12 local girls are off to sing with 'The Wizard'

TUPELO – When Dorothy needs to find the Yellow Brick Road, she’ll ask directions from Northeast Mississippi Munchkins.
A nationally touring stage version of “The Wizard of Oz” will feature 12 local girls when the show starts on Thursday at the BancorpSouth Arena.
“We’ll get to work with real professional actors,” 8-year-old Emma Kantack of Tupelo said with a big smile.
Emma and her friends have been practicing dance moves, perfecting their singing voices and dialing up the cuteness for about a month.
A representative from the arena contacted Sarah Karrant, who owns North Mississippi Dance Center, about “The Wizard of Oz” gig.
“I jumped at it,” Karrant said. “It’s a great opportunity for the girls.”
Karrant got a DVD and PowerPoint presentation that described the girls’ duties. The young performers, who can’t be taller than 5 feet or weigh more than 100 pounds, will be Munchkins in the first act, then turn into Winkies.
“A Winkie is one of the Wicked Witch’s soldiers,” said Mattie Hughes, 9, of Tupelo. “You march and you’re not really that happy, like you are when you’re a Munchkin.”
More than moves
They’ll be singing classic songs from the original movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” including “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”
Emma’s mom, Jerri Lamar Kantack, is an assistant music professor at Blue Mountain College. She volunteered her time at the piano to help the girls master the songs.
“I said, ‘This is what I do all day: Play and sing and teach,’” Kantack said.
Dance captain Jessica Franklin took the DVD home and studied the moves. During rehearsals, she stands in front of the class and models Munchkin behavior for the kids.
“It’s just amazing and exciting for everybody,” said Franklin, who’ll work backstage during the show.
Who knows? Maybe Thursday’s performance is the start of something bigger down the road.
“I love working with all my friends and doing the dancing and singing,” said 11-year-old Kaylie Crippin of Tupelo. “I want to be an actress when I grow up.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

From screen to stage
- What: “The Wizard of Oz”
- When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
- Where: BancorpSouth Arena
- Tickets: $25 to $55. Kids under 10 get $10 off. They’re available at the box office, www.bcsarena.com and (662) 841-6528
Fast fact
All 12 of the Northeast Mississippi girls who will perform in Thursday’s Broadway South Series show at the BancorpSouth Arena received shirts that say, “I was a MUNCHKIN in the National Tour of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Scott Morris