There are plenty of "Wizard of Oz" fans in our readership area.
It's one of the reasons our region can boast an annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton that's lasted more than three decades.
So when I found out Merrillville High School's new theater and English teacher Thomas Mackey managed to secure the rights to a rarely produced stage production that comes from an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's original story, I knew readers would like to know. Here's what Mackey had to say:
"Hi Philip: I am the new theatre director at Merrillville High School. I was wondering if you knew about our fall production 'The Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz' opening Nov. 1. The play is a contemporary adaptation from the original story by L. Frank Baum. The original production in Chicago was met with great acclaim when it opened several years ago. To my knowledge, this will be the second ever production of the play. --Tom Mackey, theatre/English teacher at Merrillville High School"
Mackey is exactly right.
The last, and only time, this stage adaption, which was written by playwright Phillip C. Klapperich, who now lives in Colorado, was in a stage spotlight it was this same time of year in the late summer/fall of 2006 produced by House Theatre in Chicago, first at Viaduct Theatre and then way up north, at the Northlight Theatre space in Skokie, Ill. It ran from September to November 2006, with an addition short extension run of a few added performances again in March 2007.
Mackey, who originally hails from New Orleans and lived in Chicago for several years, including time with House Theatre and Apollo Theater, is now married to Kara Leroy, a 1997 Crown Point High School alum (who is helping her husband with some of this production's choreography, including a great tango scene between the Wizard and the Wicked Witch of the West).
"This is a much more contemporary story and moving telling," Mackey said.
"So many of my students really aren't that familiar with the original movie version or even who Judy Garland is, or that she played Dorothy. Some are a little more familiar with the film version telling of the story in 'The Wiz.'"
He said all of the classic characters are in this adaptation, Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, Glinda the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West. And of course, plenty of time devoted to the title character, The Wizard. And yes, there are Munchkins, although Mackey warns one of his Munchkins stands 6 foot tall.
He said the show has been mounted with what he describes as "a modest budget of a couple thousand dollars" for this cast of 15, along with 10 members for the crew.
He said the production clocks in at 90 minutes, along with one intermission and reminds it's best intended for audience members "in fifth grade and older."
"And can get a little scary, with the Flying Monkeys and a monster taken right from the original book called The Kalidah," he said.
Mackey is hoping the 1,000 seat Merrillville High School Auditorium will be full this weekend. Performances are 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Nov. 1-3) along with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 4. Tickets are $5 for students up to Grade 12 and for senior citizens and $10 for all other admission. Tickets are available at the box office or call Mackey for more information at the high school at (219) 650-5307 ext. 7011.