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Ellsworth students to perform rendition of Wizard of Oz

Beckett Catron as a Private in the Ozian Army rehearses a scene in the Ellsworth High School production of "Wizard of Oz." Photo by David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
The four stars of the Wizard of Oz rehearse a scene. Tin Man is Lucas Flom, The Scarecrow is Roy Roberts, The Lion is Matthew Williams, and Dorothy is Peyton Catron. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Trading flying monkeys for ghosts, Ellsworth students are performing the Wizard of Oz in a more family-friendly manner that follows the book, not the movie.

Through early November, the Ellsworth High School Drama Department is performing the classic production with a group of students that are handling the lighting, acting and musical performance. Performing the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis version of the play, or The Muny, it features a number of changes from the well-known 1939 film.

"It's a bit wackier, and I thought it was a bit more child friendly," Katie Fuchs, Ellsworth High School's English teacher and theatre director. "It's a great choice for wanting a larger cast, which I did."

The team of roughly 85 students participate in the production through a morning class and it's diversified the participants, she said. Middle school and elementary school students are in the play as munchkins, and Fuchs said the students are enjoying mentoring them.

"It allows us to include a bunch of students who wouldn't usually be able to participate in an after-school activity other than sports," Fuchs said, and mentioned the cast includes football, volleyball and tennis players.

The school's drama department worked in conjunction with the band director and choir director, Nicholas Junker and Karen Kornmann respectively, to pick the play. The trio wanted to find a play that could have room for musicians, actors and others to participate, she said.

They settled on Wizard of Oz for its diverse set of roles, and also was unintentionally picked about 20 years since the last time the school performed the play.

In addition to having ghosts in the play, The Muny version also includes swapping a scene with a poppy field for dancing jitterbugs instead, Fuchs said.

It is Fuchs' fourth year being the theatre director; she said her first play was "Grease." Back then, she had no idea what she was doing and relied on her colleagues to improve.

"My first year I had absolutely no idea what I was doing," she said.

But now it's only her colleagues' second year working on the drama productions, and she's seeing herself take on an advisor-like role, which she admits can be weird.

However, she said they work together well, and the group of students make it easy to lead.

"The surprising part [of the production] was how hardworking this group was," Fuchs said. "It came together shockingly fast. It was completely because the kids are so talented and really motivated to make it best show they can."

Tickets for the play are on sale at the Ellsworth High School office or at the door at $8 for adults and $3 for students. The play runs from Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 8-10 in the Ellsworth High School Cafetorium.