Musical classic “The Wizard of Oz” set for Rushford Days

TCR/SCOTT BESTUL The Munchkins rehearse during the Wizard of Oz play practice this week. Opening night is July 17 at the R-P School auditorium.
By : 
Cadence McManimon

The Rushford Area Society of the Arts (RASA) brings another spectacular musical to life to help celebrate Rushford Days! 

The classic Wizard Of Oz musical, written by Frank Baum, hits the stage from July 17th through July 21st this year. 

Michelle Erickson, local dance teacher and RASA board member, has taken on the task of directing this big musical.  Erickson has  performed in the last two RASA shows, and her experience directing big productions made her an obvious choice to take on this summer’s show.

“The Wizard of Oz is a classic most people know and love,” Erickson said.  “It’s such a great family show with a really good message, and all of the little magical things we’re adding to it to make it extra fun and exciting.  I’ve actually directed {The Wizard of Oz} before.  I was the artistic director for the Children’s Dance Theater company in Rochester, and the Wizard of Oz was the first show I ever directed in 1998.  It’s exciting for me to come back around and direct it again!

The leading cast sees some new faces as well as returning stars.  Samara McManimon-Myers returns to the stage for the first time since she graduated high school, leading the show as Dorothy, the Kansas farm girl who gets whisked to Oz during a tornado.

“People might think they know the character of Dorothy,” Samara says.  “At first glance she seems like a spoiled little girl that runs away on a whim.  But Dorothy is actually a lot more adventurous!  In the show we get to see how she begins to help her companions achieve their dreams.  When she returns to Kansas, she may not be the same girl who left!”

Opposing the innocent Dorothy is the Wicked Witch Of The West, played by RASA veteran Emily Paulson, who gives a delightfully evil performance.  Audiences can also see Scott Bestul as the silly Scarecrow, Tracey Erickson as the cowardly Lion, and Matthew Rodenberg as the heart-seeking Tin Man. 

Adding to an already colorful cast, the main supporting actors include Kristin Burdey as Glinda the Good Witch, and Rushford mayor Chris Hallum, who plays the Wizard himself.

And what about the little black dog Toto? “I’ll get to have a live dog on stage, who plays Toto at home in Kansas,” Samara explains excitedly. “Toto goes through a few changes of his own in Oz, you’ll see!”

Anyone who’s seen a RASA play before knows that there is a whole crew working behind the scenes, as well as the cast who acts on stage. Nancy Svendsen is serving as costumer for the large cast. Svendsen’s husband Burt, with plenty of help from Jack and Jim O’Donnell, has been busily constructing the set.

“Burt Svendsen has taken on more than building set this year--he’s also directing the band along with Lisa Douglas,” Samara says.  “Besides being a musical that everyone can sing along to, this play is chock full of humor, action, and even some techy surprises involving sets and lighting!  I think people will be really impressed by what the cast and crew has been able to do with the theater. 

“It’s a very technical show to create the magic,” Erickson agrees. “Because of the newer school, RASA has really struggled to learn how some of the lights and sounds work. Finding people who know how to help us with it has been a challenge! Nicole Roberton, who I thank God for every day, is taking on all the technical cues for this show.”

But what are these magical surprises they keep talking about? “You’ll have to come see the show to find out what we mean!” McManimon-Meyers said excitedly.

Who can say no to that dangling carrot?  With dastardly flying monkeys, crowds of adorable munchkins, dazzling sets, a state-of-the-art air-conditioned theater, and a superb cast and crew, RASA’s Wizard of Oz will make the audience feel as if they’re immersed in the magical land alongside Dorothy and her friends. 

Grab your tickets now at Burdey’s Café, Rushford Foods, or online at!  Adults’ tickets are $12 and kids’ tickets are $8.