‘Wizard of Oz’ continues through June 25 at Valley Youth Theatre

Dorothy (Kendra Richards), Toto (Rickie Marie), and the Lullaby League (Bali Bare, Vivian Nichols, Molly Prefling). Photo by Cliff Cesar.

Valley Youth Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” opened Center Stage at the Herberger June 9 to a packed theater, earning an enthusiastic standing ovation and rave reviews.

The production showcases 58 talented young actors ranging in age from seven to 19 from all over the Valley, dressed in over 125 original costumes, and performing on the New York City, Madison Square Garden set, which was performed on by Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt and Jessica Grove.

“This is my favorite show,” says Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

“The Wizard of Oz is not simply another wonderful production – it teaches the life-lessons that are the foundation of all that we do,” continues Mr. Cooper.

“My job here at VYT is to not only to produce great theatre, but to foster self-esteem and a belief in one’s self, so that each child knows that in darkness and in light there is always hope — that dreams can and do come true.”

The musical’s classic songs are brought to life by a live orchestra of 25 gifted, young musicians that accompany Dorothy and her little dog Toto as they are swept away by a huge tornado from her small farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz where she meets new and exciting friends, and a few enemies.

“The theatrical magic of this undeniably fun and exciting VYT production is illustrated in the whole Munchkinland sequence,” says David Appleford of Valley Screen and Stage.

“With color, the exemplary costumes of the Munchkins that echo the look of the film, and the energetic way this youthful supporting cast inject life into their miniature characters… plus their rousing, crowd-pleasing rendition of ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,’ the show has already won you over.”

Lion (Steven Enriquez), Dorothy (Kendra Richards), Scarecrow (Jared Barbee), Tin Man (Asher Sheppard) at the gates of Oz. (Photo by Cliff Cesar.)

When Dorothy’s house accidentally lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, everyone is exuberant, except the Wicked Witch of the West, who seeks revenge for the death of her sister and covets her ruby red slippers, which magically transfer to Dorothy’s feet.

“The ruby slippers are made with over 5,000 Swarovski crystals and took approximately 40 hours to hand-design,” says Karol Cooper, VYT’s resident costume designer.

“We wanted them to sparkle and tell the story just right. The end result is fabulous.”

Things in Oz are strange and beautiful, but Dorothy just wants to go home to Kansas. To do this, she must find the Wizard.

From a colorful land filled with strange little people called Munchkins to dark forests filled with talking trees, flying monkeys, and dancing jitterbugs, Dorothy’s adventures help her realize how much she is capable of, and teaches her that there truly is “no place like home.”

The Wizard of Oz is presented by Valley Youth Theatre at the Herberger Theatre Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix.

The show continues through June 25. Performance days are 7 p.m. June 22 and 23; 2 and 7 p.m. June 24 and 2 p.m. June 25.

Ticket prices range from $16.50 to $34.50 not including fees.

For more information or to purchase tickets call the Herberger Theater box office at 60-252-8497 or visit www.vyt.com.

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