“The Wizard of Oz” is the stuff of legend: One of the greatest movies of all time, the buoyant, indelible musical-fantasy gave Judy Garland her start; turned a scruffy Cairn terrier into a household name; and captivated audiences with flying monkeys, dueling witches, a gleaming Emerald City and a catchphrase perhaps more resonant now than ever before (“there’s no place like home”).
And home is exactly where you can watch the Young People’s Theater’s live performance of “The Wizard of Oz” from today (Friday), beginning at 4 p.m. (Unless, that is, you are an immediate family member of one of the 10 young stars of this show, in which case you’ll be ensconced in what artistic director Leah Heidenreich called “family pods” in the Sheridan Opera House itself.)
With so much illustrious history in its wake, you might expect Heidenreich to have chosen a stage adaptation of “Oz” specifically written and edited for young performers. That would be a reasonable route to take (and certainly the easiest for her). But no: “I shaved the musical” — which is to say, the standard musical — “down to an hour for the kids,” the director said. “Technically, I adapted it. It’s all the songs we know, ‘The Merry Old Land of Oz,’ ‘Over the Rainbow,’ the munchkin sequence. I just kind of edited it down to make it doable for 10 kids in five days” (the amount of time the cast of 8-to-13-year-olds had to learn both lines and songs).
The songs may have been the easy part. (Check out the Young People’s Theater Facebook page for an impressive sample of what some of these performers do with “Hamilton.”) “The lingo is really hard,” Heidenreich said. “The dialogue is not the easiest for kids to memorize,” replete as it is with phrases common 80 years ago (when “Oz” was originally released), such as, “Very well, I’ll bide my time. And as for you my fine lady, just try to stay out of my way” (a threat leveled early on by the Wicked Witch). Or: “That’s a very mediocre commodity” (as the Wizard of Oz remarks to the Scarecrow about having a brain).
“These are long scenes,” relatively speaking, the director added. “Summer Spectacular” performances are usually 35 minutes or so in length; this one’s an hour. The extra effort is paying off. “The kids are crushing it,” Heidenreich said. “I’m so proud.”
A cameraman from Telluride TV will record the performance, so those who cannot watch it for free live on social media Friday at 4 p.m. can view it later — and perhaps, make a donation to YPT as well. As the Sheridan Arts foundation’s executive director Ronnie Palamar wrote in a letter to the organization’s friends recently, “During this difficult period, our mission continues to be to maintain the historic Sheridan Opera House as a central part of the Telluride community … However, we are facing significant challenges since our primary function is to hold events for large public gatherings, which are not permitted or appropriate at this time.”
Indeed, “We do not foresee opening our theater for large gatherings until December 2020 at the earliest,” Palamar added. “During this unprecedented time when we are unable to generate our usual programming income, every financial contribution helps.” Visit sheridanoperahouse.com to learn more.
Also performing at — or at least, very close by — the Sheridan Opera House (this weekend is musician Andrew Portwood, the lead singer/songwriter of Colorado jam band Frogs Gone Fishin. Portwood is in concert at the Sheridan’s SHOW bar Friday and Saturday from 7-9 p.m.
“We extended our outdoor patio, with seven cocktail tables, outside the opera house,” the Sheridan’s facilities and production manager Josh Laydon explained, “and people set up their (socially-distanced) blankets on the grass.”
Like many bands this season, FGF has been sidelined by the coronavirus. Yet Portwood, who has performed with Trampled By Turtles, Dumpstaphunk and Greensky Bluegrass, among many others, is not performing solo: “We’ve seen him play with at least two other musicians,” Layden said. “Last weekend he flew in his drummer. The Telluride crowd seems to love him.”
Back, as they say, by popular demand: this will be Portwood’s third straight weekend to play at the SHOW Bar.