They’re off to see the Wizard: Guild announces Oz cast

Photo by Sue Suchyta


The Players Guild of Dearborn will present “The Wizard of Oz” for four weekends, Nov. 11 to Dec. 4 at the Guild theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn. The cast includes Cole Haas (front row left), Molly Boudreau, Madeline Hnatiuk, Abagale Tyler, Jade Reynolds and Lia Bertucci; Peter Moore (second row left), Julian Moore, Sophia Tyler, Anna Varitek, Grace Bertucci, Bailey Holmes, Clarissa Powaser and Lexie Kaplan; Alex Gojkov (third row left), Brian Townsend, Frann Stempek, Kori Bielaniec, Michael Parks, Patricia LaFramboise, Kelley Donnelly, Karyna Sitkowski, Shelby Holmes, Cjersti Jensen, Elizabeth Kilpatrick, Sue Oliver; Tom Varitek (fourth row left), Michael Bollman, Kimberly Elliott, Kirk Haas, Alan Ellias, Tom Sparrow, Shelly Coulter, Tim Carney, Bill Spurlin, Jeff Lokken, Scott Rider, James Mayne and David Wood. For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

By Sue Suchyta
The Players Guild of Dearborn announced the cast and crew for its fall musical “The Wizard of Oz” last week at the Sept. 26 first rehearsal.

The show will be performed for four weekends, Nov. 11 to Dec. 4 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison in Dearborn. For more information call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

The show, which will be directed by Bob Jones of Dearborn, will be choreographed by Laura Tyler of Canton Township, with musical direction by Paul Abbott of Allen Park.

Dearborn residents Richard Moore and Chris Boudreau will co-produce the show, with David Reynolds Jr. of Oxford serving as the technical director.

Dorothy Gale will be played by Kelley Donnelly of Canton, with Patricia LaFramboise of Northville playing Auntie Em and Tom Sparrow of Allen Park playing Uncle Henry.

Alan Ellias of Farmington Hills will play Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz, while Kori Bielaniec of Livonia will play the Wicked Witch. Kimberly Elliott of Canton will play Glinda.

The Scarecrow will be played byAlex Gojkov of Redford. Dearborn residents Brian Townsend and Tom Varitek will play the Cowardly Lion and Tin Man respectively.

The chorus includes Dearborn residents Michael Bollman, Shelly Coulter, Shelby Holmes, Lexie Kaplan, Clarissa Powaser, Karyna Sitkowski and David Wood.

Other chorus members include Garden City resident Bill Spurlin; Grosse Ile Township residents Cjersti Jensen and Elizabeth Kilpatrick; Inkster resident Kirk Haas; Lincoln Park resident Scott Rider; Livonia residents Tim Carney, Cinamon Cowper and Jeff Lokken; Redford residents James Mayne and Sue Oliver; and Taylor residents Michael Parks and Frann Stempek.

The Munchkins include Dearborn residents Grace Bertucci, Lia Bertucci, Molly Boudreau, Madeline Hnatiuk, Bailey Holmes, Madelyn Kaplan, Julian Moore, Peter Moore and Anna Varitek.

Other Munchkins include Canton residents Abagale Tyler and Sophia Tyler, Inkster resident Cole Haas and Oxford resident Jade Reynolds.

Ellias is thrilled to be playing the dual role of Professor Marvel and the Wizard in a classic he includes among his favorite shows.

“It’s going to be a huge crowd pleaser, really fun to do – it brings everybody together – it’s just such a family experience,” Ellias said. “It’s a great show.”

He’s looking forward to working with some impressive special effects as the Wizard.

“Kids are going to love it, and it’s great to have a show that you can get kids into the theater,” Ellias said. “There are a lot of shows that are more adult and you can’t really get the kids to come see it … this way they get the experience of the theater and so I think it’s a wonderful way to introduce them.”

Townsend, who has never performed in “The Wizard of Oz” before, looks forward to bringing the iconic character of the Cowardly Lion to life.

“Even if you’re familiar enough with the movie version of it or the book of it, to actually see it come to life on stage is going to be a really unique experience,” Townsend said.

This is the first time he’s played an animal on stage, and since the Lion character is so well known, playing it presents its own set of challenges.

“Talking about the iconic nature of it, a benchmark has already been set, I think, in a lot of people’s minds,” Townsend said. “To find the opportunity to reach that benchmark and – in acting terms – make it your own is going to be a great challenge.”

He adds that the show will be a physical and fun challenge for the entire cast.

“It’s just going to be one of those rapid-fire shows where things are constantly moving and the more into it you are the better it is for the audience,” Townsend said.

“It’s a really interesting thing with the characters that people have such an expectation of they’re going to be,” Ellias said. “So how you make that work, bring your own piece to it, and at the same time give something familiar to them it’s really interesting.”

Townsend added that the stage show provides an opportunity to get “up close and personal” with the story in a way that the movie does not.

“The wonderful thing about the Guild theater is that it’s an intimate setting,” Townsend said. “So to be that close to the ruby slippers, to be that close to the Tin Man I think is a really unique experience.”

“You’re going to be in the Emerald City, you’re going to be in the witch’s chamber,” Ellias added.

Tom Varitek, who plays the Tin Man, is pleased to have a chance to do a show with his daughter Anna.

“My house is all about football – I have a young football player at home, and this gave me a chance to do something with my daughter, who’s going to play a Munchkin,” Varitek said. “So we figured we do this together.”

He encourages people to come with their families to see the show.

“Just as I’m in the show with (one of) my kids I think it’s a great show for people to come out, all ages,” Varitek said. “This show’s been around for generations, so for everybody from grandparents to the parents all the way down to grandkids and kids it’s a good show.”

Bielaniec, who plays Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch, is looking forward to playing her first villain role.

“I’m really excited about that, getting to be over-the-top mean and angry and vindictive,” Bielaniec said. “I don’t usually get to play that so it’s pretty exciting.”

She’s planning to go home and look in the mirror as she works on the witch’s cackle.

Bielaniec, who is in her early 20s, is not sure whether they will age her to play the character.

Even if people know the movie well, she encourages them to discover the differences in the stage show.

“We don’t have Judy Garland here playing it, we don’t have Margaret Hamilton – it’s completely different people playing these parts,” Bielaniec said. “So everybody brings something different to it – you can’t go wrong coming to see the show … it’s so much more dynamic seeing it in front of you live than just watching it on a screen.”

She anticipates having fun while bossing others around in her role.

“It’s funny because I’m shorter than the girl who plays Dorothy,” Bielaniec said. “So everyone’s taller than me, and I get to boss everyone around and yell at everyone so I think that’s going to be a pretty funny dynamic.”

Laura Tyler is looking forward to choreographing the 13 children who play the Munchkins, two of whom are her own daughters, as well as the adults who play the Scarecrow and Tin Man.

“The little kids are always so much fun to work with,” Tyler said. “The Scarecrow is going to be my biggest challenge. He has the most out of anybody. And then of course the Tin Man has his little dance that he does, but I think my favorite is going to be the Munchkins.”

She said that the children who play the Munchkins are at different skill levels when it comes to dance, but that they take direction very well, and are hard workers.

She said the show is a lot of fun, and it makes people “want to get out of their seats and go to Oz.”

“The cast is just amazing – they work really hard to bring Oz to life,” Tyler said. “And I think (the audience) is just going to get sucked into the show when Dorothy goes over the rainbow.”

In addition to co-producing the show, Richard Moore is looking forward to seeing his two young sons, who have both been a part of the summer Guildling shows, on stage together.

He is also gearing up for a very demanding show from a production standpoint.

“This is probably one of the most technical-heavy shows I will have ever produced,” Moore said. “We will be flying people in the show which (the Guild) hasn’t done more than a couple of times.”

He said the set, designed by Lynne and Floyd Bell, is going to be phenomenal.

“It’s going to master the amount of space and yet allow the cast plenty of room to maneuver,” Moore said.

He said that technical director David Reynolds Jr. will master the illusion of the tornado.

“The house will pivot and spin,” Moore said. “When it is done the house that you initially see will flip around and then you’ll see the damaged side and the witch will be there, so it will be rather fascinating to pull it together.”

He feels that his crew is up to the technical challenges the show presents.

“This will be a lot of fun in all aspects,” Moore said. “Making it a terrific show for the audience, and… challenging the cast and the crew to make this a special event.”

Co-producer Chris Boudreau is looking forward to working on a show in which his daughter Molly is a Munchkin.

“This is a very exciting, time-honored play. I’m looking forward to bringing it to the stage,” Boudreau said. “Most people are familiar with the plot. I’m hoping through our interpretation we’ll bring back some childhood memories and encourage some new memories, and provide just a good night of entertainment for the family.”

LaFramboise is excited to be playing Auntie Em in the show.

“Loved the show for many, many years, grew up with it, never been involved in it before and now I get a chance to,” LaFramboise said. “The show is just so well known by everyone, although I forget that maybe little kids don’t know it as well as we grown-ups do. But any time you come to see a show at the Players Guild it’s a wonderful show – it really is worth it.”

Guild seeks new members
The Players Guild of Dearborn will hold an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 8 for newcomers interested in joining the Guild. Behind the scene tours will be offered at the Guild theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn, and committee members will be available to answer questions. Call Frann Stempek at (734) 752-3774 for more information.

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