East Penn Press

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dorothy actress travels back to ‘Oz’ at State

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 by MAKENNA MASENHEIMER Special to The Press in Focus

Kalie Kaimann is heading down the Yellow Brick Road again as Dorothy Gale.

The national tour of the musical version of the beloved 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz,” stops for performances at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton.

“This is my second time playing Dorothy. I had the honor to play [the role] last year with The Children’s Theatre in my hometown of Cincinnati,” says Kaimann in a phone interview.

The musical and movie are based on the book by L. Frank Baum with music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg and background music by Herbert Stothart.

Dorothy is a wistful Kansas girl who is whisked away to the magical Land of Oz. Along the way, she teams up with the Tin Man (Christopher Russell), Cowardly Lion (Victor Legarreta) and Scarecrow (Chris Duir). They embark on a journey to reach the mysterious Wizard of Oz (Kirk Lawrence) and defeat the Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Perzan).

Kaimann’s favorite part of the show is the Jitterbug Scene, which was cut from the original movie.

“There’s this big dance number that we get to feature our company in. It’s just another trick of the Witch that is kind of neat. We get to dance and have fun. I love that piece,” says Kaimann.

In a phone interview, Russell says he enjoys the moment his character, the Tin Man, receives a heart.

“[The show] is very fast-paced, but that moment I can actually sit into and relate very closely with this one character,” Russell says.

The Reading, Berks County, native says that getting involved with theater at a young age changed his life.

“I did a lot of work at Genesius Theatre [in Reading] when I was a preteen and teen. I was sort of an outsider kid and had I not found that I don’t know that I would have made it through high school. It was a life-changing experience to find that group [Genesius Theatre],” says Russell.

“I’ve done a few things with Bill [Sanders, artistic director] at Civic [Theatre in Allentown]. I love working with Bill. I did his ‘Christmas Carol’ a few years ago, as Scrooge, which was an amazing experience.”

Russell has watched “The Wizard of Oz” since childhood but had not been in a production before the tour.

“Frank Morgan was amazing in the movie. None of us are doing carbon-copies, but I think we all infused our characters with that flavor. I think an audience walking in and seeing a totally different interpretation of the character would be jarring,” Russell says.

Kaimann looked to Judy Garland’s original portrayal for inspiration.

“I think since the movie’s so iconic, it’s kind of what people are expecting. So you have to pay respects to the movie a little bit. I try to emulate a little bit of what Judy Garland gave. I try to capture her innocence and try to emulate the style of speaking they had back then. I think we’ve all kind of come to our own in our roles as well,” says Kaimann.

The actors praise the excellent cast, crew and production team.

“We have the most amazing crew, first off. We travel with about seven people who come in, set the thing up before we get there, break it down and leave while we’re sleeping. They are amazing to work with.

“They, of course, wrangle all the local crews that we come into. They are the real rock stars of this work. It’s a really good group of people to live with for nine months,” Russell says.

Kaimann agrees that the touring company works well together.

“We got really lucky. We have a really good cast. Everybody is just really positive and really great, really talented. We’ve definitely created a little family,” Kaimann says.

Kaimann and Russell believe that the colorful, imaginative production which features classic songs including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “If I Only Had A Brain” and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” will captivate audiences.

“I hope they’re transported for a little bit. It’s kind of nice to have at little fantasy, a little heart-warming adventure. [I hope that] they breathe a little,” Russell says.

Says Kaimann, “When you go to see a show, it’s a getaway for two or so hours. You get to go on this trip. ‘Wizard of Oz’ is a show that relates to people of all ages and backgrounds, which is really great. I think that there’s a lot to get out of the show but I just hope that they’re enjoying themselves for a little bit.”

Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132