Dorothy and company enjoying the fantasy of Southeastern's 'The Wizard of Oz'
Contact: Christina Chapple
DOROTHY AND HER “OZ” SIDEKICKS – The leads in the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop production of “The Wizard of Oz” rehearse a scene from the musical, which is scheduled June 22-23 at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. From left, the Cowardly Lion (Scott McDonough of Slidell) tries to menace the Scarecrow (Simon Pfeil of Hammond), Dorothy (Meghan Wagner of Hammond) and the Tin Man (Skyler Stroup of Mandeville.)
HAMMOND – Whether you have fond memories of ruby slippers and dancing munchkins, not so fond memories of flying monkeys and melting witches -- or even no memories at all of the film classic “The Wizard of Oz,” you’ll still love seeing the adventures of tornado-tossed Dorothy come alive on stage.
That’s the consensus of Meghan Wagner, Simon Pfeil, Skyler Stroup and Scott McDonough, the four young actors who portray Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion in the Southeastern Louisiana University Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s summer musical, scheduled for June 22-23 at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts.
“What’s not to like?” said Stroup. “’Over the Rainbow,’ clicking heels, ‘I’m melting!’ ‘Lions and tigers and bears’ … It’s got it all and it will be a lot of fun to see.”
The musical is a lot of fun, but a lot of work for the four leads, who are rarely off stage during the two hour performance. They are a seasoned group, however, having all had musical theater experience. They are taking the long hours of singing, dancing and acting rehearsals in stride.
Three performances of “The Wizard of Oz” are scheduled for June 22, 7:30 p.m., and June 23, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the Columbia Theatre. Tickets are available at the theater box office, 220 E. Thomas St., (985) 543-4371, from noon-5 p.m. on weekdays.
Although the youngest at 15, Wagner is one of the most experienced of the four. The Hammond teen, who is homeschooled and attends the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts part-time, has been in some 16 productions, from school shows to NOCCA’s “Jane Eyre, the Musical” to numerous Jefferson Performing Arts Society productions – including “The Wizard of Oz.”
She wasn’t Dorothy in that show, although she did play that role as a sixth grader in a school play that spoof of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Actually, I’ve always wanted to play the witch,” she admitted. “I guess that’s not meant to be.”
Wagner also studies piano and voice through Southeastern’s Community Music School and plans to be a fulltime NOCCA student next year. She has her sights set on a career in musical theater.
“She is amazing,” says Stroup. This is his second Southeastern musical and, like Wagner, he’s been in a school version of “The Wizard of Oz” – where he also played the Tin Man.
“I’m being typecast – I’m tall, I have no heart,” said Stroup, who is obviously the jokester of the bunch. A music education major from Mandeville, Stroup, who plays the trumpet, says that his career path is heading toward instrumental music rather than musical theater. He tries to bemoan his skill level in singing, dancing and acting -- to the unanimous protests of his castmates.
After appearing in the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s “Songs for a New World” last fall, Stroup admits that being on stage “is starting to take hold. I really do love to sing,” he said.
McDonough, a voice major from Slidell, was a hit with audiences as St. Peter in the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop’s production of “Too Many Sopranos” earlier last March. He also appeared in the one-act American opera “La Divina” in spring 2006 and in “The Sound of Music” in fall 2005. He has put in time backstage in the areas of set design and construction and, like Wagner, he would love to have a professional musical theater career.
Pfeil, who is from Hammond, is majoring in mathematics, but has grown up both behind the scenes and on stage in Southeastern theaters. His father, Pete, is production and operations director for the Columbia Theatre and his mother, Anna, has been costume coordinator for many Opera/Music Theatre productions. “The Wizard of Oz” is a family affair for the Pfeils, since Pete, Anna and Simon’s brother Aaron are also in the cast.
Simon’s Southeastern credits include “The Secret Garden,” “Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Dido and Aeneas.” He has also appeared in Tulane Lyric Theatre’s “Candide” and “West Side Story.”
Stroup and Pfeil both remember watching and enjoying the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz” as children. Wagner admits that although she was never a big fan of the Judy Garland classic, she has recently revised her opinion. “When I was talked into auditioning, I watched it again. And I decided, okay, I like it now,” she said, laughing.
McDonough confessed that – oh, my! – he’s never seen the movie.
“I think it scared my sister,” he said, “so it just wasn’t on the list of videos that my family watched.” He has seen the musical twice, however, and said audiences should look forward to an entertaining mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar.
Chuck Effler, director of the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop, is full of praises for Dorothy and her trio of sidekicks.
Wagner, he said, “is a spectacular talent. We are so incredibly lucky that she auditioned.”
“As for the other three,” he said, “it’s just about perfect casting. Simon has a lot of dance background, so he has all the ‘collapsing’ moves of the Scarecrow down pat. You couldn’t ask for a better Cowardly Lion than Scott. He’s big and loveable and really doing the ‘cowardly’ part well. Skyler, especially, gives you the feeling that he really believe all his lines. All three are really convincing the audience that this fantasy is their world.”
Ticket prices for adults are $24, Orchestra 1/Loge; $21, Orchestra 2; $18, Orchestra 3/Balcony 1; $15, Balcony 2. Ticket prices for senior citizens, 60 and older, and children, 12 and younger, are $21.50, Orchestra 1/Loge; $19, Orchestra 2; $16, Orchestra 3/Balcony 1; $13.50, Balcony 2. A one-dollar service charge is added to each ticket. Southeastern students will be admitted free to Balcony 2 seating with their university I.D.
“The Wizard of Oz” is made possible through the major financial support of Southeastern’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Opera/Music Theatre Workshop; and Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. Funding has also been provided from the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge through the Decentralized Arts Funding Program.
Additional financial support comes from the Hammond and Amite Wal-Mart stores and Wal-Mart Logistics in Robert, North Oaks Health System, Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fay and Phelan Bright, Guaranty Savings Bank, Florida Parishes Bank, State Farm Insurance (Doug Johnson), Dr. Robert and Carolyn McMinn, Brown Morris Pharmacy, Encore Development Corporation (Ed and Peggy Hoover), Microtel, Inc. (Michelle Aycock), and Drs. Gwen and Ronald Traylor.
For more information, contact Effler at 985-549-2249, firstname.lastname@example.org or SLU 10815, Hammond, LA 70402.