This timeless classic comes to life on the stage, complete with all your favorite characters: munchkins, flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Wizard, and of course, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto too! Even the Jitterbugs—which are in the original story but not in the movie--come to life in this performance geared for kids young and old. Featuring the classic songs, as composed by Harold Arlen, “Over the Rainbow,” “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “If I Only Had A Brain,” The Wizard of Oz will have your entire family captivated as you travel out of Kansas and down the yellow brick road during an unforgettable evening.
Sporting a large cast of 34 of the area’s most talented youth, LYST, a charitable 501 (c) (3) organization, has been entertaining and delighting audiences for decades and has become a much-loved family cooperative summer theater tradition for the entire community. Children in grades 4 though 12 rehearse almost every day for seven weeks, as well as host a car wash, raffle, and other activities to raise money; parents of the cast volunteer countless hours for the production.
A portion of the proceeds from LYST go to children’s charities selected by the cast. Proceeds from this year’s show will go to Autism Speaks, Nothing but Nets, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC). Since its founding in 1980, LYST has given more than $45,000 to charity, and past charities include The Children’s Room, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Room to Read, and Heifer International.
LYST’s director, Mark Mercer, hails from Andover High School where he has completely revitalized that school district’s choral and musical theatre programs. He holds bachelors’ and masters’ degrees in music education and has directed, music directed, and acted in a wide range of shows. Mercer was music director for LYST’s 2011 production of Bye Bye Birdie. Lexington’s very own Jennifer Wolfman returns to LYST as assistant director for this year’s trip to the Emerald City. Wolfman has an extensive background in theatre and working with young children; her past LYST productions include Grease and Bye Bye Birdie.
This dynamic directing team brings a youthful energy to the production, which, according to Mercer, portrays the Land of Oz in a unique way. “This is not your childhood Wizard of Oz. We’ve tried to put our own stamp on this classic favorite, while staying true to the story everyone loves,” he says.
Mercer like to keep things entertaining for the cast with lively singing warm-ups that get the kids on their feet and acting silly as they train their voices. Mercer brings an energetic, personal style to LYST. “I don’t just teach about music, I teach about life. Being confident, working in groups, compromising, getting in touch with your feelings, being a leader and a follower—musical theatre teaches all of these skills,” he says.
And while the kids are learning theatre and life skills during their five-night-a-week rehearsals, LYST parents are orchestrating all of the behind-the scenes activities, from set and costume design to fundraising, ticket sales, photography, backstage logistics, publicity, and more. Over 32 years, the theatre company’s strong sense of community and giving back to charity has fostered a cadre of dedicated families who come back year after year while also welcoming many newcomers. This year, the cast includes children from Andover, Burlington, Chelmsford, Lexington, and Melrose .
LYST’s production of The Wizard of Oz will be held at Grace Chapel, 59 Worthen Road, Lexington on July 26th and 27th at 7 p.m. and on July 28th at 1 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at: http://www.lexingtonyouthsummertheatre.org or at Catch a Falling Star, Levine Orthodontics, and Michelson’s Shoes in Lexington.
Grace Chapel is air conditioned and handicapped accessible. For more information, go http://www.lexingtonyouthsummertheatre.org.
The Wizard of OZ is directed by Mark Mercer, with assistant direction by Jennifer Wolfman. Choreography by Lauren Primerano.