Chalkboard Theatre off to see the Wizard in Duncan

If you haven’t yet secured seats for Chalkboard Theatre’s presentation of The Wizard of Oz, you’d better get a move on.

Lexi Bainas Citizen

If you’re off to see the Wizard with tickets in hand, good for you.

If you haven’t yet secured seats for Chalkboard Theatre’s presentation of The Wizard of Oz, you’d better get a move on.

This big musical hits the stage of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. and the show continues on Saturday afternoon, May 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $12.50 per person, too, so they’re flying out the door.

Chalkboard’s Tilly Lorence and Cathy Schmidt are looking after overall direction and the dancing while Laura Cardriver and Andrea Rodall are handling the musical side of things.

Putting on a show like The Wizard of Oz has been quite an adventure, Schmidt said.

“It’s a massive undertaking, especially with the age groups we’ve got. We have a six-to-eight year old class, a nine-to-12 year old class and then the 13-19 year olds. Tilly and Laura teach the older kids, and Andrea and I have the six-to-eights and the nine-to-12s,” she said.

It made it easy to cast Munchkins.

“We have some 40-odd munchkins. We’re always up for a challenge,” Schmidt said. “‘Munchkinland’ is really crazy because there are Munchkins everywhere. But, we’ve blended older kids into some of our younger kids’ scenes. We also have a Rainbow Chorus of older students as well and we’ve brought them in. It’s a big, old grand production number on all levels. The first time I tried it, I thought: ‘What was I thinking?’ But now that it’s done, I’m like: ‘I’m so glad I did it!’”

They’ve definitely pushed the boat out on this show.

“It’s the same with ‘Merry Old Land of Oz’. Almost every child in Chalkboard Theatre is in that number as well. It’s pretty cool.”

Dance fans know they can expect a tap number from Schmidt.

“Our guard is a tap dancer, Jamie Johnston, and Kali Fraser is his tap partner. They’re doing a nice little piece,” she said.

But, you can’t have The Wizard of Oz without Dorothy and the rest of the main characters.

“Our Dorothy is Sarah Kaufmann; she’s been great to work with. We’ve got a good solid line-up. Marc Platt is our Scarecrow. He embodies that part. And we have Camellia Celeste; she’s playing the Lion. Dalin Koons is our Tin Man. And we have the lovely Julia Cutt as the Wicked Witch and Willow Paras-Charlton as Glinda the Good Witch,” Schmidt said.

Part of the challenge in preparing for the show has been melding the older and young sections of the cast together.

“We still have to make sure we’re in constant communication with each other. We need to know so the exit of one of our young kids’ scenes doesn’t run into [the entry of an] older kids’ scene. It’s been wild and crazy,” Schmidt said.

The production has been blessed with a lot of help behind the scenes, too, Schmidt said. “Our parents have been amazing with set builds, painting and everything. You know how they always say it takes a community to raise a child? Well it takes a community to put a big production like this on stage. That’s exactly what’s happened.”

According to Schmidt, “Wizard of Oz has a $45,000 budget. It’s a big show with rights and royalties and theatre costs.”

She praised the management and staff of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre for all the help they’ve offered.

“Mike Schaefer, the theatre’s technical director, has been awesome. He called me about production week, and said, ‘I’m sure you’ve already got a plan. Let’s talk about how to do this for the least amount of money possible.’ He was just wonderful. I cannot thank them enough; they’re really taking good care of us and helping us to be able to afford this production,” Schmidt said.

That helpful attitude may shape Chalkboard’s future decisions, she said.

“Next year it will be just Andrea and I teaching Chalkboard; we’re doing Dr. Dolittle. That’s a smaller scaled show, and we plan to be back at Queen Margaret’s School [theatre] again for it but maybe we should go back to the Cowichan Theatre every other year because they’ve been so amazing. They really do have our best interests at heart,” Schmidt said.

“I’ve been really impressed with them on this show. They even go as far as to tell us where to go to get funding. Kirsten Schrader, [cultural division manager,] gave me some links, telling me to try for this grant and that one, trying to help us find money.”

It’s so important, too, to give local children exposure at the Valley’s major venue.

“We’ve got over 60 kids in this show; 38 of them are miked. How many of them have been on that big stage before? Not many. We have 16 six-to-eight year olds in the show, and they’re singing, they’re dancing, they’re everywhere.

“What a big thing for those kids. Those amazing little ones will get to experience walking out on that stage and having the big audience and people applauding, and those big lights. I’m really excited for these kids; here we go,” Schmidt said.

To book tickets online, visit cowichanpac.ca but you can also order from the Cowichan Ticket Centre over the phone by calling 250-748-7529.