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Dorothy, Toto, Witch and more blow in opening Starlight Theatre's 64th season

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Spring and early summer in Kansas City mean threats of severe weather, and, yes, tornadoes--just like the one that swept Dorothy and Toto to Oz--and, as a reminder of that legendary story by Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” touches down at Starlight Theatre for a one week run, June 10-15, featuring new, additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

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This particular touring production of “The Wizard of Oz” was adapted by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Jeremy Sams. The production features new songs by Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. People who hail from the Midwest, know and love the story and that Kansas became known as the home of tornadoes and bad weather. Starlight Theatre said that is proud to open its 64th Broadway season with the new North American tour of the classic musical.

Seven years ago, in 2007, Starlight last spotlighted the adventures of Dorothy, Toto and friends on its Cohen Community Stage. “The Wizard of Oz” blew across the Starlight stage nine previous times, most famously in 1991 when comedienne Phyllis Diller perfected an evil cackle and demonstrated her flying skills as The Wicked Witch of the West.

“While I’m new to Starlight, I’m not new to the Midwest. And I know very well that "The Wizard of Oz" is one of those shows that every parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle wants to share with the children in their lives,” Rich Baker, Starlight’s new president and CEO, said.

A St. Louis native and 27-year veteran of St. Louis’ historic Fox Theatre and Fox Associates, Baker took the reins at Starlight in mid-March. He said he’s pleased to start his tenure alongside the Yellow Brick Road.

Based upon the Oscar® Award-winning 1939 MGM screenplay and movie, which marks its 75th anniversary in August, The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy and Toto from humble beginnings in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. There they journey with Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, foil the Wicked Witch of the West, and meet the Wizard to obtain their hearts’ desires.

This North American touring production coming to Starlight had its premiere in December 2012 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, where it played for eight months before embarking on a cross-country U.S. tour in September 2013. The tour will close in Detroit later this month.

Starring as Dorothy in the production is Danielle Wade, who was chosen for the role by the Canadian public through the Canadian TV reality show Over The Rainbow. Six of the show’s seven principal actors are Canadian. The only exception is Broadway veteran and Boston-born actress Jacquelyn Piro Donovan who demonstrates her comedic and dramatic depth as Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West, Starlight Theatre said.

The show’s furry, four-legged star, Toto (aka Nigel), also has U.S. roots. He was rescued in 2008 from the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society by Tony® Award-winning animal trainer William Berloni. His appearance draws more attention to the local homeless pets awaiting new, forever homes.

The enchanting musical adaptation features all of the Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg songs from the movie’s classic score, the favorite characters and iconic moments. The new songs by Webber and Rice fit seamlessly into the beloved story and score.

Before audience members sit down to enjoy the sights and sounds of Oz, Starlight invites them to arrive early to take part in two pre-show events, free to all who have a ticket to the show:

Starlight’s Yellow Brick Bash a pre-show festival, offers games, crafts, performances, photo opportunities, the Twisted Twister inflatable slide, caricatures and other activities for families and kids of all ages. Located in the group pavilions adjacent to Starlight’s north concourse, the Yellow Brick Bash is open 6-8 p.m. each night.

Inspired by Toto/Nigel’s story of adoption success, Starlight is partnering with five Kansas City area pet shelters and agencies to host the Take Home Toto on-site dog adoption event. From 6-8 p.m. every night (except opening night) shelter volunteers will introduce adoptable dogs to Starlight guests in the Helzberg Fountain and Garden of the Stars area on the theatre’s east side. Starlight patrons can talk with agency representatives, learn about available dogs and begin the adoption application process if they find their perfect four-legged match.

Tickets for "The Wizard of Oz" at Starlight Theatre continue on sale now for $10 to $95. Tickets are available online at www.kcstarlight.com, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. All performances begin at 8:30 p.m.

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