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Experience the Wonderful “Wizard of Oz,” Coming to Naperville Jan. 10-19

On Sunday, December 15, the cast of the Wizard of Oz gathered to run through several scenes of the show, in preparation for the Magical Starlight Theatre production set for January 10-12 and 17-19, 2020. I stopped in to take some photos and something magical happened. When the Dorothy and the Scarecrow freed the Tin Man from his rusted joints and he sang “If I Only Had a Heart,” my memories of the very familiar show came rushing back, along with all of the emotions.  The actors captured the essence of the story, with every detail true to the original, yet in a fresh and simple way that will appeal to everyone, even those unfamiliar with the T. V. production. 
Emerald City Guard, Scarecrow, Dorothy, and the Tin Man, Dec. 15, 2019

My advice to you is to do everything you can to see this show!  And bring friends, family, and especially children with you. Check your 2020 calendar for either the second or third weekend of January and purchase tickets online here.  For a list of show dates and times, view page 9 of the Winter Program Guide.

Meet Emma Lee – Dorothy
Emma Lee is thrilled to be in the role of Dorothy, a character she has loved since her early childhood years. 
 Emma at age 3 in a Halloween costume made by her late aunt

“This show impacted my childhood so much,” said Emma. “It was my late grandmother's favorite. I also used to reenact scenes with my late aunt. She would be the Wicked Witch and I would be Dorothy. ‘Over the Rainbow’ was one of the songs that taught me how to sing when I was a little girl, so being given the chance to actually portray the character and sing that song for people is really unbelievable.”

Emma is a junior at Benedictine University, studying music with an emphasis in voice. She also plays the ukulele and guitar and enjoys writing her own music. She is no stranger to Magical Starlight Theatre. In fact this is her 12th musical with Magical Starlight in the past 11 years.

“It's become a family affair. My brother has been in shows here in the past, but this time it's just me and two of my sisters. Mia, 15, who is a dancer, and Ava, 11, who is a munchkin and a flying monkey. My parents help backstage. My littlest sister Bella also loves to be involved whenever she can, and you can usually find her dressed as a character from the show helping pass out programs before the performances. She hopes to be onstage with everyone else next year!”

Although Emma has had many lead roles in other musicals, she said that the role of Dorothy presents some different challenges. “Dorothy is younger, and rather than focusing on romance, the story is about friendship. And this is the most dialogue I’ve ever had in a musical.”  

Like others who have grown up in Naperville with Magical Starlight Theatre, Emma continues to be involved in the company as a college student and young adult. 

“I keep coming back because it really is a family here at Magical Starlight. I love everyone so much, and they have had so much impact on the person I am today.  Truly, there's no place like Magical Starlight Theatre!”

Meet Stuart Vance – the Tin Man
Stuart Vance is a first grade teacher at Spring Brook Elementary School and has been acting with Magical Starlight Theatre for 21 of its 25 years. 
Dorothy and the Scarecrow encounter the Tin Man rusted in the enchanted forest.

“The Wizard of Oz was the first large scale winter show (I think) that Magical Starlight Theatre did 21 years ago on this same stage,” said Stuart. “The Tinman was my first role, so I guess I've taken it full circle from that show. I connect with the gentleness and caring character of the Tinman and I hope I can bring that warmth to the audience.”   

Fun fact:  Stuart will be wearing the same costume (with embellishments) and carrying the same ax that he used in that first production and it all still fits and works. 

Other roles he has played over the years include the Candy Man in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Mayor in the first Seusical production and Maurice in Beauty and the Beast. 

Like Emma, Stuart has known and loved “The Wizard of Oz” since his childhood. “This show will always hold a special place in my heart,” said Stuart.  “I watched the movie over and over again as a child and I listened to a cassette tape recording of it all through high school and even into friends and I would get together and sing along with it and act it out.”

Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow on their way to the Emerald City

I asked Stuart whether his first graders know that he is playing the tin man. “My kids do know about it and I think they are pretty excited to come and see it.  I especially love doing shows that are for children...they need to see the positive messages that can be learned in productions like the ones that Magical Starlight puts together...just another reason I love being connected with this organization!”

Magical Starlight Theatre – Celebrating 25 Years
Kate Ray, one of the six founders of the organization, said that their goal from the beginning was to provide quality family entertainment.  

“There were very few theatre companies in Naperville in those days, and frankly the term 'children's theatre' referred to short, fairy-tale presentations for very young children,” explained Kate. “We wanted to provide more of a true theatre experience for our audiences which would entertain both children and adults.  And we wanted to include whole families in the productions, onstage and off-stage.”

“I worked as a volunteer for 21 years, doing everything a producer usually does, from beginning to end.  The many full houses were always gratifying, but my favorite thing to happen during a performance was to hear the sound of one child in the audience spontaneously giggle out loud at something that caught their fancy.”

“I don't think any of us envisioned the success Magical Starlight Theatre has become.  Personally, it is truly heart-warming.  Hundreds of people from all over the western suburbs have become part of the Magical Starlight Theatre family.” 
The Emerald City Guard takes Dorothy and her friends on a tour of the City

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