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Curtain Up: Beloved musicals, children’s books hit the stage at Allenberry | The Sentinel – Local Scene

David N. Dunkle For The Sentinel

Allenberry Playhouse is set to spin up its next production, a remarkably faithful stage recreation of a classic film from 1939 known as “The Wizard of Oz.”

Talk about beloved source material.

This was the early color film that gave us Judy Garland, a remarkable tornado, Munchkins, wicked witches, a little dog named Toto and what still stands as the definitive rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

Oh, there was a skywriting witch and some flying monkeys, too.

Dustin LeBlanc, artistic director for Keystone Theatrics, which stages the plays at Allenberry, said the community theater group is not trying to mimic Hollywood-style special effects, even 1939 vintage.

He’s a little cagey about exactly what that means.

“We are trying to keep things simpler, yet effective,” LeBlanc said of the “Oz” production. “There are certain elements of the classic (film) you want to honor. At the same time, you can make use of some different visuals to give things a fresher perspective.”

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Practically every American has seen “The Wizard of Oz” at least once in their lives. Many have even read some of the 14 children’s novels by L. Frank Baum that launched the Oz franchise at the dawn of the 20th century.

When dealing with such beloved material, LeBlanc said it’s important to be respectful of what has gone before yet still seeking creative new ways to look at the story.

“It’s always been my mother’s favorite movie,” LeBlanc admitted. “Maybe at its heart, it’s a story of friendship and about learning that the qualities you’ve been seeking are already inside you.”

“The Wizard of Oz” opens July 22 and runs through Aug. 7 at Allenberry’s long-running theater.

Musical adaptation

Gretna Theater, which is marking a remarkable 95th season in Lebanon County this summer, checks in Thursday with the opening of an ambitious production of the popular “Matilda the Musical.”

Gretna’s latest musical, based on British writer Roald Dahl’s dark yet witty children’s novel from 1988, features a number of Actors Equity performers in key roles in the 23-member cast.

Among them are Zach Tallman and Alex Keiper as Matilda Wormwood’s less than stellar parents, and Randall Frizado as evil headmistress Trunchbull. An experienced young actor named Luli Mitchell takes the title role.

Echoes of Little Orphan Annie abound in Dahl’s “Matilda,” about an oppressed little girl and a gang of (mostly) willing mates who prove quite capable of outsmarting a list of adult opponents that includes Matilda’s own parents.

Unlike Annie, Matilda Wormwood is possessed of telekinetic abilities and a genius IQ that found her reading Dickens’ “Great Expectations” by the age of 5. Turning the tables is a Matilda speciality.

This musical, which features music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and a book by Dennis Kelly, launched in London’s West End in 2010 on a commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company. A Broadway version ran from 2013-17 and earned five Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical for Kelly.

“Matilda the Musical” is still running in London, but Gretna’s production is slated to end on July 23.

Celebration of the ’60s

If ’60s music and female potential appeal to you, Totem Pole Playhouse’s current production of “Beehive: The 60’s Music” may curl your hair.

This nostalgic jukebox-style show created by Larry Gallagher celebrates memorable female pop singers from 60 years ago, including stars such as Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Carole King and Tina Turner.

Songs include classic hits like “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Be My Baby,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Proud Mary” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Told from the perspective of six young women who came of age in a turbulent when beehives were a hot decade ‘do, the show evokes the many challenges that Americans, and particularly women, faced.

“Beehive: The ’60s Musical” is rated G, making it suitable for families. It runs through July 24 at the summer stock theater in Caledonia State Park near Fayetteville.

Area theaters continue to take precautions to protect actors, staff and audience members from COVID-19. Check theater web sites for the latest updates on protocols and safety guidelines.

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