Tallahatchie River Players are off to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ this week

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Children and adults alike will have the chance to walk down the yellow brick road into the realm of witches, flying monkeys, munchkins, and enjoy the magical tale of friendship between a little girl named Dorothy and the friends she meets along the way.
This weekend welcomes the Tallahatchie River Players’ production of the classic story “The Wizard of Oz.” This is a show for all ages and is a prime example of a community coming together with a huge cast of volunteers, actors and actresses to make this show a success.
“It is impossible to do something of this size and scope by yourself,” said first-time Director Renee Reid. “It takes a whole community to pull this off.”
More than 150 parents and friends have volunteered on some level to help out with the play and twelve seamstresses have volunteered their time and talents to make the costumes.
Reid said, “These are ways that we as a community can give back and be a part of that educational process. What you will see here is a glimpse of what you can see in the future for our community. These kids will be who we grow up to be. Our community is only as good as the investment we put into it and I think we should put everything we got into making sure tomorrow is brighter because they are what tomorrow is.”
Over one hundred children from grades first to the sixth grade will act in this play.
“I always said if I ever directed a stage play, I would want it to be ‘The Wizard.’ I knew being a children’s production this would be a big undertaking,” said Reid. “And, when we had so many kids audition, I knew that this was going to be even bigger than I imagined.”
Reid said that this version of “The Wizard of Oz” is shorter, simplistic, less complex, and is a basic story of good versus evil. She said that Dorothy emphasizes or showcases her own confidence and individualism.
“We have the wicked witch and the evil monkeys. It is not a musical, but there is a lot of dancing in it. We incorporated contemporary dance, which Justine Stewart from New Albany School of Ballet and Dance helped out with. There is a wind dance, traditional ballet pieces with the poppies, a gymnastics scene, and more. I think dance provided texture to the play,” said Reid.
All of the people in the play are members of the Tallahatchie River Players.
“TRP has never done a production like this before, this size, this large of a budget. We are so fortunate to have corporate sponsors. We have cast more children than ever before and we have more volunteers than we have ever had before,” said Reid.
She added, “New Albany is so blessed. We’ve got the talent here. We tend to try to make experiences out of everything we do. It’s magical what you get out of theater.”
Grace Thompson, Dorothy #5, said, “I like coming to see my friends.” Audrey Littlejohn, “Fire”, said, “I am excited about being in the play, but kind of nervous.”
Reid said, “‘The Wizard of Oz’ is such a classic story, but not only that, our community has really done a lot to work together in the last few years. With us trying to put community first, I cannot think of any better way to put your community first than to put the welfare and the confidence and the education of your children first. That to me is what this production is all about. That is why I stay up until 2 a.m. sewing costumes, that is why I am up here at 10 at night is because these children don’t have a lot of the opportunities I had growing up because our world is not as safe as it used to be. With the cuts in the funding for education, they have to focus on ABCs, 123s – they don’t get the chance to focus on arts and creative expression.”
The New Albany High School Building and Trades and Art departments have assisted with set design and construction.
The New Albany School System agreed to allow the show to be performed at the High School Auditorium to ensure a bigger audience gets to see the production.
New Albany School Superintendent Dr. Charles Garrett said, “’The Wizard of Oz’ is a classic. I know our young people will bring it to New Albany in an outstanding performance.”
TRP members Lydia Holley and Ellie Fitts commented on the play. Lydia Holley, yellow narrator, said, “I like coming to play practice. But, I won’t be sad when it’s over! I won’t have to memorize lines anymore.” Ellie Fitts, orange narrator, said, “I’ve enjoyed it all and will be sad when it is over.”
The Tallahatchie River Players will stage a children’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” on August 13 and 14 at 7:00 p.m. at the New Albany High School Auditorium. To purchase tickets, call the New Albany Main Street Association at 534-3438 or go by their office at 135 East Bankhead Street in downtown New Albany.

“Wizard of Oz” cast list

Purple: Molly Scott
Yellow: Lydia Holley
Red: Lexie Kent
Green: Carly Hill
Blue: Mackenzie Armstrong
Orange: Ellie Fitts

Dorothy #1: Chloe Lang
Dorothy #2: Sarah Kathryn Harris
Dorothy #3: Natalie Young
Dorothy #4: Alli Hodges
Dorothy #5: Grace Thompson
Dorothy #6: Josi Hill

Toto: Emma Reid

Dream Bubbles:    
Janiya Rutherford
Hayden Duran

Auntie Em: Karlie Topper

Uncle Henry: Dakota Wiggins

Cyclone:    Kaci Deaton

Wind Dancers:
Ivy Jennings Jordan – Cyclone Dancer
Natalie Pullman – CycLone Dancer
Katelin Denham
Keri Deaton
Tristin Golding
Madison Foster
Alexus Gilliam
Maria Williams
Hillary Mcbrayer

Storm Victims:
Cow: Peyton Henry
Trees: Abby Wiseman     
Bike: Lacy Raines

Glinda The Good Witch:
Grace Aldridge

Munchkin Jenny:    Katie Johnson
Munchkin Curly:    Bailey Ervin
Munchkin Burly:    Will Norwood

Lollipop Guild:
Elliot Pullman
Ethan Davis

Lullaby League:    
Maggie Scott
Laura Grace Hardy
Cheri Lankin
Caroline Greer

Munchkin Mayor:    
Jeremy Powell

Munchkin Coroner:  
CheroKee Hall

Slipper Munchkins:
Caleigh Coleman
Kailey Beth Edwards

Munchkin Ladies:
Elizabeth Holland
Bonnie Littlejohn
Taylor Grace Willis
Sydney Meggs
Courtney Bingham

Scarecrow #1: Eli Jackson
Scarecrow #2: Destin Bryant

Allyson Chapin
Christiana Rowan

Mean Trees:
Woody:    Parker Reid
Shady:    Joseph Rutherford
Knotty:    Hunter Hodges

Tinman:    Aaron Estes

Olivia Davis
Mary Greer    

Cowardly Lion:  
Meg Bramlett

Shelby Grant – Poppy Queen
Jodi Parks
Bailey Robertson
Macy Moorehead
Caroline King
Madison Nobles
Cecilia Pullman

Payton Tyra

Wizard Of Oz:    
Tripp Mills

Wizard Assistant:    
Ellie Clark

Wizard Maidens:
Caroline Wigington
Sanders Goode
Ali Buskirk
Katie Topper

Emerald City Child:
Hannah Harris

Emerald City Ladies:
Sarah Grace Wise
Alex Wilhite
Sarah Gaines
Jasmine Hood
Avery Robbins
Hannah Harris

Wicked Witch:       
Carly Spencer

Flying Monkeys:
Chimp:    Zack Lyons
Scamp:    Jonathan Tucker
Rascal:    Ishmon Foster
Fletcher Daniel
Joseph Fennell
Caroline Jennings
Casey Garrett

Max Spencer
Adalyn Aldridge
Audrey Littlejohn

Balloon Attendents:
Kaitlin Horne
Anna Kate Stanford

Program Munchkins:
Savanna Harlow
Shaelee Manning
Riana Hood
Nicole Young
Owen Grace Swords
Amber Cooksey
Morgan Pipkin