After 68 years, Davenport Junior Theatre has the heart, brains and courage to stage its biggest production ever — the classic "Wizard of Oz," playing this weekend and next at 2822 Eastern Ave.
“We last mounted the show in 2011,” DJT artistic director Daniel Sheridan said this week. "Our Mainstage Company is far more dynamic now, with more resources and more students to help tell this amazing story. In terms of cast, this is the largest show in DJT’s history.”
In its 68th season of theater, the program (for kids ages 3-18) has 500 registrations in the winter theater and dance programs. “Wizard of Oz” involves over 50 students from nine Q-C area cities and towns. The kids, who range in age from 9-18, are actors, crew members, tech board operators, front-of-house team members and more.
Local professional theater artists work with the kids to create a dynamic experience while training kids in theatrical production, Sheridan said.
“We didn’t actually intend to have a cast of 44 actors,” said "Oz" director Jessica Sheridan, who's married to Daniel. “But we had so many talented kids audition, we wanted to involve as many as we could in a meaningful way.
"'Wizard of Oz' is full of great parts and opportunities," she said. "One thing I love about DJT is that we strive to serve all kids in roles that are challenging and help them to learn and grow.”
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Based on a novel published in 1900, “Wizard of Oz” was made into a lavish, legendary film in 1939, starring Judy Garland. This classic tale tells the story of Dorothy Gale, who's not satisfied with her life on the farm in Kansas.
A storm hits and carries her to the Land of Oz. There she goes on a journey of self-discovery and friendship, as she follows the yellow brick road with her new friends — a tin man, scarecrow and lion. After her adventure, Dorothy returns home with a newfound appreciation of the farm and family.
“We are pulling out all the stops, using all our theatrical design elements to explore the show,” said Jessica Sheridan. “We are taking a whole new look at the story. We dive deep into the meaning of home and that our journey through life somehow always brings us back around to home in some way.”
Founded in 1951, DJT is the nation’s second-oldest children’s theater and offers classes in acting, improvisation, Broadway, puppetry and theatrical design. In the quickly growing dance division, now in its 8th year, young dancers learn poise and confidence while having fun and making friends in a non-competitive dance environment, according to DJT.
"Wizard of Oz" performances will be at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, and Sunday, Feb. 16, plus Feb. 22 and 23. Tickets (sold at the door) are $8 for adults, $6 for children 3-17, and free for those under 2.
For more information, visit davenportjuniortheatre.org.