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Black Dirt Theater presents summer musical, ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Joren Skov, left, David Blissenbach and Cory Doffing rehearse for the show. (Submitted photo by Andrew Hill)1 / 4
Pictured, from left, are Aiden Herr, Avery Fredericks, Alyssa Nestingen, Abby Gonko, Sydney Herr, Ava Mamer, Lauren Reuter. (Submitted photo by Andrew Hill)2 / 4
Cast members focused on the music at their Monday night rehearsal. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)3 / 4
A group of girls practices one of the songs during rehearsal. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)4 / 4

Hastings will get its sixth annual community theater musical starting next weekend. Black Dirt Theater is putting the finishing touches on this year’s production, “The Wizard of Oz.”

The musical features local actor/singers of all ages.

“I wanted to have … a show that’s going to allow for young actors and experienced, older actors alike,” said Artistic Director Robin Starch.

It’s also a show that’s a classic fan favorite and actor favorite.

“Everybody kind of has an experience with the movie,” she said, “and it’s kind of fun to be able to pick a show that people know and can hum along with the songs.”

This production holds to the traditional story.

“It’s like the movie,” Starch said, “except there are three songs that were cut from the movie, that when it was made into a stage musical production, they put the songs back in. … So we have done that as well.”

There are 140 people in the show, and about 30 volunteers besides.

“It’s managed with these volunteer coordinator leaders,” Starch explained.

The show is one that easily allows for the large cast; there can be 20 Winkies (the witch’s guard) who all come on stage at once, “provide a little comedy, to not really have to speak or sing or dance, but just be a part of moving the story along,” Starch said.

And there can be 25 Munchkins (who had to meet a low height criteria). And there can be several adults and children playing the parts of Emerald City Citizens.

This year, the musical was able to add a number of people who had been associated with previous productions but hadn’t taken the step onto the stage. Several mothers, Starch said, had previously been involved with helping their children act in previous shows. But this year, many of them auditioned themselves.

Backstage, the musical is coming together at the hands of volunteers. Parents help out with the children when they’re not on stage, helping them line up and leading them on stage when needed. The “Black Dirt Moms” sometimes provide the group pot lucks, help out in the scene shop or help build sets and costumes.

There are five costume designers and about 12 people on the costume staff.

Directors are Starch and Aimee Lane, who brings an extensive theater background to the show. Lane focuses mostly on the “Fab Five” (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy and Toto), while Starch is in charge of the big groups, like the Munchkins, Winkies and Emerald City Citizens.


The Wizard of Oz opens on the Hastings High School auditorium stage on July 29.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. July 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. July 31.

The following week, shows will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 3, Aug. 4 and Aug. 6. There is no show Aug. 5. The final show will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 7.

Tickets are $14 and may be purchased ahead of time online at www.blackdirtthe Tickets will also be available at the door.