‘Oz’ coming to local stage

"Dorothy,” played by Julie Fleming, and “Glinda,” played by Megan Potthoff, are surrounded by a group of Munchkins during a rehearsal for upcoming performances of “The Wizard of Oz,” which will be staged by Civic Summer Theater at the Fairmont Opera House from July 23-28.

The classic family favorite “The Wizard of Oz” will be performed at the Fairmont Opera House as this year’s Civic Summer Theater production.

The musical will include beloved favorites Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow and even Toto. It will run July 23-28.

The production is under the direction of David Holmes, a native of California who moved to Minnesota five years ago. While this is his first time directing a play at the Opera House, he is not new to theater.

“This is actually my second year with Fairmont Opera House,” he said. “Last year, I played Sky Masterson in ‘Guys and Dolls.’ I’ve been doing theater for 25 years and I’ve directed multiple shows both in California and in Minnesota.”

Holmes said he heard of Fairmont after directing a show in Mankato, where he lives, with Jonas Nissen, who is on the board of directors at the Opera House.

“He’s been asking me for the last three years to come down and direct something,” Holmes explained.

“The Wizard of Oz” is a bit of a family affair for Holmes. His wife, Lori, has choreographed much of the production.

“Every show that I direct I have her choreograph,” Holmes said.

Tamarae Schmidt has also choreographed a few numbers for the show, including “Munchkin Land” and “Yellow Brick Road.” She is also a main dancer in the show.

Holmes has two children in the production, so the whole family makes the trip down from Mankato for practices.

There are 45 people in the production, with 38 on stage.

“Our youngest is 7 and our oldest is 72,” Holmes said.

“We have several people that have been in the cast for several years in a row, but we do have a few people [for whom] this is their first show,” he noted.

Holmes said that almost everyone is from Fairmont, with the exception of a few. They began practicing at the end of May and have been meeting four nights per week, 6:30-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

When asked how they selected “The Wizard of Oz,” Holmes said it was something that the board of directors had on the table for several years.

“They were able to get enough people to do it this year,” he explained. “‘The Wizard of Oz’ is definitely a family show that everybody loves. It’s a tough show, it’s a big show. The music is intense. If you’re going to do it, you need to do it right the first time.”

The set design was Holmes’ vision and is a little different than what many people might be used to.

“I decided to go a little more technical with it. We’re using a projector to set the scenes. That was my vision from the get-go, to create a scene with just a picture,” Holmes explained.

Some costume pieces were borrowed from the State Street Theater in New Ulm since it put on a production of “Wizard of Oz” several years ago.

Holmes spoke about the scene where Dorothy lands in Oz and all of the Munchkins come out to greet her.

“Dorothy (Julie Fleming) is like 6-foot-1 so everyone looks kind of small compared to her, so I figured we could throw everyone in there and they would still look like Munchkins,” he said. “We were able to put everyone from the cast into the scene.”

The Munchkins play multiple roles, including Ozians, monkeys, trees or crows, and some play feature roles including the Tin Man and the Lion.

“Everything that’s in the movie is in the play version, but there’s a couple added songs that aren’t in the movie,” Holmes said.

Julie Fleming, who plays “Dorothy,” and Alec Weir, known as “The Scarecrow” in the show, have done Civic Summer Theater a few other years as well. They shared what they liked specifically about this year’s production.

“It’s very light-hearted,” Fleming said. “I think it’s the classic tale that so many people know and love and we get to bring it to life. I think everyone knows something about it so they come in with certain expectations and we want to make it big and beautiful.”

“I like how much fun we have with it.” Weir said. “There are some nights where we get tense and ornery, but we always come back to having fun with it.”

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through July 27 and at 2 p.m. July 28. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling (507) 238-4900 or by visiting the website www.fairmontopera-house.org

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