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‘The Wizard of Oz’ opens July 18 at The Phipps

Pictured during a rehearsal of “The Wizard of Oz” are, from left, Alex Collins, Hudson, as the Scarecrow; Kevin Pelzel, Hudson, as the Tin Man; Emily Albert Stauning, St. Paul, as Dorothy Gale; and Elijah Wood, Hudson, as the Cowardly Lion. (Submitted photo)

The Wizard of Oz,” the classic tale by L. Frank Baum, will be produced by The Phipps Children’s Theater July 18-Aug. 3 at The Phipps Center for the Arts.

Director John Nickolaus-Johnson explains, “The approach we are taking to this time honored classic is from the viewpoint that it’s never been performed before. We’ve set the story back in 1899, when it was written, and used an actual touring show L. Frank Baum produced as our inspiration. This allowed the cast to create characters that weren’t based on the 1939 MGM film, but from their own imagination. It’s been a joy to watch them breathe new life into this journey down the beloved yellow brick road.”

The cast features 41 talented young people ages 10-22, including Emily Albert Stauning, St. Paul, as Dorothy Gale; Alex Collins as the Scarecrow; Kevin Pelzel as the Tin Man; Elijah Wood as the Cowardly Lion; Jordan Stewart as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North; and Mackenzie Armbruster as the Wicked Witch of the West, all of Hudson.

“As a little girl, I remember how enthusiastically I would be watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with my family,” recalls Armbruster. “It has always been a dream to be a part of this production.”

This familiar story begins with a quiet ranch in Kansas where families struggle to make ends meet. Dorothy sets the story in motion with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a song that eventually leads her to realize happiness is where the heart lies.

“One of my favorite things about ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is the theme ‘home is where the heart is,’” observes Stauning. “You hold the key to your happiness, power, and hope.”

Collins should win fans with the song “If I Only Had a Brain,” but the musical offers a rare opportunity to hear a song deleted from the original 1939 movie called “The Jitterbug,” which happens to be his favorite song in the production.

“This is my favorite song because it’s fun to dance around like a, well, brainless scarecrow who has no idea what he’s doing,” the actor laughingly comments.

Wood says his character’s well known song is a family favorite. “I really enjoy ‘King of the Forest;’ it’s such a dark and fun song, and my dad used always sing it.”

While some songs were sung by his family, Pelzel comments, “Being in the show brings back all the fun memories of when I was a munchkin in the high school show seven years ago.”

“Maybe I’ll get a chance to sing the lead in this musical when I’m in high school,” says Munchkin actress Lane Burke, Hudson. “For now I’m going to enjoy the memories we’re making today.”

“The Wizard of Oz” will run for 12 performances, July 18-Aug. 3, on Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., as well as Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students of all ages, with a $2 discount for seniors on the Sunday matinees. Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at 715.386.8409 or online at

Champagne brunch cruise and theater packages are available for the Sunday matinees. Reservations may be made by contacting Afton-Hudson Cruise Lines at (651) 436-8883 or online at