Kansas, as described in the first chapter of L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," is "a broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions."
As visualized by director Ryan Conarro in the opening scenes of Juneau-Douglas High School's adaptation of the 104-year-old story, it's a drab, starkly lit expanse with monochromatic tones and undercurrents of dysfunction.
"In Kansas, we are in a more naturalistic, realistic place," Conarro said. "In Oz, everything is beautiful and very theatrical."
"The Wizard Of Oz" opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13, with pyrotechnics, smoke, a flying purple orb, a cast of 50, a crew of seven flying hip-hop moneys that take turns rotating around the Wicked Witch (Alix Curtain) and four protective nymphs that circle Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Patty Kalbrener). It also co-stars Pumpkin, the family dog of actress Becca Gaguine (Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz), as Toto, Dorothy's dog.
Apart from some design and conceptual changes, the play sticks closely to the story and the 1939 MGM film version that most people are familiar with.
"It's meant for a younger audience, but Ryan and (choreographer) John (Leo) have added elements that made it appeal to an older audience," producer Bethany Bereman said.
"The rapport has been great," Conarro said of the cast. "It's 50-some kids, and they get along very well. I think John and I have both been wanting to push them physically, really make them go for not just the idea of what the movie is, but what is the physicality. What does the Cowardly Lion mean to you? What does it look like? It's been a challenge to them and hopefully they've learned some things."
In the play, Dorothy (Giselle Stone) is a wistful farmgirl, stuck in Depression-era Kansas and dreaming of a land of opportunity. A tornado strikes, and she's transported to a magical netherworld of witches and munchkins. She befriends a Scarecrow (Justin McCown), a Tinman (Travis Vidic) and a Lion (Seneca Harper) and travels down the Yellow Brick Road to the enchanted metropolis of Oz. She fends off attacks by the Wicked Witch, before she and her friends finally meet the Wizard (Gaguine) and are rewarded with their heart's desires.
"I haven't seen the movie for a long time, since I was about 3," Harper said. "So I wanted to keep it that way. We had all these rehearsals where we would spend hours at a time working on our character development, and that helped a lot."
"Like Seneca, I haven't seen the movie for a long time," Stone said. "I was thinking maybe I shouldn't watch it because I'm going to fall into the character of the movie and I wanted to develop my own Dorothy.
"Dorothy is a dreamy, young, naive girl in Kansas, and all she wants is to grow up and go see a bigger place, far into her dreams," she said. "In Juneau, I know a lot of kids want to go the big city when they grow up and want to get out of this small-town life."
"The Wizard of Oz" plays at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13, 14, 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m. Feb. 14 and 21. Tickets are $8 for students, $10 for adults and seniors, and $2 more at the door. You can buy advance tickets at Hearthside Books. A special $30 family price is available for the show at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, for two adults and up to four kids.
Dorothy - Giselle Stone; Hunk/Scarecrow - Justin McCown; Hickory/Tinman - Travis Vidic; Zeke/Lion - Seneca Harper; Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch - Alix Curtain; Aunt Em/Glinda the Good Witch of the North - Patty Kalbrener; Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz - Becca Gaguine; Uncle Henry - John Zuniga; Emerald City Guard - Zakary Kirkpatrick.
Nymphs - Krista Albers; Nicci Davis; Mindy Roberts; Carly Varness.
Monkeys - Jeff Shin; Lexy Wagoner; Justin Behrends; Kyle Russell; Theresa Badilla; Eric Choquette; Patrick Hoke.
Others - Anja Akstin; Mona Alex; Hillary Buck; Edmar Carillo; Bianca Carpeneti; Paige Corona; Erin Cottingham; Luke Eiler; Carly Garrison; Christine Giefer; Valorie Kissel; Kristy Michelson; Katie Monagle; Malinda Mosher; An Nagles; Brittany Page; Lindsay Perkins; Tanya Petrynyak; Emily Peyton; Ann Robertson; Erika Rothchild; Johanna Salmon; Jenn Sanbei; Leona Schrader; Molly Trostel; Thomas Voight; Kael Wanamaker; Mary Joy Yadao; Emily Yost; Grant Zwingelberg.