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Further Stage Adventures in Oz, Part Twenty-six: An Examiner in Oz, Part Six

Me, Raina Johnson, Ted Eltzroth, and Gary Schwartz.
Me, Raina Johnson, Ted Eltzroth, and Gary Schwartz.
From the Examiner's own collection

Our cast featured Raina Johnson as Dorothy Gale, and a better stage Dorothy I’ve yet to see. She was rather astounded to get the part; as she told me when I asked her for some reminiscences to share:

“I think my first reaction to having been cast was shock. Me, a thirty-something stay at home mom, playing the part of Dorothy? I'm not exactly Judy Garland! I was incredibly excited, though, and very eager to get started!”

Raina’s Dorothy was an eager, wide-eyed, sensitive, and loving charmer. She had every audience in the palm of her hand from the start of every performance, and played every emotion perfectly. Her spell, if I may put it that way, was so potent that during one show, just after the destruction of the Poppies by the snowstorm, she and I were walking side by side and hand in paw, and in that moment, I felt as if we actually were Dorothy Gale and the Cowardly Lion, just about to reach our goal of entering the Emerald City.

The choice for the Scarecrow and Kansas farmhand Hunk was a bit of a surprise to me. I’d worked with a tiny Scarecrow and a tall and skinny Scarecrow, but never before had I seen a burly Scarecrow. Nevertheless, Gary Schwartz embodied the part with a truly “down home” sensibility, and as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who got his desired role.

“I auditioned.” Gary told me, “hoping to get the part of the Scarecrow, because it's one of the parts I've always felt particularly well-suited for. So, I was very happy to have gotten the part I wanted.”

It was actually from Gary that I learned that a bit of the MUNY version of Wizard had nearly snuck into the show. “Interestingly, there's a song in my copy of the score that isn't part of the current score— apparently it was an extra song ["Evening Star"] written for the Dorothy actress.”

The Tin Woodman and his alter ego Hickory were played by Ted Eltzroth, and while it was not Kathie and Kathy’s intention to present lookalikes or impressionists, he definitely evoked Jack Haley. His portrayal was just as sensitive as Haley’s, but with a slightly tougher demeanor; Nick Chopper was, after all, a stolid outdoorsman with a chip on his shoulder as regards the Wicked Witch of the West, who in this version of the story was the one responsible for enchanting his axe. But certainly as far as looks went, he was very close to Haley indeed.

Interestingly, when I contacted Ted to tell him I was writing this (at which point he was living in North Carolina), he said, “I am relocating to Kansas… and can't help but think that is somewhat appropriate.”

Our Toto was a papillon named Sadie Perkins, and a very agreeable and bright performer she was. Both Raina and I were instructed as to how to call her to us.

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