There’s no place like Twisp for classic production
The show must go on … even if it takes three years and enduring a worldwide pandemic.
In March of 2020, the Methow Valley Theater was preparing to open its spring musical production, “The Wizard of Oz.” Costumes were made, sets were designed, and rehearsals were well underway. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.
But this weekend, in true theater tradition, the show will indeed go on when “The Wizard of Oz” takes the stage on Friday (April 28) in the Methow Community Center, three years after it was initially intended to open.
“We were headed for an April opening in 2020,” said Nadine Van Hees, the show’s director. “We were way into rehearsal. The only thing we hadn’t done was build out the stage” before public events came to a screeching halt in March due to the pandemic.
“It was pretty devastating for a lot of people. There were actual tears,” Van Hees said.
Methow Valley Theater brought the production back to life this spring and even brought back some of the same actors from the 2020 cast. The lead role of Dorothy will be performed by Melody Langin, a Liberty Bell High School senior who was cast in the role three years ago and fortunately still fits in her costume, Van Hees said.
Many of the children who were going to perform in 2020 outgrew their costumes and roles, but some have come back in other roles. “Kids who were going to be flying monkeys are now townspeople,” she said.
For Van Hees, who has been involved in acting and directing theater in the Methow Valley for 35 years, this is her second production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The first time it was staged in 1995, she played the Wicked Witch. This year, 28 years later, the witch is played by Van Hees’s daughter. Brandy Woras.
“The Wizard of Oz” with its themes of home, resilience and friendship, is a fitting production to finally bring to stage after the trauma and challenges of the past three years. Van Hees said the play holds greater meaning for her now.
“The heart of my ‘there’s no place like home’ philosophy is deeper than ever. It is indeed where safety and simplicity is,” she said.
“We had our hiccups here in the valley, but nothing like those in the Emerald Cities of the world. I’m sure everyone can relate to this show somehow, and that’s why it’s remained such a classic,” Van Hees said. “Not just because the characters are so lovable, and the music so catchy, but because we all know, there really is no place like home.”
This is an important production for Van Hees for another reason. After directing plays since 1996, she plans to make “The Wizard of Oz” the last musical she directs for Methow Valley Theater.
“I love it. But there comes a time when you need to let somebody else do it, and help them,” Van Hees said.
Van Hees is co-directing “The Wizard of Oz” with Maggie Wicken. “She is a kindergarten teacher at public school, and an amazing actress. But this is her first foray into direction, and it is a big one. I give her tons of kudos. Her first, my last,” Van Hees said.
The production has live music by Lynette Westendorf on piano, George Schneider on flute, Sylvie Henry on bass, and Norma Schull on violin.
In the principal roles are Melody Langin as Dorothy, Brandy Woras as the Wicked Witch, Ted Lafferty as The Lion, Lyndsay Frady as The Scarecrow, and Austin Lott as The Tinman. The cast includes 28 young actors, ages 4 to 18.
The play’s sets are the work of Mark Tesch, Seth Holbrook and Marti Darling, who Van Hees called “behind-the-scenes heroes.”
Shows are April 28, 29, 30 and May 4, 5, 6, and 7. Show times are at 6:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on April 30 and May 7. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.