Our Gang and ‘Oz’ Go Together Like Hot Dogs and Mustard

See Them in Barnegat This Weekend
By RICK MELLERUP | Apr 22, 2019
Photo by: Heather Bottles Tinman - Riley Stoops ; Lion - Ryan King ; Dorothy - Lauren Pascucci ; Scarecrow - Frankie Petillo

Surf City — The Our Gang Players will be performing “The Wizard of Oz” in the Bengal Auditorium of Barnegat High School at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. Our Gang and “Oz” go together like peanut butter and jelly.

When Ocean County’s longest running community theater troupe was formed way back in 1977, its purpose was to introduce children to the joys of live musical theater and, even more basically, to give the young children of LBI something to do during the Island’s long and often dreary winters. Through the decades it added junior (middle school and high school) and adult divisions and grew, so much so that it now has over 300 members from all over Ocean County and beyond.

But its original mission of introducing kids to musical theater always has remained a focal point. Even when its adult division performs shows, Our Gang co-founder and Artistic Director Sherry Schnepp is always looking to produce musicals that include or could include large casts of kids as well as adults, such as “Oliver” or “State Fair.” So “The Wizard of Oz” is an Our Gang natural and is rolled out every few years. This weekend’s performances will feature even more children than most previous Our Gang productions of “Wizard” because it is a junior division show, with lead roles played by teens instead of adults.

A synopsis of “The Wizard of Oz” seems superfluous, but just in case a reader somehow has never seen the classic 1939 film version starring Judy Garland or heard the breathtakingly beautiful “Over the Rainbow,” here it is in short:

Young Dorothy Gale (Lauren Pascucci in the Our Gang version) and her little dog, Toto, get caught up in a tornado. When they land, Dorothy quickly realizes they’re not in Kansas anymore.

Instead they’re in the Land of Oz – in Munchkinland, specifically. That’s where they meet a good witch, Glinda (Stella Crowley), and a decidedly bad Wicked Witch of the West (Ryleigh McDonald). Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, where she can seek help in getting home from the great and powerful Wizard of Oz (Ryan Cubeiro).

Dorothy is off to see the Wizard. But first she meets a Scarecrow (Frankie Petillo), a Tinman (Riley Stoops) and a Cowardly Lion (Ryan King).

The trip isn’t an easy one for the new quartet of friends. First they battle a grove of apple-throwing trees; then they are seduced by a field of deadly poppies. They finally make it to the city’s gates and meet the Wizard, who demands payment of a sort before he’ll help them – Dorothy and Co. must bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Off the Fab Four head toward her castle. Suddenly they’re attacked – by monkeys. Flying monkeys!

Dorothy is captured and taken to WWW, who imprisons Dorothy and tells her she has only an hour to live.

Will Dorothy escape or be rescued? Will Scarecrow get a brain, Tinman a heart and Lion some courage? Is the Wizard really great and powerful enough to get Dorothy back to Kansas? And wait a minute – where’s Toto? Nope, I’m not going to spoil the ending – if you’ve lived this long and haven’t seen “The Wizard of Oz,” you can wait a couple more days and take in the show to get answers.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $12 for children younger than 13. They may be purchased online at ourgang.org/tickets, by phone at 609-597-0553, or at the door.

Rick Mellerup


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