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Iconic show lands at playhouse
Oz WEB 1
Annabella Barks, center, as Dorothy Gail, and Danica Tyler, left, and Piper Martin as flying monkeys rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” The show will run Thursday-Sunday through July 1. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Decked out in a green gingham dress topped with an overcoat and tiny top hat of the same color, Cheryl Rogers proclaimed herself the “world’s oldest munchkin.”

“I’m sort of the grandma of the group,” she joked, as her plastic emerald necklace caught the stage light during a recent dress rehearsal of Gypsy Theatre Company’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The show began its three-week run at the Cumming Playhouse on Thursday. It concludes July 1.

Rogers said she was thrilled to be a part of the local production of the show, based on the classic novel by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 film.

“I’ve watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ probably longer than the rest [of the cast],” she said. “I know the story and I love it.”

Annabella Barks, who portrays Dorothy Gale, called the chance to portray the lead “a dream come true.”

“I mean, everybody wants to be Dorothy,” she said, noting that her favorite part of the show was the chance to perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“It’s a very relatable song, so I really loved getting to sing that,” said Barks, who just graduated from West Forsyth High School and will study theatre at the Boston Conservatory in the fall. “It’s such an iconic piece.”

The show’s director, who goes only by the name Mercury, said Barks’ performance will be memorable.

“The young lady playing Dorothy Gale is phenomenal,” he said. “There won’t be a dry eye in the house.”

Mercury added that directing a local version of such an iconic work was both challenging and rewarding.

“There are certain expectations that the audience has when they come to see the show and so we try to remain true to some of that, but we also like to bring our own sense of individuality to the production,” he said.

“I think people are pleasantly surprised at times when a character they’re so familiar with has an added dimension to them.”

Rogers said audiences “won’t be disappointed” with the adaptation of the classic.

Despite the relatively small space of the Cumming Playhouse, she said, there’s still room for special effects.

“Glenda the Good Witch comes in and floats down and floats back up and disappears, and the flying monkeys actually fly across the stage,” she said. “And the balloon that the wizard leaves in actually goes up.”

Audiences will also find a live Toto, portrayed by Mercury’s own dog, Scruffy.

“She still hasn’t learned any of her lines or her blocking, but we’ve worked around it,” he joked. “She’s having a blast with all these people.”

Linda Heard, executive director of the Cumming Playhouse, said she’s expecting big crowds for the show.

“‘Oz’ is an excellent show and a big summer event for students since school is now out,” Heard said. “I know parents and grandparents are always looking for suitable entertainment for the kids, and this will be [enjoyable] for all ages.”

Mercury added that while the show is well known the world over, audiences will be delighted by the live stage version.

“It’s such a wonderful story. I know that anybody who comes to see this, their heart will just be tickled with childhood memories and good times,” he said.