SCERA Kicks Off 85th Anniversary With THE WIZARD OF OZ

Whenever DeLayne Bluth Dayton directs a show she especially likes, she finds a way to appear on stage, often popping up in a place that even surprises her actors. "I'm kind of like Alfred Hitchcock who did that in his films," she laughs.

"When I really love something, it's hard for me to stay behind the curtain", she says of the upcoming production of "The Wizard of Oz" at SCERA Center for the Arts. "I'm an actor at heart, and this show has really taken mine."

"The Wizard of Oz" opens SCERA's Indoor Season Sept. 14 with performances Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 6. at 7:30pm in their 450-seat Showhouse II. It kicks off the start of SCERA's 85th Anniversary.

Dayton says because the movie is so well-known and beloved, she is keeping the musical close to the spirit of the 1939 classic film.

"I think what made the movie so magical is that it opens as a black and white film, and then after Dorothy Gale's home is taken up in a tornado and plops down in the land of Oz, everything becomes brilliant color. The saturated colors intensify the story and makes it dreamlike."

Because she wanted light as an element, she recruited Cole McClure to set design a visual experience through gorgeous video projections to reflect the many different locations.

"A huge part of the production of 'The Wizard of Oz' comes from the visuals, and our crew is working really hard to make a magical experience for the audience. Our cast is so well-prepared, they could open the show today, but we are taking advantage of the time remaining to make the technical aspects of the show as stellar as the acting already is," Dayton says.

She says her leads came into rehearsals with passion for the roles and clearly gave their all, arriving at the first rehearsal with their parts memorized and have been absolutely dedicated to making the show amazing."

Dorothy, the girl who is desperately trying to find a way home after her house crashed into the magical land of Oz, is played by Ally Johnson (who once played the role of Glinda in a previous production). "At 26, she is a little bit older than the role usually calls for," Dayton says, "but she looks young, and I have the benefit of having a performer who can approach her role with innocence but who also maintains a mature perspective. She is absolutely charming."

She feels the same affection for Preston Harmon, the scarecrow, T.J. Thomas as the Tinman, and Andrew Walsh as the Cowardly Lion. "As they were in the film, they will be favorites."

Alison Books was considered for the part of Glinda, the Good Witch, but because her cackle was so distinctive, Dayton felt she had to cast her as the Wicked Witch of the West. "Allison is so excellent in her role, she makes everyone else rise up to her standard." SCERA patrons will remember her as Urusula in "The Little Mermaid," Madame Thenardier in "Les Mis" and Mother Superior in "Sister Act."

Samantha Frisby is Glinda, the Good Witch. She recently returned from 4 ½ years in New York City, where she attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Jarom Swanson is the Wizard of Oz, and was cast, says Dayton, because "he is larger than life and so good at making his character big and grand."

Sixteen children will appear as Munchkins and Dayton says they provide one of the brightest parts of the show.

Director Dayton also serves as the music director and is using Tyne Valgardson Crockett as choreographer, Andrew Walsh as assistant director, Deborah Bowman as costume designer, Elizabeth Griffiths as lighting director and Christy Norton as props designer.

"The costumes are an intrinsic part of the color explosion of the production, and Debbie and Kelsey have taken them to another level," Dayton explains. "We wanted everything to have a quirky 'Hunger Games' feel." Some interesting trivia about Dorothy's iconic blue and white checkered dress is it was originally made by costume designer Bowman's mother, Geraldine Sevy, for Bowman's daughter Kelsey when she was in high school. Both Bowman and Kelsey now work in the SCERA Costume Shop, continuing the family tradition!

"I am a busy person," Dayton says "and I leave my family at nights to do this. Yet I am excited every time I come to rehearsal. It has been so much fun bringing to life a story that is a beloved family classic that means so much to all of us."

Reserved-seating tickets at $14 for adults and $12 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older are available at www.scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, at the SCERA Center for the Arts 10am-6pm weekdays and Saturdays from 12noon-6pm (755 S. State St., Orem) or at the door prior to performance.

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