Travel far away from politics and the pandemic as actors from the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center take audiences over the rainbow Feb. 26 to 28 with a virtual, streaming production of the young performers’ edition of “The Wizard of Oz”.
The cast features MacKenna Tocco of Brownstown Township as Dorothy, Madison Ganzak of Dearborn Heights as the Wicked Witch and Miss Gulch, Allison Hilliard of Lincoln Park as Auntie Em, and Landon Johnson of Wyandotte as Uncle Henry.
Featured Riverview residents include Alexandra Czata as the Scarecrow and Hunk, and Samantha Plunkett as the Lion and Zeke, and Southgate resident Isabella Pizzo as the Tin Man and Hickory.
Reagan Lewis of South Rockwood plays Glinda, with Luciano Nobile of Trenton as Professor Marvel and the Wizard.
Tamara Marla Walter of Southgate, a triple threat, is the show’s director, vocal director and choreographer, while Cindy Robertson of Woodhaven is the show’s producer.
Walter said it was challenging to establish a sense of continuity in a show which filmed each cast member individually, which would be edited together to create the final product.
“When blocking, I had to think about what shots should look like from various perspectives, and try to relay all that information to my cast over Zoom rehearsals,” she said. “The young people did a wonderful job rising up to this new challenge.”
Walter said online audiences will enjoy a closeup and personal view of the performers, as well.
“Although these young people never got to step foot in the same room during their scenes, there is something intimate about being able to see the performers enlarged on your screen,” she said. “During stage productions, we are distanced from the performers, and there are sometimes so many performers that we don’t necessarily get to showcase all of them, but in this virtual production, every young person was featured in their own closeup!”
Walter knows how important it is to keep the performing arts alive for young actors during a pandemic.
“Many of their hobbies and school activities have been severely limited or halted all together,” she said. “All of them are missing the theater, missing their friends, and the life they have had to temporarily leave behind while navigating COVID.
“This production gives them an opportunity to work with a group of their peers, gives them a creative outlet and lets them present a classic work in a new, innovative way to the community.”
Tocco said one unique challenge she faced rehearsing remotely was, as Dorothy, training Chumley do perform as Toto. She said she also misses interacting with her fellow cast members.
“I think it is important to find ways to adapt and keep the arts alive in times like these, when so many things are uncertain,” she said. “Musical theater has helped me through so much in my life, and I know it will help others as well. The arts spread joy even though we can’t be together.”
Ganzak, who enjoys playing villains like Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch, said it is fun to play evil, over-the-top characters, even during a pandemic when the cast can’t be together on stage.
“It is better than not having theater, especially for diehard actors,” she said. “If you don’t use it, it’s gone, and you got to keep doing what you love.”
Ganzak also hopes the show will provide audiences with a little bit of ‘normal’ in their lives.
“Hopefully, they will enjoy seeing the performers doing what they love and trying to feel some ‘normal’ themselves,” she said.
Lewis, as the optimistic Glinda, said that she has found it challenging to remain motivated some days because of the stress the pandemic imposes.
“It is hard knowing what could have been, but, with limited performing options, it is refreshing to know the we’re gradually going back to performing,” she said.
Lewis said she hopes audiences enjoy the sense of community the cast has created despite being remote from each other.
“We have all come together to create something wonderful during these hard times,” she said. “My character is optimistic, cheery and helpful, even throughout bad situations, and I hope the audience sees that, even during difficult times like these, we can think optimistically and find the silver lining.”
Lewis said keeping the performing arts alive during a pandemic is important.
“Art and music have always been one of the best solutions to get through bad times,” she said. “It is especially important now to adapt and keep the music alive.”
The cast also includes Brownstown Township residents Sofia Castrillon-Ibarra as a Munchkin and an Ozian, and Evan Langlet as a Munchkin and a Flying Monkey, Carleton resident Lexi Pitock as a Munchkin and Ozian, Ferndale resident Parker Lerman as a Munchkin and Flying Monkey, and Flat Rock resident Leyton Fink as a Crow, Ozian and a Jitterbug.
Grosse Ile Township residents performing include Ellie Knapp as a Munchkin and Flying Monkey, Grace Lewellen as the Munchkin Coroner and an Ozian, Ellie Nowak as a Munchkin and the Winkie Leader, and Alainna Sworst as a Munchkin and a Winkie.
New Boston resident Lauren Monte plays a Munchkin and Ozian, with Riverview residents Amelia Czata as the Munchkin Mayor and an Ozian, Livia Czata as an Apple Tree, Crow, Ozian and Jitterbug, Amelia Hachenski as an Apple Tree, Ozian and Jitterbug, Brandon Lozowski as a Munchkin and Nikko, Maggie Lozowski as a Munchkin and a Flying Monkey, and Kira Saiti as an Apple Tree, Ozian and a Jitterbug.
Rockwood resident Athena German plays a Winkie and an Ozian, with Southgate resident Genevieve Dassow as a Munchkin and a Winkie.
Trenton residents in the cast include Karter Adams as the Munchkin Barrister and an Ozian, Lauryn Hill as a Crow, Jitterbug and an Ozian, Chelsea Kings as a Jitterbug and the Ozian Doorman, Katie Loger as an Ozian and Jitterbug, Hannah Messer as a Munchkin and Ozian, and
Preston Trush as a Munchkin and a Flying Monkey.
Woodhaven residents in the cast include Charlie Abbott as a Munchkin and a Winkie and Violet Gates as a Crow, Ozian Guard and a Jitterbug.
To order, go to showtix4u.com/event-details/46565. Single tickets are $10, with a $20 family ticket.