March 22, 2022

Wheelock Family Theatre At Boston University Proudly Announces The Wizard Of Oz!

by Felicia Cheney

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After suspending productions in front of an audience for more than two years (775 days) due to the pandemic, Wheelock Family Theatre will return to the stage with a beloved production for all ages, The Wizard of Oz because, after all, “there’s no place like home.” “In a way it feels like a homecoming,” says actor David Jiles Jr., who plays the Tinman. “Wheelock puts into practice the idea of radical hospitality; I feel like it’s a community where, not only am I welcome, but they “thought of me and where I come from” in creating their community and space.”

The Wizard of Oz has special resonances for Wheelock Family Theatre, having had hugely successful runs in 2012, 1992 and 1986. “It is a celebration of WFT’s past, present, and future in honor of our 40th Anniversary Season,” says Artistic Director Emily Ranii.

Based on the beloved novel and Classic Motion Picture, The Wizard of Oz follows the story of a young girl, Dorothy, as she finds the true meaning of “home.” She and her best sidekick, Toto (a charming, scruffy little dog), find themselves in the magical land of Oz and encounter characters of splendor and tasks of the highest magnitude. Audiences fall for Dorothy and her trusted companions as they battle their way to their highest desires — knowledge, love, courage and home.

Meanwhile, there is an even longer history for Wheelock College–Wheelock Family Theatre’s former home prior to the merger with Boston University. The 1939 Classic Motion Picture, which launched Judy Garland’s career and introduced “(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow” to the American Songbook, starred Wheelock College alum, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West!

Hamilton once stopped by a WFT rehearsal of The Wizard of Oz, offering her kindness and expertise. Hamilton’s legacy lives on through many, including Katie Ann Clark, WFT@BU’s Wicked Witch of the West. “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to pursue theatre, but when I first saw Magaret Hamilton ride that bicycle down that Kansas road, I knew then and there that I wasn’t ever going to be a Dorothy…I was born to be green.”

Fans yearning to see the classic components of this story coming to life will not be disappointed, and they will be pleasantly surprised by WFT’s modern twists. The design team has incorporated Kansas elements into the Oz set as well as the costumes worn by the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion, and other Oz residents. As for the dancing, choreographer Tiffany Lau was inspired by the design team: “My approach to the choreography centers collaboration, community, and identity.”

Wheelock Family Theatre is, by definition, a family theatre, meaning theatre for all generations. Adults will resonate with Dorothy’s yearning to belong, while children will enjoy the humor of Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. “We are delighted to welcome audiences back to their artistic home at Wheelock Family Theatre!” says Director, Nick Vargas.

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