111Cleland, theater arts teacher for grades seven and eight in Canfield, said she toyed with the idea of doing the show, made famous by the 1939 film of the same name, for several years but never did for several reasons, mostly the cost.
“Rights to a Broadway musical like that would cost us about $3,000,” she said. “The story of ‘Oz’ has such greatness already, so I thought I could update it.”
Instead of Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers and gingham dress, Dot, played by Rosie Bresson, wears ruby-red Reeboks, jeans and a blue checked shirt.
In Cleland’s version, “OZ: I Don’t Think We’re in Canfield Anymore,” Dot is a student at Canfield Middle School who faces bullying issues.
“Dot is dealing with these issues, starting during her day at school,” Cleland said. “As she goes home, the weather changes, and she arrives in Oz.”
The play runs today and Saturday starting at 7 p.m. Tickets at the door are $5 for students and seniors and $8 for adults.
Bresson, 13, said being part of an original piece allows the whole cast more creative liberty.
“It’s a lot of fun, and you get to be more creative in what you do with it,” she said. “I like it because Dot is just trying to be like a typical teenager.”
Gillian Jennings, 14, plays Jody, a secretary to The Wizard, and said the cast and crew has worked non-stop for weeks.
“It amazes me how it all came together,” she said. “There are some really funny moments throughout the play, so I’m nervous but also excited.”
Throughout Dot’s adventure to see The Wizard, she encounters The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man, just like in the original story, but Cleland said her goal was to help the 65 cast and crew members connect with the story.
She said the music and lines are updated, and the story itself is like a lesson within a lesson.
“Drama used to be the cool thing to do, but it’s not cool anymore,” she said. “There’s peer pressure on these kids, and that is the whole underlying point of the play.”
Cleland said she tweaked the idea of “There’s no place like home” because for many children, home isn’t always where they want to be.
She said that in the end, Dot makes her way back home and conveys her final message to the audience, which is, “Home may not be perfect, but it’s mine, and I can make the choice to make it better.”