YORK COUNTY — A puppet show production filled with music, education and star power is coming to York County.
Rainbow Puppet Productions is presenting its latest show, “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” a musical featuring an impressive voice cast.
The show tells the story of what happened in Oz after Dorothy’s adventures. With the Scarecrow left in charge, new and familiar characters must join together to save Oz and the Emerald City from an incoming Army.
There are two performances, with one held on Saturday, May 15 at 2 p.m. at the Victory Family YMCA at 101 Long Green Blvd and one on Saturday, June 5 at 2 p.m. at Yorktown Middle School, 11201 George Washington Mem Hwy.
Rainbow Puppet Productions is a non-profit production company that specializes in educational and entertaining puppet shows for children. They tour around to schools across the Commonwealth and have performed in New York and Washington D.C.
Last year, the company provided nearly 50,000 books to underserved children across Virginia.
Rainbow Puppet Productions was founded in 1981 by producing stage shows with live actors. One of these performances was “Return to Oz,” a stage adaptation of the second book in L. Frank Baum’s iconic “Wizard of Oz” series.
In 2009, Rainbow Puppets Production founder and show creator, David Messick, began reworking the script to try and make it align more with Baum’s novel.
Over the past decade, the show has evolved into a larger-than-life puppet show featuring the voices of local talent as well as Broadway and film stars, all with a unique connection to Oz.
Parents might recognize the voice of the narrator and that of the entire Army of Oz.
Actor and comedian, Mickey Rooney, who lent his voice for multiple Rainbow Puppet Productions shows, including recording his parts for “Land of Oz” at the Williamsburg Inn back in 2009.
This was his seventh and one of the last major projects he did with the company before his passing in 2014.
Rooney had multiple connections to Oz, as he was featured in several “Wizard of Oz” adaptations over the years. He was also active in promoting the 1939 film upon its release and, that same year, even gave Judy Garland her honorary Oscar for playing Dorothy.
His wife, Jan Rooney, voiced Glinda the Good Witch in the Rainbow Puppet Productions’ show.
“James Bond” actor, Geoffrey Holder, who won two Tony awards for directing and designing the original Broadway production of “The Wiz,” is the voice of the Wogglebug.
Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Coroner Munchkin in the 1939 film, is also the voice of a munchkin in this show.
Meanwhile, Yorktown native and Broadway actress, Tiffany Haas, is the voice of Dorothy in the show. She previously starred as Glinda in the Broadway production as well as the National Tour of the hit musical, “Wicked.” Now a musical theatre and voice teacher at The Academy of Dance, her students appear as the mice who help save the city.
“We’ve got local actors and actresses who are working with people who have won Tony Awards, Oscars, and Emmys,” Messick said. “It’s an amazing cast.”
The show is just under one hour and features 10 musical numbers with two that are completely new to this particular production.
Messick, who is a devoted “Wizard of Oz” fan, wanted to stay true to Baum’s novel, while keeping the show at a length that is suitable for younger audiences.
“We are really good at pacing and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t,” Messick said. “One thing I’ve learned over the years with children is once the end is in sight, you’ve got to end. You can’t linger or have an extra ballad.”
Rainbow Puppet Productions’ top priority is entertaining and educating children. That’s why the tickets are at no cost for audiences.
Due to the expensive effects and puppets involved, the production is funded through grants from the York County Arts Commission, Newport News Arts Commission, Virginia Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
With high-scale puppets and musical numbers, Messick said that, much like 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” their production was not done to be profitable.
“We are doing it because we really wanted to tell the story,” he said. “Our first job is to entertain the kids in the audience, that is where your heart is.”
Michelle Paxton, the Youth Services Coordinator for York County Public Library, said that the May 15 performance is at maximum capacity, but registration will open on May 22 for the June 5 performance.
Families can register for or learn more about the June 5 performance at York County Public Library.
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