COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
Casting Diamond Head Theatre's "Wizard of Oz" was an adventure in itself.
Kids and dogs and Oz -- oh my!
Among the many pithy quips and cynical quotes attributed to the late W.C. Fields is a warning about never sharing the stage with children or animals.
'The Wizard of Oz'
Place: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
Dates: Opens 8 p.m. Friday; continues 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, to Aug. 3. Plus 3 p.m. July 19, 26 and Aug. 2
Tickets: $12 to $42
Call: 733-0274 or online at diamondheadtheatre.com
So much for Fields' advice! Diamond Head Theatre Artistic Director John Rampage is working with children and animals -- again! -- in the theater's latest production of "The Wizard of Oz."
It's been five years since the theater last staged the perennially popular stage version of L. Frank Baum's fantasy. The 2003 production starred Kim Anderson as a decidedly prepubescent, yet preternaturally mature, Dorothy Gale, and Kathleen Sulieman stole several scenes as a surprisingly glamorous and sensual Wicked Witch of the West.
Sulieman has been enticed back to reprise her role, but Anderson has long since blossomed into adult roles. That left Rampage and director Rob Duval with the challenge of casting a new Dorothy, a new troupe of 20 Munchkins, and the right dog to play Toto.
Kalia Medeiros stars as Dorothy in what is already an extended run. Justin Hashimoto (Scarecrow), Daniel Lloyd Pias (Tin Man), Larry Bialock (Cowardly Lion) and Paul Mitri (Oz) join Sulieman in supporting roles.
Rampage and Duval also auditioned more than 130 people, "most of them kids," in assembling a cast of 41 humans and a dog.
Surprisingly, finding the right dog was an easier task than casting 20 Munchkins.
"It's difficult casting Munchkins. They have to be of a certain size, obviously ... but they have to be old enough to understand their responsibility," Rampage said. "We had some adorable 5- and 6-year-olds -- adorable! -- that were the right size, but had no concept of what they were going to be doing. Even the audition process was (too much) for them."
In fact, the Munchkins are required to perform with minimal direction.
"The Munchkin section of the show is almost 20 minutes long, and for a lot of that time the only adult up there is Dorothy, so it's a big, big, big responsibility for them," Rampage continues. "Plus, several of them have to step out there and be characters, and they have to be characters that were created in the movie by adults."
Prospective Munchkins' family commitments, vacations and summer school also made the search challenging. Plus, there was the additional hurdle of garnering parents' commitments to become "Munchkin wranglers" for rehearsals and through the run.
Dog auditions, on the other hand, were "delightful."
"The audition was great fun," said Rampage. "We had about 12 auditioners -- some really, really adorable dogs -- and it's not that much different from an adult audition. As sometimes happens ... the ones who look right many times can't carry (the role), and the ones who can carry it don't look right, but we did find a really delightful dog."