The road to Oz

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- R. Denise Bloomer may have wanted to order a double shot of anything after spending a night watching nearly 200 children audition for “The Wizard of Oz.”
Instead, she smiled inside, took a deep breath, brushed back her wavy red hair and decided to double-cast the show and extend the run another weekend.
“The most we've ever had audition was 100 or 115,” said Bloomer, the show's director. “The biggest challenge was casting. I was thrilled, delighted and completely overwhelmed by the turnout. What I found difficult was giving each child a part at their own personal ability level.”
The show opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carolina Civic Center. Two casts will run the production a total of 10 times, including the March 24 finale. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.
Bloomer, who has been working with the Civic Center for nine years, says consistency and the show's classic status created a hectic audition atmosphere.
“We have a show during this time period every year,” she said. “Everyone knows that and you can't overlook the fact that the show is one people watch over and over again and still love. You go to the show because you've seen it and like it.”
Bloomer, who has two toddlers and an infant -- all boys -- at home, may deserve some kind of award if she is able to pull off the productions without overdosing on pharmaceuticals. She is in charge of a multitude of children ages 3 to 17 and also a few adults.
Amazingly, she reports that everything is running smoothly.
“I've been pleasantly surprised as far as the rehearsals have gone,” she said. “Most everything has gone like clockwork, click, click, click.”
She has instead worried about special effects, which include a melting wicked witch, a house swirling in the winds of a tornado, smoke from the magical Oz and snow falling during the poppy field scene where Dorothy and friends fall helplessly to sleep.
Veteran Troy Rudeseal is designing the stage set. Leslie Woodard is in charge of additional set construction and is the lighting and technical director.
Another headache has been costumes, which Bloomer felt had to be as authentic as possible. Fortunately, some help came from a few Civic Center board members, cast parents and a senior citizens group pitched in with some handiwork.
Beyond that, it's just the normal concerns and noises, amplified, of course, because of the size -- and median age -- of the cast.
“Before any show opens you always get down to the last couple weeks and worry about the dancing, singing, blocking, curtains going up and down, scene changes, music and the like, and bringing these together is a huge undertaking,” Bloomer said. “But by the time the show opens, it all seems to fall into place.”
Along the way, Bloomer said actors and actresses become close.
“One of the best things about it all is that these kids from all over the county, Scotland County, Fayetteville, South Carolina interact, play and socialize together,” she said. “No matter how much work is done, they always seem to have fun.”
When “Oz” was performed at the CCC four years ago, the scenery was dramatically different.
“We had people playing two and three parts, just to get through,” Bloomer said. “As time has gone by, our talent pool has matured. Children that have been involved in our workshops and productions have shown real growth. And we've also seen people coming from other places, which I feel is a compliment for what we've been trying to do here at the Civic Center.”
Leilani Chambers and Arielle Buckman will both play Dorothy; J.P. Barr and Sean Jaenicke will be Tin Man; Robert Morgan and Michael Jones play the Cowardly Lion; Chad Lewis and Adam Stedman are the Scarecrow; Lynn Jacobs and Deb Wilkens will play the Wicked Witch of the West; Whitney McFarland and Kristan Britt play Glenda, the Good Witch from the North.
The rest of the cast is just as involved in the production, which is aligned more closely with the movie version than the stage play.
“There are slight differences between the two, and we have a show that has a lot of comedy built into it that was cut for some of the scenes in the movie,” Bloomer said. “Some of the sarcasm and witty dialogue that's not in the movie is very clever.”

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