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Arts-In stage show lets 4-H'ers shine

Luke Davidson of Wanamingo leads the Arts-In chorus in a number during "The Wizard of Mice Elf." More than 30 4-H'ers are in the cast, performing the show daily at the Goodhue County Fair. Ruth Nerhaugen photo1 / 2
Characters who seek the Wizard, hoping that he can solve their problems, include Elise Magnuson (purple shirt) of Pine Island as Dorothy, Isaiah Custer of Lake City (to her right), Katrina Wojahn (tank top) of Cannon Falls as Hannah Montana, and Jeff Neil (right) of Zumbrota as Dorothy's brother. Ruth Nerhaugen photo2 / 2

Who: Goodhue County 4-H'ers

What: Arts-In stage show

When: 12:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. today; 5:30 and 7 p.m. Friday; 6 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Goodhue County Fairgrounds, Zumbrota

Cost: Free

ZUMBROTA -- Since when did Hannah Montana and a Minnesota Twins baseball player take a walk down the Yellow Brick Road?

Since the Goodhue County 4-H Arts-In crew turned an old classic into a modern song-and-dance show, "The Wizard of Mice Elf."

The 4-H'ers are performing the stage show two or three times daily at the Goodhue County Fair, which is under way through Saturday at the fairgrounds in Zumbrota.

The show actually was created by a former 4-H'er, Beth Neil of Pine Island, according to Isaiah Custer of Lake City, a 4-H Ambassador, performer and student director for the production.

Neil graduated a couple of years ago but has come back to write a new show for the Arts-In, he said. This is her fourth year as creator/director.

She was on hand for a three-day camp the last week in July at which they learned the show, Custer said.

A big group participated this year, he noted. More than 30 young people who have completed fifth grade signed up -- so many that officials had to add on to the stage to accommodate them all.

Neil and one of the other student directors, Alycia Wojahn of Cannon Falls, held auditions and cast the show.

This year's production is unlike past shows, 4-H'ers said. "It's like a story; people are characters," Custer said. There's quite a bit of dialogue in addition to the songs and dance numbers.

This is his fourth year in Arts-In, said Custer, who'll be a senior this year. "I really like to sing and act," he said. "I wasn't so sure about the dancing when I started," but being in the show helped him overcome being self-conscious.

"It's a very unique show," said Luke Davidson of Wanamingo, who appears in the cast and also plays guitar in some numbers while Anne Lodermeier of Goodhue provides piano accompaniment. A freshman this fall, he's a second-year Arts-In participant.

"It takes an original classic and makes it unique -- more modern," Davidson said. Characters from several television shows are part of the story, including the cast of Gilligan's Island, Hannah Montana, some ESPN athletes and a contestant from the Game Show Network.

"It's more intense than in previous years," added Elise Magnuson of Pine Island, a 10th-grader who plays Dorothy. In the new story line, she is joined by several characters on a journey to see if the Wizard of Mice Elf can solve their problems.

"The dances are harder and there are more individual lines," she said. But she's not complaining. "It's fun," she said. "It's my favorite part of the summer."

The group had a travel day Aug. 4, taking the show on the road to four nursing homes and a children's home in Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Kenyon and Pine Island, and gaining confidence with each performance, the young people said. Daily performances outside the 4-H Building are free.