This January, the Paramount Theatre presents its annual Junior Musical, The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition. Based on the beloved MGM film from 1939, The Wizard of Oz will feature local performers ages 8-18 and a production team comprised of some of the most treasured arts educators in Abilene. Audience members for Oz will also have the opportunity to watch the production from the Paramount’s brand-new seats.
The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy Gale, a young girl living on a farm in Kansas, through the adventure of a lifetime when a tornado sweeps her away and drops her into the technicolor, magical land of Oz. Along her journey, she connects with wonderful new friends: Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion. To find her way back home to Kansas, Dorothy and her friends set off on a quest to meet the mysterious and benevolent Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City; however, they are derailed time and again by the Wicked Witch of the West, who desperately wants to get her hands on Dorothy’s magical ruby slippers. To make it back safely, Dorothy must learn one important lesson: There’s no place like home.
Showcasing classic songs from the film like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition is adapted from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This delightful stage edition features music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg and background music by Herbert Stothart.
This production was originally scheduled to run in January 2022 but was canceled due to COVID-19. The opportunity to remount The Wizard of Oz with some returning cast members and some new has been a joy and the production team is excited to return to Oz.
In addition to several new cast members, this year’s Oz also features a new director: Neena McLain, department chair and assistant professor of theatre at McMurry University. McLain will be joined by returning Music Director Lanie Westman, executive director of Abilene Performing Arts Company, and returning Choreographer Teri Wilkerson, owner and artistic director of Dance Discovery Studios.
Paramount’s director of operations, Grayson Allred, will design lights alongside HSU’s technical director, Trey Spivey, who will create the scenic design. Allred’s and Spivey’s designs were seen in 2022’s summer musical, Hello, Dolly! Professional costume designer Richard Transki is also on board; his work at the Paramount includes Newsies, Parade, The Last Five Years, and Pippin.
Some extra exciting news is happening inside the Paramount itself. For this year’s production of Oz, patrons will have the chance to sit in the recently installed, brand-new seats in the floor section. Funded by an anonymous donor, the new seats more closely match the original seats in the balcony. Additionally, the seats effectively complement the ornate design of the theatre, are 1-3 inches wider, and feature more accessible options to better accommodate all patrons.
The Wizard of Oz: Youth Edition runs Jan. 13-15. For tickets and additional information, please visit: www.paramountabilene.com.
Contributed By The Paramount Theatre