There’s no place like Oz

BY CONOR MCBRIEN | JULY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Starting Friday at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, the Young Footliters will follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. The musical is based on the widely known 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, which in turn is based on Frank Baum’s novel. The story is certainly not unfamiliar to the stage, with theater productions dating to 1902. More than a century after the first production, another show has arrived to enter the theatrical canon of Oz.

The Young Footliters is a troupe of area 5- to 18-year-olds. For this play, 58 kids will be involved in various parts. With so many young actors, organizers said they had to rely on parents for some assistance.

“One nice thing about Young Footliters is that it’s parent-driven,” producer Megan Flanagan said.

Meredith Lamb, the Young Footliters head and parent of munchkin Alyssa Lamb and chorus member Regan Lamb, described the group as “an organization that is dedicated to providing quality theatrical and educational experiences for young people in our area.”

The organization did a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid last summer, which sold out, and put on Hansel and Gretel in May. Lamb said the group typically does four shows a year and often brings in new kids with each audition. The producers try to create as many parts as possible for a given play so more kids can participate.

The Wizard of Oz is no exception; the iconic tornado scene in which Dorothy (Alison DeVore) and her house are carried up and away from Kansas features a group of dancers creating the storm as the house begins to spin onstage.

“I am amazed how much talent there is in a relatively small area of the Midwest,” said director Krista Neumann, a local actor and director who has worked with the Iowa City Community Theater. She loves The Wizard of Oz and became involved with the production because “Meredith and Megan asked me to do it.”

Musical direction comes from Jessica Palmer, who has also worked with the Community Theater and conducted for a production of Man of La Mancha. She helps with the musical cues that complement the action and effects and also oversees an unexpected musical number being reincorporated into the show; in the 1939 film, the song “The Jitterbug” was cut because MGM believed it would date the movie. Actual footage of the song was destroyed on the cutting room floor years ago, but rehearsal audio still exists on YouTube. The song will be an additional number for Dorothy, who is often only associated with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Lamb is confident all patrons will love their time at the show and at future shows as well.

Beginning Friday, the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts will begin selling tickets for the Young Footliters’ next show, in September, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the thought being that after a trip to Oz, maybe audiences would like to pay Narnia a visit as well.

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