The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023

‘Wizard of Oz’ comes together at VWHS

CINDY WOOD/independent feature writer

No, they are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Anxiously awaiting the highly-anticipated Van Wert High School production of The Wizard of Oz, fans of the classic tale will find themselves following the yellow brick road, or in this case, following Ohio 118 to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

Harley Danylchuk (Dorothy, seated) practices a song with castmates in preparation for Van Wert High School's production of the classic tale of “The Wizard of Oz”. Tickets are now on sale at the NPAC box office. (Cindy Wood/Van Wert independent)

The curtain opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 18, with subsequent shows on Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20.  The production will be the culmination of months of practicing and memorizing lines, and extensive work behind the stage to create dramatic sets, in addition to over-the-top special effects.

Auditions for the production were held before Christmas break, and students and stage crew have been intensely working and practicing three nights a week to ensure the show goes off without a hitch. Director Chad Kraner said the much-loved classic tale of Dorothy and friends will appeal to a wide audience, and he’s hoping the community gets behind the production and comes out to support their efforts.

“We had some experience with Oz, and I just thought the kids did such a great job with Beauty and the Beast last year that we wanted them to have this opportunity for this year’s kids to do something like Oz,” Kraner said, adding that the recent release of Oz on the silver screen will help boost interest as well. “We didn’t know that movie was coming out when we made the decision to go with Oz, but I would think that the publicity will help bring more people out to see our show.”

The main characters in the play just recently began practicing “off book” and Kraner said they’re doing a fantastic job of getting into their roles. Playing Dorothy is Harley Danylchuk, while Hunter Munroe goes on a quest to find courage as the Cowardly Lion, Jesse Daniels plays the Tin Man, and Drew Hoffman is in search of a brain as the Scarecrow.

Morella Mills plays Glinda, the Good Witch, and Ashlee Dowdy takes on the role of the Wicked Witch of the West. Rounding out the main characters is Jacob Hoverman, who takes on a dual role as Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz himself. “And yes, we will have a Toto as well,” Kraner said with a laugh.

Many of the costumes for the main and supporting characters will be rented, saving valuable time needed to construct the elaborate sets required for the production. “We’re renting most of the costumes, but we did make the scarecrow and the tin man’s, because what’s out there for rentals for those two characters really doesn’t look that good,” Kraner said.

Josh Schumm is serving as the main set builder, and Schumm is currently working on the construction of a castle, something Kraner said the audience would most definitely be impressed with. “There are so many different scenes, so we have a lot of set pieces,” Kraner said, adding, “our back stage area will actually be pretty full with all the pieces.”

While Kraner said he doesn’t like to compare productions, there are certain special effects that will put the audience in mind of last year’s highly successful production of Beauty and the Beast. “There are quite a few differences, too, but some similarities,” he said, adding that one thing the audience might not expect is a comedic element the cast has added. “I think people will find some really funny stuff,” he said, adding that Hoverman, as Professor Marvel/the wizard, is a laugh a minute. “He’s playing a dual role, which is really challenging, but he’s nailing it and he’s very funny,” Kraner noted.

There will also be humorous elements surrounding scenes involving the wicked witch and the Army of Winkies. Stepping up to fill some of these roles will be several local elementary students. “There is a lot of interaction between the witch and the Army of the Winkies, and there’s quite a bit of humor in that scene,” Kraner said, adding, “I’m just totally impressed with how everything is coming together. You can really tell everyone has studied their lines and they’re taking it and running with it.”

Together, the cast and crew total about 60 people, making for one of VWHS’s largest productions. Additionally, the show presents quite a few technical and special effect challenges, something the crew is looking forward to. “We have some unique aspects with the tornado scenes, as well as some of the forest scenes,” Kraner said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but I think people will be highly entertained with this production.”

As expected, Matt and Hugh Saunier will be leading the charge in the special effects and technical aspects of the show. “Matt is just a really talented kid and he has a lot of really neat things planned with lighting the show,” Kraner said, adding that Melissa Bloomfield and Kim Pollock are assisting with choreography, and Tonia Gamble is assisting with the Munchkin scenes.

Tickets are now on sale at the NPAC box office. Cost is $7 for adults and $5 for students. Those wanting to catch up with the characters can visit their blog post at A “Meet the Cast” party will be held from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the NPAC. The event will offer snacks, coloring, as well as a chance to meet the characters from the show. Cost is $1. Those planning to attend should email with their RSVP.

POSTED: 03/30/13 at 7:10 am. FILED UNDER: News