By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Lola Wade loves "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, and the musical movie it inspired.
"I used to live in Kansas, and that was always my favorite," Wade said. "I remember as a kid, we would all sit down together and watch it on television."
When it came time to choose a title for Joplin Area Catholic Schools' community theater project, she chose that title because of her love for it, and because she knew it would be her last.
More than 100 actors, singers, dancers, musicians and crew members are part of the production, which opened Thursday. It will be presented today and Saturday at South Middle School.
The production includes songs that might be new to some 'Oz' fans: Arrangements from the musical "Wicked" will be performed as a prologue.
That musical tells the story of Elphaba, aka the Wicked Witch of the West, and explains her back story, the events that made her misunderstood and why those ruby slippers were so important to her.
Wade said she was surprised to find she loved the musical so much.
"I didn't think I would. I'm an 'Oz' purist," Wade said. "I love the message in 'Wicked,' that people are unique and we should accept them."
Songs such as "I'm Not That Girl," "For Good," "Defying Gravity," "Popular" and "Wonderful" will be performed. After an intermission, the classic story featuring the perky Dorothy and her loyal dog, Toto, will be presented.
Dorothy is played by McAuley High School senior Emily Tarter. Wade, who idolized the character as a child, said Tarter is perfect for the role.
"She has a great personality and a great soul," Wade said. "She's very talented. She's been in theater her entire high school career, and she has a beautiful voice."
This production will be Wade's last with the McAuley's community theater program -- she is retiring from the post. Wade will continue teaching English and theater at McAuley High School.
Finding funds to finance such community theater productions wore her down, she said.
"The musicals are very expensive, around $10,000 to $15,000," Wade said. "The school doesn't have the money for community theater. Any money we need we have to make. We have wonderful alumni who have been very generous over the last six years, and I hate to keep infringing on their generosity."
Want to go?
Joplin Area Catholic Schools will present "The Wizard of Oz" at 7 p.m. today and Saturday at South Middle School, 900 E. 50th St. Tickets: $10. Details: 417-624-9320, ext. 13.