take on,” she said. “But we have an awesome group of kids.”

If you go

What: Columbus North High School’s live stage adaptation of the musical “The Wizard of Oz.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

Information and tickets: